Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Takin' a break - gettin' a haircut

As mentioned previously, I'm in the process of building the KAT2 internal autotuner for my K2. Last night, I finished up the control board; and now I'm working on the board that has all the toroids and relays. That's the board that you can see in the picture above. The relays are on the bottom side of the board, opposite the toroids. The control board is not shown in the picture except for its extreme edge which you can see in the shadows on the right side. The control board has the two BNC connectors on it. Construction is going well; and I'm hoping to have it done and installed by the end of the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

I took the night off from building to participate in another fun QRP operating event. This one is called the Barbershop Sprint. It's held everytime there's a 5th Wednesday in a month, which happens maybe 3 or 4 times a year. The idea of this Sprint is that it's a takeoff on the old "shave and a haircut". If you sound that out with dits, you get "dit - dididit - dit" or if you translate that into letters - ESE.

So, the organizers get as many ESE's as they can to participate. They are the "barbers". This month, the barbers included K1ESE, K4ESE, N5ESE, K5ESE, W5ESE, W6ESE and WØESE. The goal is for the "customers" to work as many "barbers" and other "customers" as possible within a two hour period on 80, 40 and 20 Meters. You can work "barbers" and "customers" on more than one band.

I ended up making 16 QSOs. I worked three "barbers" on 80 and 40 Meters. I only had one QSO on 20 Meters and that was Steve NØTU in Colorado. Steve was running 900 milliWatts and was blowing my ears off! What a great signal Steve had, it was amazing. I heard Monty N5ESE on 20 Meters and called him several times; but his signal was so weak it was no surprise that he didn't hear me. Conditions were strange. Not much noise on 20 Meters; but no signals, either! 40 Meters was its normal workhorse self; but there was a ton of QRN and QSB was pretty bad too. 80 Meters was a pleasant surprise. Lots of QRN; but signals were loud and stable. During the last half hour of the sprint, 40 Meters got besieged by some sort of RTTY contest and became pretty unusable. 80 Meters was sparse in participation; so I called it a night early and pulled the plug after a QSO with K5ESE at 0240 UTC.

If you're interested in participating in the next Barbershop Sprint; then check out http://www.io.com/~n5fc/barbershop_contest.htm for details and results of previous sprints.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, August 28, 2006

Not recommended !!!

This evening, I started working on my KAT2, the internal autotuner for my K2. It was a tough day at work; and my brain was a bit fried. But I pressed on anyway. I began soldering capacitors on the control board when I realized the first 12 capacitors to be installed were NOT all the same value! Fortunately 9 of the 12 were of the same value and I had only installed 2 of the wrong value before I caught my error.

I carefully desoldered the two wrong ones without incident; although I have to admit .... realizing you made a mistake by soldering something in the wrong position does get your heart pumping! If you find yourself in this position, the first thing to do is stop and take a deep breath. Calm down, work slowly and methodically and you can probably fix your screw up without damaging anything.

I applied heat to the capacitor legs to soften the solder and pulled each leg out. Then using solder wick and a solder sucker, I cleared the holes out. Isopropyl alcohol on a Q-tip cleaned off the excess flux. Then it was just a simple matter to solder the correct capacitors in. The two capacitors that I removed still have legs long enough where I will be able to solder them in later in their correct locations without a problem.

I've built dozens of Heathkits, a K1 and a K2, two Rockmites and untold numbers of smaller kits like keyers, battery chargers, tuners and the like. It just goes to show, that no matter how many kits you've built and how much experience you have - don't work when you're tired! That's when things get messed up! Fortunately, I was able to catch it and avoid a disaster.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Was that /MM ?

It was an interesting QSO to say the least. I had been calling CQ on 40 Meters, when I was anwered by WA3BKD/MM.

/MM ?????? Okay, a 3 station that's maritime mobile. The gears started whirring in my head. Off the Jersey Coast maybe? Perhaps the Delaware Bay? Maybe even the Chesapeake; they were all intriguing possibilities.

It turns out that Art was maritime mobile on the Ohio River, safely docked near Weirton, West Virginia. As he relayed to me, Art spends the summer cruising up and down the Ohio, investigating little towns, islands and other little getaways. As I mentioned, he was docked for the night and it was time to "play radio" as he put it. Art was using a Ten Tec Scout at 50 Watts. His antenna was a Hamstick mounted to the all metal roof of his, as he put it, "25 foot RV on pontoons". His signal was very good - a solid 589 into New Jersey on peaks. All that metal made for an excellent ground plane.

I had wished to talk further with Art about his adventures; but I could tell the band was changing on us as his signal was on a downward spiral. I gave him a hasty farewell and a "73 till next time"; but I was not able to hear him come back to me. Propagation had its way with me, once again.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blast from the past!

My friend Bob W3BBO was on 40 Meters a few weeks ago, finishing up a QSO, when he was called by a very weak station. Bob fought the QRN and QSB to dig the station out of the mud - it was KØBFT up in Minnesota. Conditions were bad; but Bob was able to make out some stuff about WN3BBO and KNØBFT.

