Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Morse Code History

My friend Bob W3BBO sent me this link this morning to a very interesting Website. It details the fascinating story about Samuel FB Morse's very last message sent by telegraph. The sending of the message by Morse was the capstone of a sort of "celebration of lifetime acheivement".

Read for yourself by clicking on the link:

73 de Larry W2LJ

QSL Cards

I came home today to find a packet of QSL cards awaiting me in an envelope from the W2 Bureau. I'm always excited to receive a packet from them. While I'm not a big time DXer, I enjoy receiving QSL cards from the foreign stations that I have worked.

This packet didn't include anything too exotic; but still the same it was nice to get them. Included were cards from Italy, Germany, the Ukraine, Romania, Grenada, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland, Finland and England.

What amazes me though, is the higher percentage of DX cards that I receive are very beautiful, glossy postcard type of QSL cards. These folks obviously take pride in procuring and giving out very beautiful specimens of QSL art. A far cry from the usual domestic "plain Jane" cards that I'm so used to seeing.

The best thing about these cards though, is that all the QSOs were QRP from my end. Nice to see proof positive that QRP works and works quite well.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's a Celebration!

This time, I got a real Two-fer! I bagged both Foxes in this week's 80 Meter Foxhunt! No skunks like on 40 Meters last Thursday. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I seem to have way better luck on 80 Meters.

In any event, both Foxes were loud into New Jersey. I first heard Dave N1IX; but his signal was really fading in and out. He seemed to be working a ton of Midwestern stations. Calling was leading to no success and only frustration; so I decided to go hunt for Jerry N9AW. I found him easily enough; but the spot he was occupying on the band was covered with S9+ noise from the TV that's located right over the shack! I turned on the narrow filtering on the K2 and it helped a lot; but I could tell my wife Marianne was flicking through the channels; as the noise would increase from S9 to 20 over S9 depending upon what was on the screen!

Giving up on the noise for a bit; I decided to go back to Dave's last known spot, which I had written down. Luckily, he was still there and louder than before! The QSB was still making it tough; but I finally managed to snag him. With that pelt in the bag, I decided to give Jerry a whirl again.

About 20 minutes later I threw out my call. Jerry was loud enough to be giving the QRN goodly competition. I figured that I must have been sending a decent signal out his way, in turn. I threw out my call, hoping for the best, when all of a sudden Jerry sent my call but at a substantially slower rate than he had been sending. That contrast was just enough for my ears to make out that it was my call and that he was answering me through all the QRN. I sent my exchange and I heard the "QSL" of acknowledgement.

Time for the Happy Dance! Last year; and so far this year, the 40 Meter Foxhunts have been an utter, dismal failure for me. I've bagged one pelt in six hunts. So far I'm doing much better on 80 Meters. If my memory serves me correctly, I have captured six out of eight possible pelts. The QRP Foxhunts are a ton of fun in any event; but when you have some success, they are even more fun!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, November 27, 2006

Just foolin' around

I went down to the basement shack for a bit on Saturday night, just to see if I could work a few more new countries QRP in the CQWW DX Contest. The main feeding frenzy was over by then; and things promised to be a little calmer.

I was taken aback by the noticeable lack of loud European DX! Usually, the Europeans overwhelm the bands up here in the NE United States during these DX contests. The bands seemed to be unusually quiet and lacked of "wall-to-wall, packed-in-with-a-shoehorn" signals.

Instead, propagation seemed to favor the Caribbean and South America for the very little time that I was on the air. Although I have worked these countries before, they were all new to me via QRP: Dominica, Uruguay, Cayman Islands, Canary Island, Galapagos Island.

The weekend was full of chores with the beginning phase of readying the house for the Holidays. I took advantage of the almost Spring-like temperatures to get the outside Christmas decorations out and up. It's a lot nicer to be doing this kind of chore when it's 55 degrees outside as opposed to 35 degrees outside! All that being said and done, I was one beat puppy by the end of the day; and really didn't feel like putting too much time in behind the radio. For the few minutes that I was able to devote to it; I was satisfied with the results.

