10th Anniversary Giveaway!

On April 30th, it will be ten years since the "W2LJ - QRP - Do More With Less" blog was born.

In appreciation for all who read this blog, I am going to give something away to one lucky reader. I have a new, mint condition, unused, complete sheet of fifty United States Amateur Radio stamps, issued in 1964 on the 50th Anniversary of the ARRL - Scott #1260. I am going to have the sheet matted and framed - ready for display on some deserving shack wall. All I ask is that you send an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net - entitled "Blog Anniversary Giveaway". Include your name, call sign and mailing address.

Any Amateur Radio op worldwide can enter. I will package and ship the framed stamps to any destination that the United States Post Office will accept.

The names and call signs will be loaded into a software program such as RandomPicker on April 30th and a winner will be determined. The winner will be announced here, and then the framed stamps will be posted.

Good luck, and thank you for reading!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

W2LJ Poll for December 2006

On my website, I ran a poll asking folks for their MOST FAVORITE method for sending CW. The choices I gave were straight key, bug, sideswiper, Iambic paddles, single lever paddle, touch key or keyboard. I got 28 people to respond and this is how it tallied out:

  • Straight Key (3 votes) - 10.71% of the vote
  • Bug (1 vote) - 3.57% of the vote
  • Sideswiper/Cootie (2 votes) - 7.14% of the vote
  • Iambic paddles w/ keyer (18 votes) - 64.29% of the vote
  • Single lever paddle w/ keyer (4 votes) - 14.29% of the vote
  • Touch key (0 votes)
  • Keyboard (0 votes)

It was no surprise to me that the Iambic paddle/keyer combination took 1st place. I was surprised that using a bug only received one vote and that straight key usage only received 3 votes. I guess not many SKCC members visit my Website!

My personal vote was for the single lever paddle/keyer combo. I love using a straight key and or a bug; but using a single lever paddle with the keyer on my K2 would be my most favorite. Strangely, though, I no longer own a good single lever paddle. I use my Elecraft Hex Key which I have set up so that it most closely resembles a touch keyer. Go figure!

I have a touch paddle kit that I bought a few months ago that I want to construct and experiment with. I guess I should add that to my list of resolutions for 2007!

73 de Larry W2LJ

New Year's Resolutions - Amateur Radio Style !

Here are some of the things I would like to accomplish in 2007, Amateur Radio-wise:

1) Finish my ATS-3 - Cripes! Steve Weber has moved on to offer the ATS-3A; and I still have not finished my ATS-3! I need to get on the ball and get this done.

2) Start up the "QSO a Day" run again. My streak broke while on vacation. Once it broke, it robbed me a bit of the "sense of urgency" to get on and operate every night. I ended up about 100 QSOs short of my total from last year. Hopefully a new streak attempt will get me going again.

3) Attend Atlanticon - The QRP confab for the Mid-Atlantic area. This is held every March in Baltimore. I would give my eyeteeth to be able to go to this! It's hard with family obligations; but I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

4) Get back onto a regular schedule of bug practice. If I attempt to keep resolution #2, then this should be easier.

5) Re-do the radial system for the HF9V this coming Spring/Summer. The same amount of radials would be fine. The old ones have gotten torn up by toddler play and by dog play. It's time to plant some new wire.

6) Probably a bunch of other things I can't think of right now!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Joy of SKN

A fellow member of the Straight Key Century Club, Keith Darwin N1AS posted this to the SKCC e-mail reflector. It is a wonderful op-ed, which Keith has submitted to the ARRL about CW and Straight Key Night, which is tomorrow night. Keith kindly gave me permission to post this here. I think it is extremely well written, and spot-on! Thank you, Keith!

Regarding the SKN Announcement in QST

I read the 2007 Straight Key Night announcement (Dec QST, p. 98) with both joy and disappointment. Joy that another SKN is soon upon us, but disappointment in the color of the light with which SKN has been illuminated. While SKN certainly entails using some rather old-style equipment, it is anything but old-fashioned, and billing it as such sells the event short.

Consider the straight key itself. Contrary to common believe it is not just a beginner's toy, used to master the code to the minimal level and then cast aside in favor of something else. Instead it is a very workable, useable tool for sending CW on today's bands with today's rigs. No, that lowly straight key is a far more demanding task master who does not let you get away with sloppy sending or poor spacing. It's simple form places nothing between you and the CW you're generating.