It turns out that Bob worked Jim some 50 years ago, back in 1955 when they were both Novices. Jim was KNØBFT back then; and Bob was WN3BBO. Jim still had Bob's QSL card from those days hanging on his wall because Bob was Jim's first out of state contact back in those days.

Bob told me he recalled using a Heath AT-1 transmitter and a National NC-98 receiver. His output power was a whopping 35 Watts or so. It's funny how things come about though; because both ops are QRPers now, too. When Bob's not chasing DX, you can often find him on his K2 or one of his other QRP rigs. (Bob was the one who introduced me to Elecraft gear and is directly responsible for my addiction!) Jim was using a Wilderness Sierra at 4 Watts when Bob just recently worked him.

What was really neat about this whole thing though, is that Jim included Bob's Novice QSL card in the envelope with his QSL from their recent contact. Since Jim requested the card back, Bob took the opportunity to take his old Novice card down to Office Max to have it scanned so he can keep it on his computer as a memento.

If you look at the card closely, you can see that Bob inserted a tiny "N" between the "W" and the "3". Since Novice licenses were only good for one year and not renewable, you can see Bob's determination that within that first year, by hook or by crook, he was going to be W3BBO. He did it; and he's held that callsign ever since.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Blogger's Note: By the way, when Bob and Jim first QSOed, Bob was 16 and Jim was 14. I wish we had more kids that age interested in Ham radio today. The magic is still there; but that's a post of a different color. Bob told me that his original QSL card from KNØBFT was carried by the USPS to his home in Erie, PA from Minnesota for the mind-boggling sum of 2 cents. That's how much postage was for a postcard back then - another sign of the changing times!

Interesting RFTB Comment

The following comment was included in the Autolog comments for last Sunday's Run For The Bacon.

The comments were made by Dave Ingram, K4TWJ:

"Only made two QSOs in this month`s run, but I feel like a winner because I was using a little Tuna Tin 2 transmitter running 200mw. Both QSOs qualified for the famed 1,000 Mile Per Watt award. What a gas! What a gas! 73, Dave, K4TWJ"

You might be familiar with the name and the callsign. Dave Ingram is a poplular columnist for CQ Magazine. Dave writes monthly columns on QRP and CW. Dave joined the Piggies about a year or so ago and is a regular participant in our monthly QRP Sprint.

This comment just goes to show you what QRPp is capable of. Again, for those not familiar, QRPp is ultra low power QRP - 1 Watt or less. Working with one Watt or less at solar minimum is a challenge to say the least. Even some diehard QRPers fear to tread those waters. When you come down to it though, it's not all that different from regular QRP. The skillsets are the same; just an extra dose and a half of patience does the QRPper in good stead.

As the old commercial went: "Try it. you'll like it!" Dave sure does!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hooking up with friends

One of the nice things about Amateur Radio, and particularly the QRP community, is that you meet a bunch of nice folks and you get the opportunity to make a bunch of new friends.

Tonight, I had the extreme pleasure of working Jim Cluett W1PID. Jim and I have worked each other in so many QRP Sprints of one kind or another that I lost count a long time ago. But even better is the fact that we've bumped into each other on the bands many times to just enjoy a nice ragchew with one another. Tonight we had another.

I was calling CQ on 40 Meters and Jim answered. He had a good 569 signal first time around which quickly improved to a 599 signal when the QSB would subside. Jim was using a straight key; and I was using my bug. Our conversation was about keys, the Straight Key Century Club, the horrible band conditions during Sunday night's "Run For The Bacon" and about our dogs.

Jim is not only an avid QRPer; but he's also quite the outdoorsman. His Webpage is complete with many stories and descriptions of his outdoor QRP adventures. You can check out his Website for ourself at: http://www.mv.com/ipusers/w1pid/

Band conditions have to be really terrible for Jim and I not to have a good connection. He is always a good 579 to 599 down here in New Jersey, even when he's using his 1 or 2 Watt rigs.
Tonight he was QRO running a whopping 25 Watts coming out of a Yaesu FT-900. The band changed on us and forced our QSO to a close; but while it lasted, it was one of those comfortable QSOs that you really enjoy looking back on.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, August 21, 2006

RFTB was better!

The "Run For The Bacon" Sprint last night found better conditions on the bands than I had for either the SK Memorial Sprint or the NJ QSO Party. Better; but not much better. When all was said and done, I needed to pop a few Advils before going to bed. This month, the Sprint was a headache maker for me.

20 Meters was horrible! I worked Dan KB6NU right off the bat; but that was pretty much it. Ken N5EBD was loud; but he didn't hear me the dozen or so times I called him. Everyone else was at ESP levels only - you had to have ESP to have been able to copy those signals.

40 Meters can be described using one word - nasty! QSB and QRN were horrendous. One second a station would be in the clear, next second same station was in the mud. It made for a hard time copying the exchange. Kudos to all the stations that got into the habit of sending RST, S/P/C and Piggie number twice. For me, that made the difference in several cases.

