Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas !!!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

May you and your family enjoy a
Holy and Happy Christmas.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some things get better with time

When I was a kid, it was a big deal on Christmas Eve, to turn on the local AM news station out of New York in order to keep tabs on the whereabouts of Santa Claus.

I remember how they'd have a reporter based out at NORAD to relay Santa's position back to the whichever kids or their parents were listening.

Today, it's a whole lot better! There a website that you can go to: NORAD Tracks Santa 2008.

Due to the marvel (and I mean marvel - personal computers are something we take way too much for granted) of the Internet and home computers you can now get accurate, minute by minute position reports for Mr. C.

You can watch him as he flies about the globe and if you download Google Earth, you can even watch it in 3D! If we had this kind of thing when I was a kid, we would have been besides ourselves.

It's so cool to watch as Santa is escorted by F-15s and F-16s as he flies through USA airspace; with our brave military watching over him with care. This is the thing that memories are made of.

Treat your kids and yourself to something you won't soon forget.

Merry Christmas from the W2LJ household. May your day be merry and bright.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, December 20, 2008

QRP-ARCI Sprint tomorrow night!

From QRP-L :

Hello All.

It is a busy time of year for many of us, but tomorrow gives us a good reason to step aside and make a few contacts with friends old and new during the Holiday Season.


2000Z to 2359Z on 21 December 2008.


HF CW Only.


Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, ARCI member number
Non-Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, Power Out


Member = 5 points
Non-Member, Different Continent = 4 points
Non-Member, Same Continent = 2 points


SPC (State/Province/Country) total for all bands. The same station may be worked on multiple bands for QSO points and SPC credit.

5 Watts = x1
1 - 5 Watts = x7
250 mW - 1 Watt = x10
55 mW - 250 mW = x15
55 mW or less = x20


160m 1810 kHz
80m 3560 kHz
40m 7030 kHz (please listen at 7040 kHz for rock bound participants)
20m 14060 kHz
15m 21060 kHz
10m 28060 kHz

Final Score = Points (total for all bands) x SPCs (total for all bands) x Power Multiplier + Bonus Points.


If operating a HB Transmitter add 2000 points per band
If operating a HB Receiver add 3000 points per band
If operating a HB Transceiver add 5000 points per band
(Homebrew is defined as: if you built it, it is homebrew (kits too!)

If you are operating PORTABLE using battery power AND a temporary antenna, add 5000 points to your final score. (You can NOT be at your shack operating from battery power using your home station antenna to qualify for this bonus.) This is to help level the playing field for contesters who work from the field against contest stations with 5 element yagis at 70 ft.


Entry may be All-Band, Single Band, High Bands (10m-15m-20m) or Low Bands (40m-80m-160m)


Get on any of the HF bands except the WARC bands and hang out near the QRP frequencies. Work as many stations calling CQ QRP or CQ TEST as possible, or call CQ QRP or CQ TEST yourself! You can work a station for credit once on each band.


Email Submission: Submit Logs in plain text format along with a summary stating your Callsign, Entry Category, Actual Power and Station Description along with score calculation to This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

Snail mail Submission: Submit Logs along with a summary stating your Callsign, Entry Category, Actual Power and Station Description along with score calculation to:

ARCI Holiday Spirits
c/o Jeff Hetherington, VA3JFF
139 Elizabeth St. W.
Welland, Ontario
Canada L3C 4M3


Entries must be postmarked on or before 21 January 2009.


Will be published in QRP Quarterly and shown on the QRP-ARCI website.


Will be awarded to the top scoring entrant in each category, as well as the top scoring entrants from each State, Province and Country. Certificates may be awarded for 2nd and 3rd place if entries are sufficient in a category.

L. Jeffrey Hetherington - VA3JFF / VE3CW
QRP-ARCI(sm) Contest Manager
QRP-ARCI(sm) #9223 / K2 #3375 / KX1 #631

Thanks for the announcement, Jeff!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, December 19, 2008

Got it figured out!

OK - I seem to have gotten it figured out. I was able to get on the "Echotest" server successfully and listen to some test transmissions.

These are the steps I followed - they may or may not work for you. I am using Verizon DSL.