In the same way, the simplicity of SKN gives us an opportunity to strip away the complex technology oriented aspect of our hobby as we zero in on the essence of Amateur Radio. We sit down in front of the rig with a straight key and set about to communicate with other people over vast distances. Just us and keys. No computer to generate the CW, no keyer to clean up timing errors and make us sound like robots. The priceless prize we get in return for our efforts is ourselves, encoded into unique sounding Morse code, sent through the ether and received in the mind of the op on the other end. The connection we make with the other op is more personal because the CW itself is more personal. In that moment a magic thing happens - we become, once again, a RADIO operator.

If this is old-fashioned nostalgia, then shame on us for ever having walked away from this essential core of Amateur Radio. I look forward to working you during SKN. I'll be using my straight key, doing my level best to send smooth code to you and hanging on every dit and dah you return to me as we share a special bond of manual CW.

KEITH DARWIN, N1AS
Ferrisburg, Vermont

73 de Larry W2LJ

SKN Soapbox comments

If you operate SKN (even if it's one tiny, measly QSO) PLEASE make sure you enter soapbox comments about your experience on the ARRL website!

http://www.arrl.org/contests/soapbox/

I'm pretty sure you DO NOT need to be an ARRL member to post your comments.

In any event, please make sure you mention that you are a member of SKCC, NAQCC, or FISTS, or whichever CW group you belong to. In 2002 they got 39 soapbox entries, in 2004 there were 72, in 2005 there were 65 and in 2006 there were 86. I'd like to see the SKN Soapbox Comments area to get blown out of the water!

With the removal of the CW requirement from the licensing procedure; I've been seeing a lot of peeing and moaning on all the CW related reflectors about "the end of CW". Here's our chance to show everyone that CW is NOT dead! With the hundreds of CW ops that will be taking to the air for SKN, can you imagine seeing soapbox comments from a COUPLE hundred participants? That, in my humble opinion, would be a pretty potent message to the League, indeed.

Don't worry about your writing skills, you don't have to be Shakespeare. All you have to write, even if you have no idea what to say, is "I enjoyed SKN. I used (whatever key) and I had a real good time QSOing with ......". You get the idea!

I can't think of any better way to make our voices heard by the League than by blowing them out with participation and letting them know WE STILL CARE by publicly telling them about it. They are giving us a forum. Let's make use of it!

73 - Happy New Year - Happy SKN de
Larry W2LJ

Friday, December 29, 2006

One pelt last night.

The 40 Meter Foxhunt produced one pelt for me last night. I worked Wayne K5EOA rather late into the hunt. He was loud into New Jersey, at times about 579. The QSB was very frustrating, though. He would be loud, I would call, and then he would be weak and it was hard to tell exactly who he had picked out of the pileup. Another thing that made it hard, was that it was difficult to hear a lot of the hounds he was working. That made it exasperating to find out where he was listening. Then, when Wayne did finally hear me, he called for W2RJ; so I had to slow down the code speed just a titch so that my call was copied correctly.

The strange thing about last night was that I didn't hear the other Fox, Rick NK9G at all! I usually have no problem; and indeed I usually have a virtual radio pipeline into Wisconsin. I knew something was wrong when I couldn't hear any of the WI hounds that Wayne was working. After working Wayne I went listening for Rick; but it was pointless. I called it a night and hit "the big switch" early.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, December 28, 2006

QRP .-..

For those of you who are code challenged, that's "QRP L". A new QRP related e-mail reflector. This was started with the hopes of creating a new QRP reflector with fewer restrictions and a more relaxed atmosphere. The only rule is "NO FLAMING !!!!" Flaming will result in an immediate lifetime ban from the list.

To check out the "new" QRP-L, please visit: http://qrp-l.org/

Exceedingly
Best wishes to
All the founders of the "New" QRP-L that they will have
Yet founded a most exceedingly happy and relaxed "QRP place" !!!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Another night for Le Pew!

No luck in the 80 Meter Foxhunt tonight. I never heard Jim, KGØPP in Colorado; but I did hear Wayne, W5KDJ in Texas. The problem was, however, that Wayne was S1 to S3 for just about the entire hunt! QSB was bad and Wayne never heard me.

In fact, it was kind of amusing. Ann K1QO and I were like a tag team on Wayne for the last half hour. We alternated and sometimes co-mingled our calls in our furious attempts to work Wayne. Wayne was so low that I turned the AGC off in the K2 to hear him better. Ann, who lives in New Hampshire is always loud to NJ on 80 Meters. With the AGC off she was deafeningly loud! With Wayne working simplex the last 45 minutes or so, I would go from struggling to hear him to having my eardrums blown out by Ann's healthy signal.