In the end I worked 19 stations and 14 different S/P/C's. On top of it all, I entered my score wrong on the Autolog page. I put in my stations worked total under the multiplier category; so my score is artificially high. I have e-mailed Diz W8DIZ (Papa Pig) to correct it for me. I should have somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 points; not the over 1000 that I'm shown as having now.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Fantastic Job!















Last week, on the "Brasspounders" e-mail reflector, I saw an inquiry by Grover Cleveland K7TP regarding black crackle finish paint for refinishing a Vibroplex Bug base.

Never one to hesitate offering advice, I sent Grover an e-mail and pictures, showing him how I used Rustoleum "Black Hammer Finish" paint to restore the base of my Vibroplex Original Standard.

Grover like the idea and use it on his Bug. When it was finished, he sent me the photo, which appears above, of his handiwork. It is a refurbished Vibroplex Zephyr, which is basically a Vibroplex Champion on a narrow base. Isn't it a beauty? Grover did an outstanding job; and it's nice to see a classic bug in "like new" condition.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, August 20, 2006

NJ QSO Party - Same result!

Unfortunately, conditions weren't any better for the NJ QSO Party. I went down to the shack this afternoon to give it a whirl. I worked 8 stations on 40 Meters. 20 Meters was deader than a doornail. After about an hour, with boredom creeping in, I was ready to hit the pool with my family. Unfortunately, they had decided to leave without me.

I sure hope that conditions are a bit better for the Flying Pigs "Run For The Bacon" Sprint tonight!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, August 19, 2006

QRP-ARCI Memorial Sprint - A Bust!

I got up late; and ran hurriedly to do a few chores. I was upset with myself for being late; as I wanted in on the QRP-ARCI Memorial Sprint as it kicked off at 11:00 AM local time here. By the time I got the grocery shopping done, the groceries put away; and then a quick sandwich for lunch, it was past Noon.

I went down to the shack, fired up the K2 and was duly unimpressed. The bands were dead. There were signals; but not many. Hardly any. Bob Patton N4BP was his usual 599 self; but there was not much else to be heard. Both 20 and 40 Meters were this way. I tried 15 Meters for the heck of it; but that was futile.

I ended up putting an hour in and then decided to shut down and take the kids to the pool. In an hour plus, I did all I could via the "hunt and pounce" method. I even sat and called CQ for a bit. In the end, I worked seven (Turns out it's six - one of the callsigns doesn't exist as I copied it) stations. The best DX for me was when I worked Brian GM4XQJ in Scotland. When I worked him he was 559 and we needed to send fills both ways. Of course, five minutes later, I heard him on another frequency working someone else, and he was 599+ !!!

I think I read somewhere on the 'net last night that we have been suffering from the effects of a coronal mass ejection today. I believe it.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, August 18, 2006

Back on topic

Back to Amateur Radio.

This weekend is a busy one if you're a QRP contester. Tomorrow is the QRP-ARCI Memorial Sprint as well as the Bubba Sprint sponsored by the Arizona SQRPions. Also tomorrow is the New Jersey QSO party. This is not a QRP Sprint per se; but it is a significant event, nonetheless. Then on Sunday night, to round things off is the monthly Run For The Bacon Sprint, which is sponsored by the Flying Pigs.

I am hoping to set up the NorCal Doublet in the backyard and get a few hours of the Memorial Sprint in as well as the Bubba sprint (they run at the same time). Later in the evening, after the kids are in bed for the night, I hope to get in some operating in the NJ QSO Party. Sunday night is a no-brainer. Since I'm the contest manager for the Flying Pigs, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be active in the RFTB.

My goal this weekend is to get my QRP CW QSO toal back up to where it should be. July was a slow month for me, radio-wise. Besides going away on vacation, it seemed that something came up each time I was to attend my normal monthly operating events. My QSO total for July was below average (for me) and I have some ground to make up if I hope to make my goal of 2006 QSOs in 2006.

Hope to hear you on the air tomorrow!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Political Rant #3 - Stuck on Stupid !

For those of you who come here to read about matters related to Amateur Radio, I apologize. However, these are important times in which we live. I feel compelled to comment (and vent my spleen!).

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ordered a halt to the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program. The Left loves to refer to this program as "illegal domestic wiretapping". Of course, by calling it this, these pea-brains show you how little they know. This program, instituted by President William Jefferson Clinton, by the way, uses NSA super computers to monitor communications between the personages in United States and inhabitants of foreign countries. The computers data harvest, that is they look for key words like bomb, explosive, flight school, incinerate, jihad ....... stuff like that. No, there's no little man with headphones on, somewhere, listening in to see how much money you won in Vegas. No, they're not listening in on you to determine whether or not you cheated on last year's income tax return. And no, they're not listening in trying to get Aunt Bessie's secret recipe for applesauce cake.

What they ARE trying to do is intercept communications from possible sleeper cels within the United States who might be trying to receive instructions about strategy, financing or whatever from the countries and peoples WHO ARE OUR ENEMIES. Is this soooooooo hard to understand?