I think this puts me up somewhere to around 70 countries worked for QRP DXCC. With the approach of a new sunspot cycle on the horizon, I should be able to meet this goal within the forseeable future. If I gave it my all; and got up at ungodly hours to take advantage of propagation the proper way, I'm sure I could finish in 2007. Guess I'm not enough of a "dyed-in-the-wool" DXer!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, November 24, 2006

Another one worked

When a big gun DX contest come on, I generally don't jump into the fray until after all the hard core contesters have a chance to spend a little of their energy. When things calm down a bit is when I tend to jump in with my 5 Watts, after the initial frenzy has worn off.

Tonight, however, I decided to see what 20 Meters was doing. It wasn't doing much. However, I did hear and work HD2A out of Ecuador. Ecuador is a new one for me via QRP. It brings me just a bit closer towards QRP DXCC.

In between chores tomorrow, I'll jump in every now and then to see if I can work a few more new ones. I have a feeling that Sunday afternoon, when all the big guys are looking to maximize their QSO totals will be cherry picking time.

73 de Larry W2LJ

The Road Less Travelled

Jeff Davis KE9V is "Da Man!" He has a talent for writing short stories about Amateur Radio and radio in general that are just top shelf!

Do yourself a favor and go read this jewel.

Then, if you've liked what you've read, send Jeff an e-mail and ask him to post his Amateur Radio "Christmas Story". He'll know which one you mean.

Jeff is a treasure; and he manages to recapture for all of us the "magic" that Ham radio is.

Go ....... now !!!!! Read!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, November 23, 2006

2-fer in NJ tonite!

Tonight, even though it's Thanksgiving, the Foxhunt on 40 Meters was still held. I got a "2-fer" tonight! That's the joyous cry heard, when a Foxhunter bags both Foxes. Unfortunately, the two pelts I bagged weren't Foxes, they were these little guys to the right. Yep, once again, I got skunked.

The two Foxes were Tom KV2X in New York and Paul NG7Z in Washington State. Paul is too close to bag on 40 Meters and Paul is too far, I guess; or maybe he's not even far enough considering the way the band has been going long lately.

I did manage to work PJ2C/W8WTS down in the Netherlands Antilles; but I wasn't able to complete either domestic QSO. This is the third Thursday into the season - 6 hunts and so far I think I have bagged only one pelt so far. Pitiful!

Next week's not looking too good, eitther with another Fox scheduled to be originating from New York. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll be able to bag Randy K7TQ in Idaho.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, November 20, 2006

Giving Thanks

As a whole year has come and gone, I find myself yet again pondering Thanksgiving. It is this Thursday, that we as a Nation, set a day aside to give "Thanks" for the bounties bestowed upon us.

Bestowed upon by whom? By God, of course. As much as the secularists strive to force God out of every facet of our national life; He is still there, smiling upon us benevolently, giving us all the good things we have. I think He must be getting weary of our attempts to drive Him away. The secularists and their ilk blame God and religion for the evils in the world. It's their stupidity and arrogance that are responsible for the evils in the world. When men take on the role of god; and start to believe that they are mightier than He - this is where the world's troubles have their roots. I just hope He doesn't listen to the vocal minority; and take heed of their message only to abandon us.

But faith dictates that that will never happen. As long as the faithful remain, God will be in our midst. He promised as much; and I know He never backs away from a promise. He loves us too much for that; for after all He is love.

Every day is a reason to be thankful. That is a lesson hard learned via the "School of Hard Knocks". To give thanks on one arbitrary Thursday a year is absurd. But we do the things we do and we make the celebrations we make. So once again, I will give endeavor to list only a minute portion of the things I am grateful for.