I think it's time for an aspirin; or maybe a shot of blackberry brandy would serve me better this chilly winter evening!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Santa was good to me!

Santa read my blog! And Santa (my wife, Marianne) was indeed very, very good to me!

Underneath the tree was the 2006 Christmas Key from Morse Express. I was lucky enough to receive last year's edition. The 2006 version is just as beautiful and just as nice to use.

But also under the tree was an "IOU" for one of the SKCC straight keys by LTA! Wow, I wasn't expecting two keys!

Unfortunately, the first run of 30 keys sold out. Mine will be among the next batch to make it over from Spain. Hopefully, it will be here some time in January. I already can't wait to get it on the air!

I hope your "Santa" was just as generous to all of you out there.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

"Glory to God in the Highest; and on Earth, peace and good will towards Men"

I'd like to take this time to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.

This is a season of giving, peace, understanding and goodwill among all. I hope that this Christmas will find you among friends and family with good food, good times, and good memories.

May the Lord, who instituted this Holy Day, by giving to us Himself, grant you peace, serenity, happiness, joy and love.

Merry Christmas to all; and to all a good night!

PS: And I hope Santa lines the bottom of your Christmas tree with all the Amateur Radio goodies that it can hold!

73 de Larry W2LJ

PS: To those of you who are travelling this Christmastide, I wish you Godspeed and a safe journey. This same wish goes out double to all our dedicated men and women of our Armed Forces who are on duty this Christmas season, keeping our country safe while we celebrate the Christ child's birth.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Christmas Eve tip

For any of you out there with young children or grandchildren that will be with you on Christmas Eve, I have the following suggestion:

http://www.santanorad.com/index.php

Many years ago (more than I care to remember!) I remember listrening to reports on the radio where NORAD was tracking the progress of Santa's famous Christmas Eve ride. Now, with the advent (no pun intended) of the Internet, you can see just where Santa is, at any moment on Christmas Eve.

This is a real cool Website and I guarantee that you will get just as big a kick out of it as any of your children/grandchildren!! Download the 60 second promotional video and you will see Santa's F-18 escorted ride through North America in 2005, where he was guaranteed safe an uninterrupted passage.

Oh, and of course, the sleigh team is led by none other than Rudolph, himself!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, December 22, 2006

Skunked again in NJ

The 40 Meters Foxhunt was a bust last night - again! I heard a few stations that were hunting; but I never did hear either Fox. For a few minutes I actually thought I heard something; but looking at comments on Q-Fox, I see that I was nowhere close to where the Foxes were actually transmitting.

I took the opportunity to get a little further along with the ATS-3. All the semi-conductors are done; and now I have begun mounting the resistors. These little guys aren't much bigger than this "o" !!! I know I'm taking a super long time with this project; but with the Holidays and all that is going on at work, I don't get much construction time. I'm hoping that if I concentrate my efforts, that maybe I'll be done by the end of January.

On a bright note, 40 Meters seemed better last night. While I didn't bag either of the Foxes, I did end up having a ragchew on 40 after the Foxhunt was completed. For about 20 minutes, I had a nice QSO with Alan, who is visiting his Dad down in Florida for Christmas.

It felt like last year, when I was able to have a QSO every night with little or no difficulty.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, December 21, 2006

From NASA's mouth to God's ear!

Lets hope the good folks at NASA have it right this time!

http://tinyurl.com/y5kbyu

The most active sunspot cycle since records have been kept? Oh, please, let it be true!

But we all know predicitons about celestial events can tend to be tricky. Remember the claims about the comet Kohoutek in the 70s? That fizzled out big time. It was supposed to be the brightest comet of our time, visible even in the daylight hours! I seem to remember needing a telescope to see it at night.

Then Halley's comet in 1986 turned out to be another big bust.

I think I'll take the attitude of "wait and see". But no matter what happens on down the road, solar conditions HAVE to improve over what we have now!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What the ......... ????

What is going on here?

http://www.fox28.com/News/index.php?ID=10198

Basically, a man who drives a school bus on Long Island, almost lost his job because he was wearing a Santa hat. One child was "offended" and complained to his/her Mommy and Daddy, who called the Board of Education and started the ball rolling. He was given a choice - remove the Santa hat or lose his job. In the end, Mr. Mott, the driver, refused to remove the hat and the Board of Education backed off after the outcries of other parents. You know, the parents with a smattering of common sense.