1) Start up Echolink and go to the "Help" menu.
2) Type in "DSL" and hit search topics - this is the part you will be most interested in:

Firewall Issues

EchoLink uses UDP ports 5198 and 5199. To use EchoLink, you must configure your router to direct all incoming data on these two ports to the PC on which EchoLink is installed. Typically, there are two ways to configure this:

  • Forwarding. Most routers allow data on specific ports to be "forwarded" to specific computers. If you expect to use EchoLink on only one PC, configure your router to forward UDP ports 5198 and 5199 to that computer.
  • Port triggering. Some routers implement a "smart" forwarding scheme which tries to direct data to the computer which is most likely to use it, based on requests each computer has recently made. If you expect to use EchoLink any of several different computers at different times, you may wish to try this option. Configure the router to direct ports 5198 and 5199 to any computer which makes outbound requests over UDP ports 5198 or 5199, or TCP port 5200.

EchoLink also uses TCP port 5200. Most routers will handle these requests correctly, since EchoLink always initiates them from the local computer. If you are using firewall software, however, you may need to "open up" outbound connections to this port. (EchoLink does not use TCP for incoming connections.)

Go to and look for the make and model of your DSL modem. Type the IP Address in as a URL. In my case it was (yours will probably be different) in a blank browser window. BIG TIP: Use "admin" as the user name and use "password" as the password to log into your DSL modem. Using "admin" as both the user name and password will not allow you "in" to your modem! At this point, do not try to customize the firewall setting of your modem! Instead, I was able to go to a tab that said "Enable Applications". I opened this and added Echolink as a new application. I entered the Echolink recommended values for Port Triggering and Port Forwarding, saved this as a new application and Viola!, I can now use Echolink for my weekly chats with W3BBO.

Truth be told, I only have a vague idea of what I actually did! All I know is that Echolink now works; and I didn't seem to do any damage to anything else.

Maybe ignorance is bliss!

73 es Good Luck if you're as new to this as I am,

Larry W2LJ

I am back!

Boy, this DSL changeover thing has not been the easiest!

First off, my new ISP service was supposed to start on December 10th. It was just turned on yesterday, December 18th. Somehow, and I don't think that it's a coincidence, I no longer get a dial tone on my phone line! I think Verizon screwed something up when they turned on the DSL. Thank God for cell phones; as the earliest that I can get a technician to come out to the house won't be for another 4 days or so.

Now I have to figure out how to get Echolink to work again. Going through the DSL modem, I can't connect even to the EchoTest server. Something is wrong and I think it's going to take a while to figure it out.

You gotta love technology!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, November 28, 2008

Coming of Age

First ..... don't forget that this weekend is the CQ WWDX Contest! If you're a new (or not so new) QRP DX'er this is one of the prime weekends for you! If you've never QRP DX'ed before, than you should be able to tally up 20 or more countries worked with ease this weekend (conditions halfway co-operating). If you're a not-so-new QRP DX'er you can still try for some countries you've never worked before. A small bit of advice ..... don't get discouraged if you don't make many contacts the first half of the contest. This is when all the big guns take care of their business. Second half, though? Some of these foreign contest stations will be begging for points and will go out of their way to listen to even less than 599 signals. This is where you can shine!

Secondly ..... believe it or not, since I have been on the Internet, I have always had a dial-up account. Hard to believe, eh? I'm one of the few people I know who is still on dial-up. However, that is soon to come to pass, as I'm in the process of changing Internet providers.

The bad news is that my current ISP account ends this month; and my DSL service won't be ready until around December 12th. So, for the next two weeks (approximately), I will be without any Internet service. Which means no more posts for a bit. I know I haven't been posting with great frequency, lately; but I don't want any of you thinking I have disappeared altogether, either.

See you in a few weeks!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving !!!

The times they are a troublin' ! The economy seems to be in the dumper, half the country is elated by the recent election results, while the other half is distressed. People are losing jobs and so far in the NorthEast, it's been a cold Winter (which officially doesn't even arrive for another month!).

But this Thursday, there will still be a lot to be thankful for. God Almighty has still blessed this country with innumerable gifts, for which we should all be thankful.

Maybe it's time to look past the material world and take stock of the spiritual. Our riches lay not so much in how many cars we have; or how big our houses are; or even how many "toys" we have; or even how many radios, antennas and other Ham goodies we own.

Our riches lay in the love of family and friends. Our riches lay in our ability to spend TIME with each other - not money on each other. Our riches lay in our ability and willingness to give our time and talents to those less fortunate than we.

These are the things that last, this is the treasure that will not rot or tarnish. So when you gather around the table this week for your big turkey dinner, BE thankful for the material things you have; because after all, all of that really belongs to God - He just lends them to you. But more imprtantly, be grateful for the family and friends that make "you" what you are - because God has given those to you also. It is a good thing to humble ourselves every now and then and bow our heads and give thanks to Him who gives us everything we have.