In the close to five years since the World Trade Center was toppled and approximately 3,000 US Citizens were brutally murdered, there have been no further successful attacks. That's right ...... zero, nada, zilch, zippo, the big goose-egg, the ol' donut hole. Guess what? That means the powers that be are doing exactly what we elected them to do! They are keeping us safe and attack free! Ask Spain if they wish they had good intelligence prior to their problems with Al-Queda. Ask Britain if they wish they had better intelligence available to them before the subway bombings in London on July 7, 2005.

What is wrong with these people? Why does Senator Harry Reid openly boast about defeating the Patriot Act? Why are John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi so overwhelmingly overjoyed at nit-wit decisions like the one handed down by Judge Giggs Taylor? The bottom line is the Left is so busy trying to re-grab their power that they do not give a whit about your safety or mine. They bemoan how this surveillance program is unConstitutional; but yet these same hacks raised not a word when their man in the White House instituted it! These people dance in the streets at seeing America made weaker; but these buffoons will also be the first ones demanding to know why our intelligence wasn't up to snuff should we ever be successfully attacked again!

I'm telling you folks, when it comes to the Left - the lights are on and no one's home and the elevator doesn't go all the way to the penthouse. Believe it!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Rare Political Outburst - #2

My first political outburst on this blog was last November, when the sheeple of the State of New Jersey voted in Jon Corzine as Governor. Way to go, sheeple! NO property tax reform and instead, the state sales tax has been increased from 6% to 7%. Seems to me we're going the wrong way.

My second political outburst. Today on the Drudge Report, I clicked on a link to Der Spiegel magazine, where ex-President Jimmy Carter is bemoaning the fact that he believes that Israel's attacks on Lebanon are unjustified; and that the leadership in America is "immoral" as he puts it.

Jimmy ....... Jimmy ......... Jimmy ......... SHUT THE HECK UP! Go somewhere and quietly spend the pension we're giving you, okay? Go build a Habitat for Humanity or something ...... but please just go AWAY !!!!!!

If back in the 1970s you had had a set of balls; and didn't insist on kissing Khomeini's behind, we wouldn't be in the freaking mess we're in with Iran now !!!!! Islamo-fascism is breaking out everywhere because of you and ol' Billy Boy! Hmmmmmmm, and even to spread blame on both sides, I'll even dump a little on Reagan too, although he was more a man and President then these two fakers could have ever hoped to be!

Take over of American Emabassy in Tehran - Carter did crap.
Marine barracks in Beirut gets bombed - Reagan did crap.
US Embassies in Africa get bombed - Clinton did crap.
Khobar Towers get bombed - Clinton did crap.
Army Rangers in Mogadishu are desecrated - Clinton did crap.
USS Cole is blown up - Clinton did crap.

And you expect me to listen to you and the Democrat Party and expect me to believe that you know a rat's ass about defending the United States of America ????? Maybe if you had 1/100th of the determination and courage of the Israeli people, we'd have a safer world today.

But noooooooooo, we have to play kissy kissy to the terrorists because if we make nicey nicey, they'll like us and won't hurt us! Open up your freakin' eyes - THEY WANT US DEAD! How many more World Trade Centers are going to have to collapse because you have your heads up your collective behinds? How long is it going to take you to learn that you cannot negotiate with animals? How long is it going to take you to realize that WE ARE IN A WAR for crying out loud ????? How long is it going to take all you freaking "elites" to learn that America is not the monster and that the American people as a whole are some of the most generous, fairminded and peaceful people on the face of the earth?

The Liberal Whacko-s of the Democrat Party disgust me. If they were alive today, Harry Truman and John F Kennedy would denounce their own party. Look at what they're doing to Joe Lieberman. The Democrat Party has become the party of "what was right is wrong; and what was wrong is right". God forbid these idiots ever come into power again!

I am soooooooooooo glad I left the Democrat Party for good ten years ago. This is NOT the party that my grandparents and parents supported.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Can't we just leave well enough alone ???

From the ARRL - an early propagation bulletin:

ARL $ARLP033
ARLP033 Propagation de K7RA

ZCZC AP33
QST de W1AW
Propagation Forecast Bulletin 33 ARLP033
From Tad Cook, K7RA
Seattle, WA August 15, 2006
To all radio amateurs

SB PROP ARL ARLP033
ARLP033 Propagation de K7RA

This is a special early edition of the propagation bulletin,
threedays before the regular Friday publication schedule.
The regular bulletin will appear on Friday, August 18.

A newspaper article on Monday out of New Zealand reported
a proposed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
project that could cause major worldwide disruptions to HF
radio communication and GPS navigation. The ''Radiation
Belt Remediation'' (RBR) system is envisaged as a method for
protecting low earth orbit (LEO) satellites from damage
caused by high altitude nuclear detonations or severe solar
storms. Testing the system would use extremely high
intensity very low frequency (VLF) radio waves to flush
particles from radiation belts and dump them into the upper
atmosphere.

When I first heard of this on Monday morning, I thought
it must besomething from a fringe web site peddling dark
conspiracy theories.But the newspaper reporting the news
is real, and so is the team of scientists from New Zealand,
the UK and Finland whose study of possible effects of the
scheme is reported in a recent edition of Annales Geophysicae.