Again, this is just another example of the "Assault on Christmas". Anything remotely Christian anything remotely non-secular, anything tied to the TRUE meaning of Christmas is to be hidden, swept away, discarded and disdained.

Now any Christian worth his/her salt will tell you that while Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicholas; the popular image of Santa Claus that we hold near and dear; the one we see at the mall is a secular figure. He is nowhere even close to Saint Nicholas, who was a bishop in Turkey in the earlier history of the Catholic Church.

But, the Santa hat is unique. So a lot of people bullseye on it and connect Santa with the Christian holiday of Christmas. Then, of course, they immediately become offended by it, especially liberals and the enlightened oh-so Politically Correct. And of course, since ONE child got offended, we have to cave in, and stop displaying anything which even might be remotely misinterpreted as a religious symbol by some wild leap of the imagination.

Can I ask something, though? What if Mr. Mott, the school bus driver had been wearing a something else; perhaps a yarmulke or an Native American Chief's head-dress? If that child had complained; do you, for even a split second, think he would have been accomodated? No, I think perhaps the child would have been directed to "sensitivity training" or perhaps "diversity training". I don't mean to say that there is anything wrong with the examples of head gear that I have listed. It just stymies me why some cultures are revered and some are not.

"Sensitivity" and "Diversity" are code words to be used to institute the fight against anything that is American and/or Christian. All the "mulitcultural" things MUST be tolerated and promoted; while Christianity is to be persecuted and disposed of. Anything "American" is disdained, ridiculed or regarded as evil. Can someone please tell me what exactly happened to the concept of the United States as "The Melting Pot"?

When you can't say "Merry Christmas" and you have to display a "Holiday Tree" and you can't sing a song that mentions angels, Jesus or anything having to do with Heaven; it is a sad thing. This once God-fearing nation is turning into a pagan nation - no better than the Druids who worshipped trees and practiced magic. Might as well go bow down before an elm or something!

Happy freakin' Festivus.

BTW - Can someone show me in the Bill of Rights the one that guarantees your right not to be offended? I think I missed that one.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, December 18, 2006

Musings of an Old Fart

I was really amused today by the appearance of several postings on QRP-L by some newer Hams who have complained about the treatment they have received by older Hams, who are now becoming known as "OF"s.

I guess I should be amused; but it seems to be a sad commentary not on just Amateur Radio; but of society in general. Here we have some postings by newer Hams who complain that they were mocked, made fun of, abused ....... whatever ....... by older Hams (henceforth known as Old Farts) because they received their licenses by taking exams with a percieved lower level of difficulty.

In my 28 years as a Ham, I am mystified by this. I have never encountered this to my recollection. Or maybe I did; but was smart enough to ignore the taunts of crazies, and instead went on to seek the knowledge I needed from kinder folks. I wanted my Ham license so bad that I was not go to be discouraged my some crackpot. In any event, the incident(s), if they did happen were such a small blip on my radar screen that I don't even remember them! My experience has been that older Hams were most helpful to me when I was a new Ham. Maybe they didn't treat me with kid gloves; but hey, I wasn't a baby and I didn't need to be treated like one! Even if advice was given in less than a cheerful manner; I always learned - and that was the main point, wasn't it?

What bothers me is how these folks use these incidents as a crutch to explain their own behaviors! How can you let the remarks of some stupid person deter you? How can you let what others think diminish your success and accomplishments? Have we as a society become so overly sensitive that no one can say anything without the fear of being labeled as an Old Fart or some other derogotory term? Why are folks so happy and content to assume the role of "victim" rather than take responsibility for their own lives?

I pity these people who look upon sage advice or some good natured ribbing as a put down or an insult. I look with pity on these enlightened ones who say we must respect the opinions and feelings of everyone EXCEPT those that conflict with their own.

Maybe I am just an Old Fart ....... at 49!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Requiescat in pace

Rest in peace.

The Morse Code requirement to obtain operating privileges below 30 MHz will be officially eliminated by the FCC. Or as the ARRL put it:

"In an historic move, the FCC has acted to drop the Morse code requirement for all Amateur Radio license classes. The Commission today adopted a Report and Order (R&O) in WT Docket 05-235."

So what does this mean? Well, for now, CW is not dead. It is still VERY popular and is the preferred method of communication amongst QRPers, hard core contesters and hard core DXers. But even with all that understood, I believe this is the death knell of Morse Code as we know it as a communications form.

Look at recent developments:

The latest Amateur Radio band to be introduced, the 60 Meter band, does not even allow for A1 (CW) emissions.