Happy Thanksgiving!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Could not allow the day to pass

without offering all military veterans a big and heart felt "Thank You!" Thank you for your service; and thank you for your sacrifice. America is what she is; and owes her greatness to all of you.

To the families of those who made the Ultimate Sacrifice - I can offer no words that express the deep gratitude for your loved one's actions. Please know that we care and that we remember and that we pray.

Today, I found something on the Internet that I want to share in honor of Veteran's Day. This article was written by Tom Purcell and appeared on The Catholic Exchange Website. This article is titled quite simply:

The Tomb of the Unknowns

Hurricane Isabel struck Washington, D.C., hard that night.

It was Sept. 18, 2003. I lived in Alexandria, Va., at the time. I rode out the storm reading a book and enjoying a glass of wine.

At the Arlington National Cemetery, just a few miles from where I sat, the sentinels who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns were having an entirely different experience.

The Tomb of the Unknowns was established in 1921. Three of its chambers contain the remains of unknown soldiers from World War I, World War II and Korea (a fourth chamber had contained the remains of an unknown soldier from the Vietnam war until DNA technology determined his identity).

Only the finest soldiers are selected to guard the Tomb. The sentinels are specially trained soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). They watch over the Tomb 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As each solitary guard paces before the Tomb, his movements are precise, his dress impeccable.

Each guard’s dedication is made clear by the Sentinel’s Creed:

My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted.

In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter.

And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection.

Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements,

I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.

It is he who commands the respect I protect.

His bravery that made us so proud.

Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day alone in the thoughtful peace of night,

this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.

Which brings us back to Hurricane Isabel.

For the first time in the Tomb’s history, in preparation of a potentially dangerous storm, the commanding officers established a contingency plan.

The sentinels were free to withdraw to safer positions under the Memorial Amphitheater arches or inside the trophy room should conditions become life-threatening — positions from which they could still maintain their mission watching over the Tomb.

But none would leave.

It is a solemn duty to march before the Tomb, after all. The sentinel’s meticulous ritual is an outward display of gratitude and remembrance for the sacrifices so many have made for their country — particularly the unknown soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

By guarding the Tomb with eternal vigilance, the sentinel validates the words of the soldier’s prayer:

“It is the soldier who has given us our freedoms. It’s the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It’s the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It’s the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to object. It’s the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial….”

And so, as Hurricane Isabel struck — 24 trees would be uprooted across the cemetery and three headstones would be crushed — each sentinel took turns standing his ground.

There really was no other option. How could a sentinel retreat to safer ground in the midst of a dinky hurricane when so many others have given so much more?

It’s true the hurricane could have been plenty worse than it turned out to be. It’s possible that life-threatening severity might have caused the sentinels to, for the first time since they began guarding the Tomb in 1948, maintain their mission from safer ground.

Though I doubt it.

We’ve just come through a wrenching political season — some folks are jubilant at the results, whereas others are deflated and even worried — but despite the disagreement over policies and politics, I’m confident America will do the right thing over the long haul.

I’m confident America’s best is yet ahead.

I believe this because virtue still lives in America. Honor, sacrifice and duty are still alive and well.

If you don’t believe me, pay a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery and stop by the Tomb of the Unknowns.

It is one place where American sacrifice, duty and honor are on full display 24 hours a day every day of the week.

The End

Rest in Peace, brave soldiers - may God's Holy Light shine upon you.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, October 24, 2008

Get on the air this weekend!

This weekend presents the perfect opportunity for the hard core CW op. This weekend is the CQ WW DX Contest - SSB portion. And to boot, there doesn't appear to be any major RTTY contest scheduled for this weekend either!

So the CW bands should be relatively QRM free, hopefully. Please keep in mind that not EVERY DX station is a contest hound; so there should be some pretty good stuff to grab if you listen hard enough.

I intend to get on the air this weekend for the first time in a bit to see what I can hear. Maybe I'll be able to grab a new country or two if I'm lucky. A lil' less competition never hurt!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Winter Foxhunt Season

for 2008-2009is fast approaching! We will be doing 20 and 40 Meter hunts again this year beginning the week AFTER Election Day.

Normally, as part of the Fox Hunt Committee, I schedule the Summer season. Jerry N9AW is indisposed and is not able to handle the Winter season this year; so yours truly is looking for volunteers to be the QRP Fox.