You can find the article here:

http://tinyurl.com/jbxkh

A web page from the University of Otago describing
the research is here:

http://tinyurl.com/ej64o

I contacted the lead researcher on the team reporting
the possible effects of the project, Dr. Craig Rodger of
the Physics Department at the University of Otago in
Dunedin, New Zealand. He proved very cooperative, accessible
and helpful, and told me RBR is a serious project, ''money
is starting to appear to investigate it in more detail'',
and ''U.S. scientists with military connections are treating
it seriously''.

It is feared that testing the system could shut down
worldwide HF communications for several days to a week,
rendering the ionosphere a giant sponge for RF.

I sent Dr. Rodger a comment from Ward Silver, N0AX,
who speculated ''the sheer energy needed to accomplish it
would tend to rule it out from the start, and I don't
know where they would erect the necessary antennas.''

Dr. Rodger responded, ''This would be true, but
they are hoping to rely on some of the non-linear
processesin space plasmas, stealing the energy from
the radiation belts to get the wave-amplitudes high enough.
We know this is possible (in theory), as it happens
naturally already. We don't know how easy it will be
to get it happening under our control''.

''Also, as for erecting the antenna, there are two plans.
One is tofly VLF antenna in space. This could be a power
problem. But for ground-based systems, you probably already
know that most major naval powers have big VLF transmitters
dotted over the globe. (Two of the US Navy transmitters
radiate one megawatt). While these are designed to keep
the signals mostly under the ionosphere, it shows the
possibility for building big powerful antenna''.

You can read Monday's article from the New Zealand
Herald, here:

http://tinyurl.com/j8gss

If you would like to make a comment or have a tip
for our readers, email the author at, k7ra@arrl.net.

For more information concerning radio propagation,
see the ARRL Technical Information Service at
http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/propagation.html.
For a detailedexplanation of the numbers used in this
bulletin, see http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/k9la-prop.html.
An archive of past propagation bulletins is at
http://www.arrl.org/w1aw/prop/.

Sunspot numbers for August 3 through 9 were
23, 0, 0, 0, 0, 12 and 25 with a mean of 8.6.
10.7 cm flux was 71.3, 69.6, 69.5, 69.5,
69.8, 71.4, and 74.1, with a mean of 70.7.
Estimated planetary Aindices were 6, 3, 4, 4, 32, 12
and 9 with a mean of 10. Estimated mid-latitude A indices
were 5, 2, 2, 2, 19, 10 and 9, with a mean of 7.
NNNN

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

Everybody on vacation, or what?

I recently read the results of the Adventure Radio Society's results for the August Spartan Sprint. In the Tubby Division (apt for me), where scores are ranked on number of QSOs rather than on the degree of lightness of your station (Skinny Division), I managed to place in the top 10!

Like the title says .... is everybody on vacation, or what? I've never placed this high and am quite happy with the personal best. As you can see, I'm a long, long, looooooooong way from ever coming near the top!


Call 80M 40M 20M 15M 10M Points
N6RO-CA 3 44 51 0 0 98
K4BAI 1 17 39 0 0 57
K7TQ 0 27 29 0 0 56
WØNTA-CO 0 26 28 0 0 54
W4QO 0 25 28 0 0 53
KE0G-MN 1 28 19 0 0 48
N4BP-FL 0 28 12 0 0 40
N0EVH-MO 1 25 14 0 0 40
W2LJ-NJ 3 29 3 0 0 35
K3ESE-MD 2 17 15 0 0 34

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Webpage change

I've changed the location of my Webpage. It used to be on QSL.net; but with the outtages there, I changed to a new location. The new URL is http://www.w2lj.qrpradio.com

I also got on the air tonight to play around for just a few minutes in order to get in my QRP CW QSO for the day. The Work All Europe DX contest it taking place this weekend. In the space of a few (10?) minutes I worked Lithuania, the Czech Repbublic, Sweden and Luxembourg on 40 Meters with just 5 Watts. So the next time someone tells you that QRP "doesn't work" just tell 'em to walk (east or west, depending on your location) until their hat floats!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Willys

This morning, after showering and shaving, I left the house to go grocery shopping. It was a picture perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky, the sky itself was a deep, deep azure blue. The sun was shining intently and everything around me seemed crystal clear, like I had better than 20/20 vision. The air was crisp, with a hint of Fall in it.

The last time I walked out of the house and noticed the same beautiful start to a day was September 11, 2001.

Needless to say, with the occurences of the past few days; I was a bit unnerved.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our intelligence community, as well as that of Great Britain and all the other nations who worked hard to foil this latest dastardly threat. "Thank you" from this American citizen.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Being Prepared

It has been said that Amateur Radio is "outdated", and "a method of communications past its prime". It has been said that Amateur Radio and especially CW are "dead" and "obsolete". What is truly surprising and troubling is that these opinions are held by a large number of Amateur Radio operators! If you don't believe me, then go read the garbage that pops up on eHam and you can see for yourself.