First and foremost I give thanks to God for everything. For creating me and giving me everything I have. Without Him, I am truly nothing.
For my wife Marianne; her smile and her love make life worth living.
The laughter and joy and love of our two beautiful children, Joseph and Cara. I cannot imagine living in a world without them.
My Mom, who has taught me so much and has given me so much and has handed down to me the gift of Catholic Faith. It is because of her that I know what I know; and that I am who I am.
My sister, Ann Marie, who I love so much; as well as her husband David and their son, my Godson, Michael.
My mother-in law and my brother-in-law and his wife.
My Dad and my father-in-law; even though they are no longer here; both had a profound influence on my life.
For our house, which is our haven from the world. A place of peace, joy, and laughter, craziness and insanity, quiet and serenity.
For my job; and my wife's job, which helps to keep the roof over our head and food on the table.
For friends and extended family.
For the many friends I have come to know over the years via Amateur Radio. Many of these I have never met face to face; but yet these same unknown faces (as well as the known faces) are some of the best friends I have ever had.
For the great country and wonderful bounty that God has decided to bestow on us.
For the brave men and women in our military who keep our country free - these are the world's true heros.

The list can go on and on - where does one know where to stop? But in reality, making the list is not necessary. All that's necessary is to have the humility and wisdom to know where all the good things come from.

Once again ..... thank you, dear God, for everything!

To all my friends, all my family and to all of you out there who might take a few minutes to read these words - Happy Thanksgiving!

73 de Larry W2LJ

I know it won't last .....

Bur for now, for a few hours at least, I am the top scorer in tonight's Run For The Bacon! Wiigii!!

Wow! That was fun! I ended up with 22 QSOs in two hours of noise, noise, noise, noise. Actually, 40 Meters was a lot quieter than 80 Meters; but the band was very long and there were few if any, signals. If I remember correctly, maybe 5 or 6 QSOs out of the 22 were made on 40 Meters. And that is very strange; because normally, 40 Meters is the workhorse band. That honor goes to 80 Meters tonight. It was by far more productive than 40; but it also had a lot more QRN. It was to the point where I was sorely tempted to turn the rig off early; just to get away from the buzzsaw of QRN. I decided against it; and ended up working just a few more stations to bring my total past 20 QSOs, which was my goal for the night.

I know that come tomorrow morning, I will probably be knocked off the top spot for this month; but that's okay. I never expect to win any of these sprints; and if I place within the top 3 or 5, then I consider that I did very well for myself. The guys that I have come to know in these sprints are magnificent Amateur Radio ops. To come anywhere near close to them in a sprint like this puts one in rarified air, indeed!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, November 17, 2006

A new twist on an old tale.

Courtesy of a friend .


The ant works hard, in the withering heat, all summer long. He builds his house and stores supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks that the ant is a fool. He laughs, dances and plays the summer away, preparing nothing for the coming winter.

Winter comes, the ant is safe and warm. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

The moral to the story is: BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF!


The ant works hard, in the withering heat, all summer long. He builds his house and stores supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks that the ant is a fool. He laughs, dances and plays the summer away, preparing nothing for the coming winter.

Winter comes, the ant is safe and warm. The shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and fed, while others are cold and starving!

CBS, NBC, ABC & CNN show up to provide pictures of shivering grasshoppers, next to a video of an ant in his comfortable home, with a table filled with food.

America is stunned by the sharp contrast! How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is forced to suffer this way?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah, with the grasshopper. Everyone cries when they sing "It's Not Easy Being Green."

Jesse Jackson stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house, where the news stations film the group singing, "We Shall Overcome."

Jesse then has the group pray for the grasshopper's sake, and reminds the group to contribute to his organization, so that he can "continue the fight" for grasshoppers, everywhere!

The newly-elected Democratic Senators call for an immediate tax hike, to make the ant pay "his fair share!"

Hmmmmmm ...... I can see why this parody came to be.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nothing Like Beating a Dead Horse

I hate to beat a dead horse; but the bands were atrocious again tonight! I tried to participate in the monthly NAQCC Sprint; but it was mostly an excersize in frustration.

40 Meters was dead, dead, dead! I heard and worked a solitairy station on 40 Meters and that was Charles Moizeau W2SH, who lives about 20 miles from me as the crow flies.