If you're interested please go to for a schedule and applications, as well as all the information you need about QRP Foxhunting if the concept it new to you.

It's a ton of fun ....... join us!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Busy weekend!

Tonight is the Run For the Bacon, which is the monthly QRP Sprint sponsored by the Flying Pigs. It will run for two hours from 9:00 to 11:00 PM Eastern time. If you're so inclined to enjoy a little friendly competition, you need not be a member of the Flying Pigs to participate. C'mon and join us!

I got new tires for the Explorer today. Sears was running a "Buy three get one free" sale on selected brands. I had a slow leak on the rear passenger tire and this was long overdue. I'm glad I can face the coming winter season with one less worry (unless you count paying these babies off!).

I went up to Long Valley, NJ yesterday afternoon to pick up an elliptical trainer that I had won on eBay. It was a great deal; one of those rare ones. I got a Gold's Gym elliptical, which sells at Wal-Mart for $389.00 for only $32.00 !!!! The seller put no reserve on it; and I guess he only had a few sparse bids as it was a "pick up only" kind of deal. So I lucked out.

The reason for this? A couple of months ago I went to donate blood; and was turned away because my blood pressure was too high. Talk about getting a scare! Subsequently, I went to a doctor and have had a physical and have found out that I'm in pretty good shape except for my blood pressure and the fact that I can stand to lose a few pounds.

Micardis is keeping my blood pressure under control; but I have to do something in order to drop about 20 or so pounds. Hence, the elliptical trainer. I'm finding out that it's nowhere as easy to maintain an even weight as it was when I was in my 20s and 30s. Getting old sucks, pardon my language!

Moral of the story? Get active if you can. Walk, run or do whatever you have to do, to keep the "silent killer" from affecting you. There's more to life than just radio.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I just "re-upped"

I just received my latest issue of "The Keynote", the journal of the FISTS organization and saw that my current subscription expires on 11/11/08. So I hopped onto PayPal and ' re-upped" for two more years.

When you join FISTS, you receive a membership number and it's your for life. Mine is #1469 which I got when I joined back in the early/mid 90s. If you want to receive the magazine though, you have to subscribe to it, just like anywhere else.

Is it worth it? I think it is! I like the articles and the way they are written. And of course, it doesn't hurt that I agree with the entire mission of FISTS, which is the preservation and furthering the widespread use of Morse Code.

I like the fact that "The Keynote" publishes a lot of "volunteer" written articles. I'll have to think about something to write about and submit it and see if it gets published.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, October 13, 2008


I would be somewhat remiss, if I did not mention the passing of a well known Central New Jersey Ham. I was paging through a recent copy of QST recently; and happened to peruse the Silent Key page. Much to my surprise, I saw the call W2FNT, which belonged to John Kakstys.

I knew John; but not personally. I guess a lot of Hams here in New Jersey and the greater metropolitan area could make the same claim. John ran a used Ham radio shop out of the basement of his house in Linden, NJ.

I don't quite remember how I first heard about him; but I have been to his house a few times throughout my Ham career. The first time was in 1979 when I was desperate to become "un-rockbound" during my Novice days. Somehow or other, it was brought to my attention that John had a Globe VFO that would work with my Drake 2-NT. A trip to his house one night after work was quite an experience. Walking into his basement was like walking into "Ham Toys R Us". It was great! He had all manner of boat anchors and varied Amateur Radio gear. You could spend hours talking with him and other Hams, and listening to different radios.

Over the years, I bought a couple of used pieces from John. He was always a good sport about returns and refunds if you discovered that what you bought wasn't quite what you had expected.
Back in the 70s and 80s, after the "Golden Age" of radio stores; but before eBay and the Internet, guys like John were invaluable if you needed something in between Hamfests; or if you didn't feel like doing the mail order thing.

As the Internet came into its own, I saw John at all the local Hamfests, trying to reduce his inventory. He was getting older (as we all were) and the basement "store" had become too much of a burden; and I guess he was forced to abandon it. But I'll always remember John's basement as the place "where real radios glowed, and you could smell the dust burning off the warm vacuum tubes".

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, October 11, 2008

On the radio this weekend

Sorry that I haven't been postng much, lately. Work has been a bear and I have been way too exhausted in the evenings to play much radio. But I sure hope all you guys are still having fun out there!