The "refarming" of the 80 Meter band by the FCC puts the pinch on General and Advanced CW ops who ended up losing spectrum.

Anybody who thinks the FCC and the ARRL regards CW operators as a valuable resource are kidding themselves. The handwriting is on the wall.

In the future, I believe these developments are not far off:

The ARRL will discontinue code practice on W1AW.
SSB emissions will be allowed anywhere on the Amateur Radio bands (OR)
The existing CW only subbands will be renamed the Digital only subbands allowing for the proliferation of Pactor III, WinLink and other similar forms of data transmission.

Unfortunately, tradition, history, romance and magic have no use in today's society. This is the latest action to prove that.

For now, I won't even go into my rant about those who claim that they "just can't learn Morse Code". I'll save that for another day.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, December 14, 2006

YAF

YAF - as Jim Miller AB3CV put it - Yet Another Flare. And boy, is he right! Ol' Sol is not sitting there quietly as we approach the dead bottom of the sunspot cycle. Sunspots, flares, Coronal Mass Ejections .... our yellow Sun is a happening place right now! In fact, this solar storm is SO intense that NASA had the astronauts aboard the Shuttle and the International Space Station retreat to the most shielded parts of each vessel.

What does that mean for amateur radio? Well, I was not home to witness it; but several of the e-mail reflectors had posts from guys who reported that 10 Meters was alive and doing quite well today. Several other have posted seeing intense Aurora Borealis tonight.; so that means 2 Meters and 6 Meters must be hopping like mad!

On the other hand, for the 40 Meter Foxhunt tonight, all the signals I heard were weak, fluttery and watery. Typical of signals that propagate over the North Pole that are most affected by Aurora. I finally worked Jerry N9AW ay 0316 UTC; but even his signal was not its normal healthy self. Jerry was anywhere from 449 to ESP. The QSB was deep; and I didn't think I was going to work him. However, persistance paid off this time around. I heard the other Fox, Randy K7TQ early in the hunt also; but he was VERY weak into NJ; so I went to search out Jerry first. After working Jerry, I went back to the frequency where I had heard Randy and he was gone. Actually he wasn't as I heard the hounds calling him; but for me, since I couldn't hear him anymore, he was gone.

So by working N9AW tonight; that puts me at 4 pelts out of 12 hunts. A .333 batting average. If I was in the Major Leagues, I'd be earning beaucoup bucks for that average. For Foxhunting, that stinks! In the 2004-2005 season, I batted .475, and in 2005-2006 I batted .225 (I had terrible local QRN problems last Winter on 40 Meters). So I guess I'm doing better than last year, so far.

In the 2005-2006 80 Meter Foxhunt, I batted .650; and so far this year, I am batting .583 in the 80 Meter Foxhunt. Slightly worse than last year; but still lightyears ahead of my 40 Meter batting average. (Can you tell I'm a big baseball fan?)

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not looking good.

My goal at the beginning of the year was to make 2006 QSOs in 2006. Looks like I'm not going to cross that finish line. It doesn't even look like I will be able to duplicate last year's total of 1800. I'm at 1700; but there are less than three weeks left of 2006.

The reason? Take last night, for example. The airwaves should have been hopping. There were three big CW events that took place last night. First, the QRP-L Foxhunt was held on 80 Meters. Second, the North American QRP CW Club was holding its monthly sprint. Third, the Straight Key Century Club was holding its monthly sprint, also. I was thinking an easy 40 or even 50 QSOs between the two sprints.

I had a wake to go to last night; and then a Knights of Columbus meeting. I got home at 9:15 PM and literally flew down the basement steps to get into the shack and turn the radio on. Much to my surprise, I heard nothing, zilch, zip, nada, the big donut hole.

No Foxes, no hounds, no NAQCCers and finally, only one single, solitary SKCC station. It was Kevin K4VD who was operating under the SKCC club callsign KI4SLY. And that was it! That was all she wrote from 9:15 until 10:30 PM. Calling CQ netted nothing. Searching and pouncing netted one station. And before I get to mention, this also means another week of getting skunked in the Foxhunts.

All in all, not a good night. The propagation gods seem to be dead set against me.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dear Santa,

Dear Santa,

I know my dear wife Marianne is in a quandry, trying to figure out what this Ham Radio operator would like for Christmas. If you're intent on helping her, I have two suggestions for you. Both can be gotten with the help of Marshall Emm at Milestone Technologies.