80 Meters had more activity; but here it had about an S7 noise level! I worked about another 5 stations before I ended the misery for the night and turned the rig off about 45 minutes early.

The weather has been very warm here the past week or so. Highs have been near 70 and that is odd for November. Unfortunately, it has also had the effect of taking 80 Meters back to summer-like conditions with a ton of atmospheric static. We have a high wind warning in effect for our area tomorrow with more heavy rain expected tomorrow night into Friday in anticipation of a cold front moving through. Maybe once the temperatures come back towards normal, 80 Meters will start behaving like it's Autumn again.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, November 13, 2006


The past few nights on the bands have been disappointing to say the least. There have been very few signals; and all of them have been faint. I understand that from Friday through Sunday we were under the influence of disturbed geomagnetic conditions; but today things have returned to "normal".

However, the bands have still seemed anything but normal. Calling CQ on 80 and 40 yielded zip. Dialing through the bands yielded zip also. But yet, what will be amazing is what the bands will be like over Thanksgiving weekend, during the CQWW DX contest, a scant week and a half away. You will be able to knock me over with a feather if the bands aren't wall to wall signals that weekend, with RF flying everywhere!

Which begs the question .... do the major contests, with the abundance of RF flowing through the aether, cause their own propagation? It seems a silly thing to think; but the flood of signals that will be on the air all weekend will suddenly vanish when the contest ends. It's almost as if someone will have flicked a switch. Then we will go back to these weeknights, where if it were possible, you could hear someone drop a pin on the bands.

If the lack of activity on the bands these nights is any evidence that we are approaching the sunspot minimum, you will get no arguements from me. I can't wait until things get better. I miss my CW ragchews!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thank You!

This Veteran's Day, I would like to extend a deep and most hearfelt "Thank You" to all of you who have served in our Nation's Armed Forces. I can never say thank you enough, or ever repay you for the sacrifice you've made by serving in our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard or Merchant Marine. You folks know that the price of liberty is not cheap; and you've sacrificed a lot to defend the rest of us. Again, thank you!

To those of you out there who may have lost a loved one during their time in service, I also thank you for their sacrifice. No greater love can be shown by a man or a woman than those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I pray that they are basking in Heaven's Holy light.

To those of you are currently serving; or have a loved one who is currently serving - thank you, also! May your tour be safe and may God grant that you return to your home, safe and sound in the quickest time possible. Godspeed!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, November 09, 2006

First 80 Meter Fox Hunt

I had the distinct pleasure to be one of the first two "foxes" in the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunt on Monday evening. I was a bit anxious about it; as my skills are nowhere near the rest of the Foxes. These guys are the "cream of the crop" for the most part; and when I get the opportunity to be a Fox, I feel like a Single-A ballplayer being bumped up to the Big Leagues!

However, 0200 UTC came rolling along; and it was time to take key in hand and begin the hunt. I put out the first "CQ FOX DE W2LJ" exactly on time, to be greeted by a flood wall of QRPers sending me their callsigns in unison!

Remaining as calm as I could, I managed to pick off the calls one by one to send the required exchange. Before I had even realized it, I had settled into a nice rhythm and was working stations regularly at a pace of one and sometimes two per minute. Conditions for the Hunt were nice on 80 Meters for the first 45 minutes of the 90 minute period. I needed few fills; and everyone seemed to be behaving themselves. I was working "split" where I was transmitting on 3.565 MHz and was listening for replies on 3.566 MHz - "up 1" as it is called.

Then at 0245 UTC something suddenly changed. For some reason unbeknownst to me; the noise floor on the band rose dramatically. It was if someone had flicked a noise switch "on" somewhere!

The pack of baying hounds (the QRPers trying to work me) suddenly vanished. I was now calling CQ more often and there was an increasing time lag between incoming calls. I went from operating split to operating simplex. This would make the task of the hounds somewhat easier; as they would not need to hunt for a listening frequency. My QSL rate went way down in the second half of the hunt; but I still ended up working a good number of stations. When all was said and done; I believe I worked 47 or 48 stations - just under the 50 which I has set as a goal for myself.