I've always held that those opinions are balderdash, hooey and worse. Amateur Radio is a unique, fail safe backup communications network for this country as well as the entire world. And it pays to get involved in emergency communications and third party traffic (message) handling. Knowing how to originate a formal priority message for help can save lives, maybe even your own.

The following is a post that appeared on QRP-L today, written by Bruce Prior N7RR. I have Bruce's permission to repost it here. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how things are done from the Amateur Radio side of things. We do as much as we can; sometimes the rest is out of our hands.

A Miscommunication Story - Bruce Prior N7RR

Late in the afternoon of Saturday, August 5, 2006, my wife Margaret and I were hiking up the connector trail to the Snowy Lakes from the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in Okanogan National Forest north of Rainy Pass on Washington State Route 20. We met two women with their backpacking gear descending from Upper Snowy Lake. One of the women, Jill Youde of Anacortes, spotting the handitalkie hanging from my backpack strap, asked if I could get a message out by radio. I said I could, if it were necessary. Jill said that she and another friend had heard a cry for help from a ridge west of Methow [pronounced MET-HOW] Pass that afternoon. I asked for more details and then I asked whether they had a GPS receiver. When Jill said she didn't, I lent her mine and asked her to return to the site where they had heard the man's voice and whistling to record the exact location. We agreed to meet at Methow Pass. I hiked there with my full backpack, which included my Amateur Radio gear and most of Margaret's and my food. Margaret stayed in a meadow near the Snowy Lakes trail junction to set up our tent and wait for my return. Margaret is also a radio amateur, K7MWP, and we continued to communicate on the 146.400 MHz FM voice channel until I returned from Methow Pass at dusk.

Meanwhile, Jill and her friend returned to Methow Pass from the place where they had heard the calls for help without being able to make further contact. The friend helped out by lobbing two ends of my wire radio antenna over tree branches while Jill and I composed an alert message.

I turned on my 3-watt backpack radio, a model KX1 transceiver which I had built from a kit manufactured by Elecraft of Aptos, CA. Here is the text of a message that I sent via Morse code on the Amateur Radio shortwave frequency of 3647 kHz Saturday evening:

NR 2 PRIORITY N7RR 80 METHOW PASS WA AUG 5

SKAGIT COUNTY SHERIFF
MOUNT VERNON WA
TELEPHONE UNKNOWN

AT ABOUT 1515 AUG 5
JILL YOUDE OF SKAGIT MOUNTAIN
RESCUE HEARD A MALE VOICE
YELLING HELP REPEATEDLY X JILL
WAS ON A RIDGE APPROXIMATELY
ONE KILOMETER WEST OF METHOW
PASS X JILL RECKONS THAT
THE VOICE WAS APPROXIMATELY THREE
KILOMETERS WEST OF CUTTHROAT PASS
X JILL RECOMMENDS HELICOPTER SURVEILANCE [sic]
STARTING FROM UPPER SNOWY LAKE
WHICH IS AN EXCELLENT LANDING
SITE X JILL WILL STAY
AT SNOWY LAKES UNTIL CONTACTED
BY AUTHORITIES X CONTACT N7RR
VIA 146.400 MHZ X URGENTLY

BRUCE PRIOR

Gil Welcker W7LG of Port Angeles, WA acknowledged his reception of the complete message just before the 8:00 p.m. PDT beginning of the Idaho Montana Net on that 3647 kHz frequency. I later learned by telephone that Gill had copied the message perfectly, except that he inserted "NUMBER" between "TELEPHONE" and "UNKNOWN" and he added "TH" after "5" on the first line of the actual message text. He even copied my misspelling of "surveillance" accurately! Gil is a retired commercial radio operator, and he was copying on a typewriter while listening to my very weak signal with earphones.

I now suspect that had I included the geocoordinate location determined by my GPS receiver, law enforcement authorities might have taken the message more seriously. Here are the GPS data collected by Jill on her second visit to the site:

05-AUG-06 18:04:22
WGS84:
N 48°34.700'
W 120°44.807'
10 U 0666281
5382837

NAD27 CONUS:
N 48°34.710'
W 120°44.734'
10 U 0666188
5383033

GPS Elevation: 6929 feet

Gil Welcker tried to telephone the Skagit County Sheriff, but he was stymied by a telephone computer voice system that led nowhere. So, he called the Clallum County 9-1-1 communication center, where a person listened carefully to the entire message word-for-word as Gil had typed it. The message may have been recorded at that stage. Gil was told that jurisdiction had been transferred to the Okanogan County Sheriff. In fact, the cry for help came from the Swamp Creek drainage basin, which is in Skagit County. By the time the message was communicated to a Search and Rescue Deputy Sheriff in Okanogan County, it was badly distorted. That Deputy later told me that his understanding was that a woman had been calling for help via a garbled radio message. It is now evident that the message only became garbled in the process of being transferred through three county law enforcement communication centers. Aircraft were also unavailable on Sunday. The Okanogan County Deputy Sheriff who was assigned the case discounted the veracity of the message which he finally received, since he did not believe that a ham radio operator could have transmitted a message from deep within the Cascade Range to Port Angeles, a city on the Strait of Juan de Fuca across from Vancouver Island. He was unaware that radio amateurs can communicate via the ionosphere on shortwave frequencies, not requiring line-of-sight locations between the transmitter and receiver. Neither he nor any other law enforcement official re-contacted Gil Welcker. Nobody contacted me on the 146.400 MHz frequency which I continued to monitor. Therefore on Sunday, August 6, no search was launched.