The new SKCC straight key would be neat! It's an LTA Marconi straight key with the Straight Key Century Club (of which I am a member) logo engraved on it! If you'd like to see what I'm talking about - go here:

http://www.mtechnologies.com/skcc/

Another item that I wouldn't mind finding under the tree would be the 2006 Christmas Key. If you remember correctly, you brought me the 2005 Christmas key last year. Lookie here:

http://www.mtechnologies.com/xmas/

I've been a real good Ham Radio Op all year, Santa! I hope you read my blog and bring me a radio goodie this Christmas!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, December 08, 2006

QRP and CW are the best!

I just finished a great ragchew with Dave WD4EKB out of Fulton, NY. Dave mentioned that he is 65 and has been a Ham for a number of years; but was inactive until just a few months ago. Since rejoining the hobby, his interests have been in QRP and CW.

This is not a new thing that I am hearing. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this repeatedly, in the past few years. Guys who were starting to get bored with the hobby (or were already bored) are finding excitement, nostalgia, romance and a little of the "magic" that got them interested in radio in the first place, in QRP and CW.

I'm not sure whether it's folks relishing a new challenge; or just returning back to their roots of building and using Morse Code and low power equipment. But whatever it is, it seems to be catching on quickly. The QRP branch of Amateur Radio is quite healthy from all reports that I have been reading. With the birth of organizations like the North American QRP CW Club and the Straight Key Century Club it also seems like CW is beginning a renaissance, also. While the "code/no-code" debate furiously rages on, quietly and surely the numbers of Hams who are using Morse Code for the first time (and enjoying it immensely) as well as those who are returning to Morse Code, seem to be on the rise.

And after all, what's not to like? Using QRP and CW is fun; and that's all that counts!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sincere thanks!

My most sincere thanks to all of you who left a comment or sent a private e-mail with get well wishes and notes of concern about my recent back injury. Fortunately (thanks be to God!) that it was just a severe muscle pull and not anything like a disc injury.

For those of you who suffer from the same malady, from time to time, I heartly recommend the use of the ThermaCare brand of heat therapy wraps! I purchase the large sized back/hip wraps. These babies work wonders! They provide a gentle warmth and not a searing heat; and they last for 8 hours or more. I wear one underneath my shirt; but on top of an undershirt. Direct contact with the skin is okay; but I feel that would be a little too much warmth for me. The have a velcro belt type of fastener. To give you an idea of how you would wear it; just think of a tuxedo cummerbun worn backwards!

The ThermaCare wraps, combined with the use of Advil has gotten me through the worst. I still get some muscle "twinges" if I move a little too fast the wrong way; but for the most part I would say I am back to about 90% of normal.

I've thrown out my back several times before but this was the worst! The cramping was so bad; I'm sure that my muscles were just huge, cramped up balls. I'm feeling the after-affects now. This was also the first time that this has happened, that as a result, I was not able to lay in bed, for fear of not being able to get out of bed! Monday and Tuesday nights were spent trying to sleep in an easy chair in the living room. Not a restful or pleasant experience; but at least this way my muscles didn't stiffen up to the point where I would have been immobile. I was in bad enough shape to call out sick from work on Tuesday. On Wednesday I was informed that the last time I had used a sick day was nine years ago.

Once again, thanks to all of you who were concerned. Knowing that there are friends out there makes all the difference in the world! In fact, from my last two posts, you can see that felt well enough to brave the trip down to the basement shack to participate in last night's 40 Meter Foxhunt!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It was a Two-fer!

Dale WC7S just posted his log on the Q-fox e-mail reflector. It was a "two-fer" after all! Dale got my exchange at 0310 UTC perfectly. I think I'm going to start referring to Dale as "Steve Austin" because he just has to have bionic ears to have pulled me out of that noisy soup on 40 Meters!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Think I got a Two-fer!

Wow! I think I got my first Two-fer in the 40 Meter Foxhunt on Thursday night! And that on a day when Ol' Sol is tossing all kinds of garbage at us, with M-Class flares and coronal mass ejections and the like!

The evening started out by firing up HF Prop, a HF propagation prediction software program. With the Solar Flux at 96 and the K Index at 4, the program predicted that Dennis N4DD in Tennessee would be at about an S1 level. It also predicted that Dale WC7S in Wyoming would be at about S5. Of course, the opposite proved to be true!

Dale was a nice and loud (by QRP standards) 559. Just as I was going to touch the paddles and give him a call; someone in the neighborhood flicked on an appliance and gave me an instant S9 ambient noise level ! Arrrggggghhhhhhhh - Dennis went "Bye-bye"! Fortunately, about 10 minutes later, whatever got flicked on, got flicked off. I composed myself and shortly thereafter into the bag went Dennis' pelt.