I have found that working the QRP Sprints, as I have done regularly for the past few years, really helps to prepare you for Fox duty. It's really not much different than finding a good frequency and "running it" during a contest. Lots of operating, especially in cruddy conditions, really helps, too. If your ears are accustomed to digging out calls; then being a Fox is nothing new.

In the end, it was a very enjoyable experience. I would recommend it heartily to those of you in the QRP community who have been thinking about volunteering; but have been sitting on the fence about it. Look, if I can do it - anyone can! My station is nothing super special and I rarely place in the Top Three of any of the QRP Sprints I enter. But I do know what is fun; and it's fun being a Fox. I'm glad that I get another crack at it later this season!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, November 06, 2006

ARS Spartan Sprint

Tonight was the ARS Spartan Sprint, which occurs the first Monday night of each and every month. I jump in to boost my QSO total; and to have some fun. I like operating; and I join in even though I realize that I do not have a good enough antenna farm to acutally compete with the top guns.

Local noise on the AC line was intermittant. Someone in the neighborhood is using some kind of appliance that is generating a ton of RF hash. One of these nights, I'm going to have to go walking again to see if I could localize it. Last winter, I thought it was a bad insulator or something on a utility pole; but the random "on-off" pattern of the noise is convincing me otherwise. At least so far this year, it comes and goes, as compared to last winter when it just came on and lasted all night!

In any event, I made 24 QSOs with 5 Watts. The best DX was to Texas. 80 and 40 Meters were the only bands I used. I tried 20 Meters for a bit; but it was totally dead. 40 Meters was good from the beginning; but the at about 0300 UTC, it went way long. At that point I started hearing Texas and Mississippi and then it kind of conked out. The rest of the evening was spent on 80 Meters where the majority of my QSOs were made.

Tomorrow night is the beginning of the 2006/2007 QRP Fox hunting season. Tuesday nights will be the 80 Meter hunts, with the 40 Meter hunts to follow on Thursdays. I was given the honor of being one of the two Foxes on the first 80 meter hunt. I hope band conditions will be good with low background noise. I'd really love to work a lot of stations and hand out a ton of pelts. That would be the ultimate in fun!

73 de Larry W2LJ


Instead of jumping on the bands this weekend and getting involved in the fury of the November Sweepstakes, I chose to "re-start" a building project.

I spent Saturday night with a strong light, a good magnifier; and a hot soldering iron working once again on my ATS-3 Sprint QRP radio kit.

This one is a toughie, perhaps the most difficult build I have ever undertaken. This kit is 99% surface mount technology. Just about everything I have put together up to this point has been conventional "through hole" construction.

What makes the job so difficult is the size of the components. Talk about super tiny! Some of these devices are not all that much bigger than the head of a pin; and that's no exaggeration.
Making sure you have the right device; then placing it on the board and then soldering it in place is a time consuming task. It takes a bit of getting used to; but if you have a REALLY, REALLY fine tipped soldering iron, you should do okay. It is very important to handle the devices very, very carefully though. Drop it on the floor; or accidentally sneeze or something; and you are in deep doo-doo. The item in question will be gone forever!

In this case, it is critical to take your time; double check your work and use a lot of Solder Wick to sop up excess solder. Inadvertant short circuits via solder bridges are easy to create if you are not careful!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, November 04, 2006

No, thank you!

This weekend is the ARRL's November Sweepstakes, CW portion. It does my heart good to hear so many signals on the bands. However, for the most part, I will politely say,"No, thank you."

I am not a big contester. I love the QRP Sprints as long as they don't exceed 4 hours in length. I just can't get into the idea of setting up my computer to key my rig and send (basically) "TU UR 599 NJ" or whatever. I have nothing against the folks who are into it and choose to do so. One of my very best friends is a very well qualified and experienced contester. It's just not my cup of tea.

So later on tonight, maybe I'll check out 30 Meters and see if I can scare up a ragchew there. Otherwise I'll probably turn on the TV or maybe pick out a good book to read.

73 de Larry W2LJ