About noon on Sunday, when it became evident that no helicopters were searching the area, where weather conditions were completely clear, Jill Youde departed Upper Snowy Lake with five other women backpackers. That evening, after she reached State Route 20, she contacted authorities. Only on Monday morning did the Okanogan County Sheriff Department launch a search via a helicopter supplied by the Chelan County Sheriff Department, which ferried ground searchers and conducted its own aerial reconnaissance.

I met with the Okanogan Search and Rescue Deputy Sheriff and the ground crew at the helicopter landing zone near Rainy Pass after they had finished their active searching for the day. The Deputy Sheriff decided to re-transfer responsibility for investigating the incident to the Skagit County Sheriff Department, since the search area was completely within Skagit County, although very near the boundary with Okanogan County.

On Monday evening I met with Patrol Deputy Tobin Meyer of the Skagit County Sheriff Department at the East Detachment office and gave him all of the details I knew. I recommended that military aircraft be used for thermal imaging of the Swamp Creek drainage after dark that night. Deputy Meyer followed as many leads as he could, but since no person had been reported missing in the area, he was unable to obtain cooperation from military officials and by Wednesday evening his department was forced to suspend any plans for further ground or air searching.

What happened to that man who was calling for help on Saturday afternoon? As a result of gross mishandling of a formal Amateur Radio priority message by incompatible county-based law enforcement communication systems, and because the military declined to task their aircraft for the mission, we may never know.

73, Bruce Prior N7RR

Blogger's Note: Never, ever underestimate the value of Amateur Radio - we truly are there "When All Else Fails". Bruce was ready and got the Amateur Radio side of things accomplished with Morse Code and QRP. Outmoded and outdated? Perhaps, but it was enough to get the ball rolling on this day.

73 de Larry W2LJ

A Tale of Two Evenings

This week there were two Sprints. Monday night was the Adventure Radio Society Spartan Sprint; and Tuesday night was the NAQCC Monthly Sprint.

Monday night was quite productive. When all was said and done, I managed 35 QSOs on 80, 40 and 20 Meters. Band conditions were not the best; but for me, it was a decent effort.

The very next evening, for the NAQCC Sprint, conditions were a disaster! There was NO activity on 20 Meters that I was able to hear. 40 Meters had a lot of noise (QRN) and a lot of signal fading (QSB) ; but I did manage to complete 16 QSOs. As bad as 40 Meters was, I did not dare even try 80 Meters. I'm sure it was probably much worse. In all, it didn't seem like there was a whole lot of activity and stations I always work easily were a real effort.

In the NAQCC Sprint, a certificate is to be awarded to the staion with the most "cross Mississippi River" QSOs. I don't have to worry about that one! My RF didn't make it across the Big Mo. It was like there was a steel curtain or something there; all my contacts were the eastern half of the country only!

Tonight, conditions were not much better. I completed one QSO on 40 Meters, took a break to watch the end of the Mets game and went back down to the basement. I called CQ for what seemed like a half an hour with no takers. A black night for RF propagation.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, August 07, 2006

Could it be good luck?

Today during lunch, I had the distinct pleasure of working Dave WA9ZJI/8 who was located at Lake Gogebic, Michigan. Dave is on a camping vacation.

It turned out we were both QRP. I was out at the car, operating the K1 to the 20 Meter Hamstick; and Dave was pushing out 4 Watts from his MFJ gear at what I was sure was a pretty grand outdoor location.

Dave had a beautiful 579 signal, which went up to 599 at peaks. The band was really up and down with deep QSB. I feared I would lose him a couple of times, only to have Dave come back even louder! So you never know.

As we were signing off, Dave confirmed that he was operating outside and that a bird had just relieved itself upon his gear. One of the hazards, I guess! I've always heard, though, that that kind of incident is a sign that you are to be visited by good luck. Maybe that's just an attempt to put the best light on an otherwise messy situation!

Later on, I did a Web search on Lake Gogebic, which I had never heard of. What a beautiful area! This really enforces my desire to someday go on vacation to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Click on the picture above to go to the Website that I visited.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, August 06, 2006

NAQP

Today was the NAQP, or North American QSO Party. The goal is to work as many North American stations as possible in a 12 hour period. The exchange is your first name and home state or province.

I was with my kids all day; and did not get a chance to get on the air until after they went to bed. That means my starting time was 9:00 PM about three quarters of the way into the contest.

In about 3 hours worth of casual operating (search and pounce method), I worked 47 stations. Not bad for a QRP effort! As an added bonus, it really brought my QSO total up for the year. I didn't make a "normal" amount of QSOs in July for various reasons. This brought me to over 1100 for the year.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, August 04, 2006

The bottom is coming, the bottom is coming!