A few minutes later, at the other end of the frequency range I heard Ann AB1DR's loud signal from up in New Hampshire calling Dale. Thanks for the guidance, Ann! By turning the VFO down a touch, I was able to finally hear Dale who was 339 and maybe 449 when the QSB would abate for a very short period. After calling a few times, I'm about 90% certain that Dale came back to me and that we completed the exchange. I'll know for sure when Dale posts his log for the night on the QRP Foxhunting e-mail reflector tomorrow.

Who would have guessed that when solar conditions were so abnormal as to make a headline on "The Drudge Report" that I might have gotten my first double pelt session of the season!

Go figure!

73 de Larry W2LJ

And now for something totally UN-PC!

As seen on the Internet:

T'was the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.

Why the Politically Correct Police had taken away,
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.

It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a "Holiday".
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!

CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod ,
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.

But as Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.

Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Pelosi, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!

At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they tried to take away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace.

The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded

The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate "Winter Break" under your "Holiday Tree"
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.

Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
And shout MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holiday,
Our Country was founded under the Judeo-Christian way
And to our"guests" I will most politely say,
If you find that you don't like it , You certainly don't have to stay!!

Merry Christmas to all!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stormy weather!

More from Paul Harden NA5N on QRP-L today:

Gang,
Yesterday, the sun produced an X9 solar flare, *very* unusual for being near the bottom of the solar minimum. Today (6Dec) the sun produced another X6 flare. This certainly suggests that active region #0930 will be bringing us plenty of entertainment over the next two weeks as it rotates across the surface of the sun.

For the *duration* of the flare events, HF can be disrupted by bursty and continuum noise, plus enhanced D-layer ionization absorbing signals, if not a temporary HF blackout. However, once that bleeds off in an hour or two, the D-layer will be back to normal and the E/F layers will remain ionized above normal for the rest of your local daytime hours. This of course makes the E/F layers more reflective and raises the MUF. Therefore, a good time for QRPers to check the bands is an hour or so after a large flare until local sundown for enhanced HF propagation.

Most of today we've also been in a major geomagnetic storm. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with yesterday's X9 (or today's X6) flare. The Earth has simply run in to a high speed electron stream from a coronal hole. This has exerted pressure against our magnetic field, compressing it, and generating huge electrical currents causing high HF noise levels. This will subside by later in the day.

If the sun produces M or X class flares over the next few days, the coronal mass ejection (CME) will begin to be pointed towards earth, meaning we can expect a geomagnetic storm about two days following the flare event. The closer the solar flare is to the center of the sun, more the direct of a hit we'll receive on earth. Today's X6, being near the limb of the sun, will probably give the earth only a glancing blow for a few hours of unsettled conditions late Friday.

The >10MeV proton count is high. These protons tend to accumulate in the polar regions (where the Earth's magnetic field is weakest). This causes a Polar Cap Absorption Event, meaning high absorption to HF signals for those above 45-50 degrees latitude. These same protons are what fuels auroral displays. Those in the higher latitudes are experiencing aurora now.

The moral of the story for QRPers:
1) Don't let reports of solar flares, geomagnetic storms, CME's keep you
off the bands. Much of this is of short term duration.
2) Enhanced HF propagation, including sporaidic openings on 15, 10 and even
6M can occur after a major flare for the rest of the day until sundown.
3) This includes possible north-south dx propagation at sundown due to
gray-line propagation. (If you do work McMurdo Sound, you better make
the QSO a snappy one, though -hi).
Good luck and have fun on the bands. It's not nearly as bad as it appears. In fact, it really works in the QRPers favor.
72, Paul NA5N

Thank you, Paul! You make all this science more palatable by putting it into "laymen's terms".
You're a QRP treasure - no doubt!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Solar Activity

The following appeared on QRP-L today, courtesy of Paul Harden NA5N:

Gang,
Today's X9 flare was indeed quite a surprise, not only to us hams,
but to the scientific community as well. The flare occured right on
the east limb of the sun, that is, just coming into view, such that the
active region that produced it has not yet been viewed. This region
will be rotating into view over the next day, and over the next two
weeks will move across the surface of the sun (from east to west, or
left to right on most solar images).