The bottom of the current solar cycle may be in sight. And from there, things can only get better! This is from the ARRL's weekly propagation bulletin:
This week we saw the average daily sunspot number rise over five
points to 20. We will see little variations like this as the solar
cycle declines toward its minimum next year. Solar activity still
seems too high to be at the bottom though. A glance at graphs of
smoothed sunspot numbers shows we are still experiencing more
sunspots than the minimum back in 1996. Check the graph at
http://wm7d.net/hamradio/solar/historical.shtml on the very bottom of the page, and http://www.sec.noaa.gov/weekly/pdf/prf1613.pdf on
page 9. Further down on page 9, you can see that the prediction for the smoothed sunspot number for August 2006 is the same as for August of next year, and the minimum is somewhere in between. That means according to this graph, a year from now the new solar cycle will be bouncing back from the minimum, and rising past the point where we are now. The smoothed numbers are averaged over many months (I think this graph uses a moving six-month average) to help us see past the ''noise'' of daily variations. This graph shows a minimum in January 2007, only five months from now, with a smoothed sunspot number of five.

73 de Larry W2LJ


Thursday, August 03, 2006

You are in for a treat!

If you are interested in the history of Amateur Radio during WWII, then please check out Long Delayed Echoes in the coming weeks! Jeff Davis KE9V will be running a series on this topic. Even though Amateur Radio activities were curtailed during the War, I still consider this era as part of the "Golden Age" of Amateur Radio. I can't wait! Jeff does a superb job; and I'm sure this will be no exception!

73 de Larry W2LJ

No Hams on the air in Cuba?

Courtesy of the CQ Newsroom:

Today's
Palm Beach Post newspaper reports that there appears to be a "communication crackdown" in Cuba in light of President Fidel Castro's illness, and that Cuban hams may have been ordered off the air for now.

"As more and more exiles try to get in touch with the island, some are finding an apparent communications crackdown has kicked in," reports the newspaper. "Perhaps the worst-hit are HAM radio operators who are reporting that their Cuban counterparts have been noticeably absent from the airwaves since Monday." The paper quotes Jorge Luaces, KC4HTV, a ham whose wife (also a ham) is a reporter for the Post's Spanish-language weekly, as saying he believes that the state agency that regulates ham radio in Cuba is preventing amateurs there from getting on the air.

Other Cuban-Americans told the newspaper that they have no trouble getting through to relatives by phone or e-mail, but that no one is providing much information - if they know anything - because the government closely monitors phone calls and e-mail. It is much more difficult, however, to monitor every possible amateur radio transmission.

The full newspaper article is available online at <
http://tinyurl.com/l9hht>

A big "Thank You!" to Rich Moseson W2VU and all the Hams at CQ Magazine for keeping the Amateur Radio community informed.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Blogger's Note: The next time you're ready to complain and fuss about your Free Speech rights being violated - keep this story in mind. THIS is an example of the loss of Free Speech AND censorship.

An update from Rich Moseson W2VU from CQ Magazine:

Updating our earlier story on the possible shutdown of
ham radio in Cuba dueto President Fidel Castro's health
problems, hams in Florida have reportedlistening today for
CO stations on "the usual 40-meter frequencies" and hearing
no Cuban stations. In addition, the regular noon-time Cuban
Net was not heard on the air. So there is still no official
confirmation (and it's quite possible there never will be),
but it appears that Cuban hams have been ordered off the
air for the foreseeable future.

Blogger's note: Ahhhhh, the benefits and rewards of living
in an "enlightened and progressive society". Enjoy your
freedoms, folks - it's becoming increasingly apparent that
so many people do not share our good fortune.

Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Heat is On!

It has been hot here in Central New Jersey the past few days. I know that it has been hot throughout the whole country the past few days; but it has been HOT here in Central New Jersey.

Both yesterday and today, the temperature reached a high of 103 degrees Farenheit. With high humidity, the Temperature Humidity Index has made it feel like as if it were 110 degrees! Tomorrow is expected to be another sweltering day, with maybe some relief for Friday. And that, my friends, means that tomorrow night, more likely than not, we will be getting some hellacious thunderstorms!

As you can imagine, my lunchtime QRP sessions at work have been temporarily suspended. I love Amateur Radio and I love QRP. I love operating wherever and whenever I can; but I'm NOT certifiable (no matter what my wife or other relatives might say!). While this heatwave lasts, I will remain within the relative cool confines of my department at work. And I say relative; because a thermometer in my office was reading 88 degrees today. My office is in a relatively uninsulated part of our building. Nevertheless, 88 degrees is a lot nicer than 103 !

So, to all my Ham friends out there who are also dealing with the high heat - stay cool! And just remember that next winter, when you're shovelling foot and a half snowfall amounts out of your driveways, that you're going to wish you had just a little of this heat to do the job for you!

73 de Larry W2LJ (reaching for another cold glass of iced tea!)