Since this flare was on the east limb, Earth will experience on the
speed-of-light emissions (ionizing radiation and the radio storms) - NOT a subsequent severe major geomagnetic storm. Although, NOAA has predicted an A=20 (minor storm)
for Thursday, anticipating a glancing blow from the shockwave. It will not be a direct hit. However, over the next week and a half, further solar flares from region 0929/0930, as it nears the center of the sun, could cause major geomagnetic disturbances on Earth.

I talked to our head solar astronomer, Dr. Tim Bastian, who said the
40-ft. and 300-ft. antennas at Green Bank, WVa are now mapping this
area of the sun, trying to get some spatial resolution to see what this area looks like - difficult when it is right on the limb. Additionally, there are some pretty images of the Type II and Type IV sweeps on their radiometer. He has given me permission to pass on the following information. This is his website of the Green Bank solar radio burst spectrometer (GBSRBS), which is a newly created and EXPERIMENTAL website you might find interesting, though it has not been announced/released for public use yet (but released to QRP-L by permission). It is at:
http://gbsrbs.nrao.edu
Click on SELECTED EVENTS, then Type II and Type IV. Type II sweeps are caused by the shockwave of the flare punching through the magnetic field lines of the disturbance. They "sweep" from higher frequencies (50-300MHz) to lower frequencies (5-20MHz,
depending on the intensity of the shockwave). On earth, they will sound like bursts of static flying through your passband, much like ignition noise.

This X9 has been producing Type II events. Type IV sweeps are more continuum noise generated by the solar flare, though bounded in frequency to the 10-100MHz or so range, though effects much higher are not uncommon for a large flare. On earth, the Type IV sweeps
causes an overall increase in the HF noise level. This X9 has been producing Type IV events.

Now go to the DAILY SUMMARIES, click on DEC (December) and 2006. Click on Dec. 05 under the "BI 12-62 MHz" column. This is the Bruny Island Radio Spectrometer in Tasmania, which shows today's events so far. Can you see the Type II sweeps (going from the high to lower
frequencies)? And, the Type IV continuum noise?

The NRAO radio burst spectrometer is also real time, however, it is not updated on this PUBLIC website until the end of the UTC day, so Dec.05 is a bit blank yet. However, look at it later, which will give you a real-time (at least at the time -hi) spectrum of what happened to the HF bands down to 12MHz. You can compare it to Dec.04 (yesterday), which is pretty boring. Again, this will soon be an official NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory) public website, and soon to have the daily real-time spectrograph on it, but still under development. Dr. Bastian was kind enough to allow me to share it with those hams so interested.

Lastly, Dr. Bastian is also observing, etc. to determine the effects of this flare to our upper ionosphere, and interested to know what effects this is or has had on HF propagation. There are facilities that measure these things, but it will be at the end of the UTC day or later before their
data is released. I am at work and no access to any HF gear. So, for those of you who have been on the bands since this morning, let me know (either private or via QRP-L) if you heard any Type II sweeps (the bursty, ignition noise stuff and approx. what time and frequency), an overall increase in noise (type IV), or if you experienced an HF black-out or near blackout condition. State your approx. location.

It is hard for some of these astronomers to realize there is a fleet of people out there who are experiencing these things real-time on ham radio. A sampling of reports across the country of noted effects could be helpful right now (as some of the propagation study instruments are shut down during the solar miniumum). I'll pass on anything interesting that might result from todays solar observing we're doing on this.

Thanks and 72,
Paul NA5N
National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)
Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope
Socorro, New Mexico
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73 de Larry W2LJ

No radio for a bit .... for me!

I threw my back out at work yesterday. It went out on me pretty good, too! I can't remember being in that much pain in quite awhile! It's getting better; but I can tell it's going to take a week or more to come back to somewhere near normal. In the meantime, I think I'm going to stay out of the shack for the time being. That's the last thing the muscles in my lower back need right now - sitting in one position for an extended period of time in the basement, where it's cool and damp!

So while I didn't participate in the ARS Spartan Sprint last night; I see I had a lot of company. Reading comments on the various QRP reflectors, I saw this news tidbit:

MAJOR SOLAR FLARE: Earth-orbiting satellites detected a
powerful X-class solar
flare this morning, Dec. 5th, at 10:35
Universal Time. The source: big, new
sunspot 929, which is
emerging over the Sun's eastern limb. Because of the
sunspot's
position near the limb, this flare was not Earth-directed. Future

eruptions could be, however, because the Sun's spin is turning
the spot toward
Earth. Sunspot 929 will be visible for the next
two weeks as it glides across
the solar disk.

Please visit http://spaceweather.com for more information
and updates.


73 de Larry W2LJ