This is what's doing this weekend:

Worked All Britain HF Contest (Phone) ...QRP Category
Oct 11, 1200z to Oct 12, 1200z
Pennsylvania QSO Party (CW/SSB/Digital) ... QRP Category
Oct 11, 1600z to Oct 12, 0500z
Oct 12, 1300z to Oct 12, 2200z
EU SPRINT CONTEST (CW) ... 100W category
Oct 11, 1600z to 1959z
FISTS Fall Sprint (CW) ... QRP Category
Oct 11, 1700z to 2100z
North American Sprint (RTTY) ... QRP Category
Oct 12, 0000Z to 0400Z
SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (Straight Key CW) ... QRP Category
Oct 12, 0000z to 2359z

Courtesy of N2CQ

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, October 03, 2008

This weekend on the radio .....

For those QRP contesters out there, these events may interest you:

German Telegraphy Contest (CW) ... QRP Category
Oct 3, 0700z to 0959z
TARA PSK31 Rumble (PSK31 only) ... QRP Category
Oct 4, 0000z to 2400z
EU SPRINT CONTEST (SSB) ... 100W category
Oct 4, 1600z to 1959z
California QSO Party (CW/SSB) ... QRP Category
Oct 4, 1600z to Oct 5, 2159z
RSGB 21/28 MHz Contest (CW/SSB) ... QRP Category
Oct 5, 0700z to 1900z
N2APB (AmQRP), WB3AAL (EPAQRP) and others
for assistance in compiling this calendar.

This was made possible through the courtesy of Ken Newman, N2CQ.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, October 02, 2008

NAQCC turns 4 !

We invite all ops to come help the North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) celebrate its Fourth Anniversary.


By working our special event station N3A which will be active during the whole month of October.

A handsome certificate and/or QSL card is available to everyone who works N3A and requests one or both.

We also have 3 special certificates for the FISTS members who make the most different band QSO's with our N3A stations during the month and in the FISTS and NAQCC sprints.

N3A will be operated from all 10 US call areas with the appropriate portable designator - N3A/1, N3A/2....N3A/0.

All 10 calls will be active in the FISTS sprint on the 11th and our NAQCC sprint on the 14th (15th UTC).

Full details including an operating schedule and how to request the certificate and QSL are on the "N3A Operation" page on the club web site - search "NAQCC" in your favorite search engine, or follow this link to our website (

Join us in celebrating our Fourth Anniversary, share the fun and earn a few certificates and special QSLs!

This is also a good opportunity to join NAQCC. Lifetime membership is free and you will receive your membership number, membership certificate and starter kit FREE! No cost or obligation on your part.

Tom, WY3H (NAQCC President)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

This is way cool!

I was born in 1957, the year of Sputink. Throughout my kidhood and right through adulthood, I have been and remain fascinated with anything having to do with space travel and exploration. I have the editions of NY Times, NY Daily News and Newark Star Ledger describing the Apollo 11 moonwalks safely tucked away in plastic bags.

As a kid, I had every Revell model made that had anything to do with Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. I even have cassette audio tapes (somewhere) of the WCBS TV coverage of the Apollo missions - can you say Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra ?

So when I saw the following on QRP-L, I just had to re-post this here.

Dear QRPers!

Devoted to 51'st anniversary of the 1'st Sputnik launch. October 4-5 special event RU-QRP Club station UE3QRP/3 will active on International QRP freq's. QTH: Zvyozdny Gorodok (as Star City in Russian, nr Moscow), Cosmonauts Training Center. QSL via UA3LMR.

The same dates, from Baykonur Space Port (Kazakh Rep.) will QRP active UA9LAK/UN7 (op. Alexander, ex Space Radio Communications Engineer).


72 from Oleg V. Borodin RV3GM (RU-QRP Club Hon.Sec.)
=== In QRP We Trust! ===

I hope conditions are good enough to hear and work them this coming weekend!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Guess I got taken

It's my own fault, I guess. I should have used more common sense; and not have relied on "good faith" or the honesty of others.

About a month or so ago, I saw on one of the e-mail reflectors that a Ham was looking to swap for a 40 Meter Rockmite. In exchange, he was offering a straight key in trade. My 40 Meter Rockmite has been laying dormant; and I never mind having an extra straight key hanging around, so I agreed to the trade.

I got the Rockmite out the next day via UPS Priority mail; and my trade partner had it in just a couple of days. I got an e-mail that he was happily making contacts with it; and that, by the way, he had mistakenly mailed out the straight key to another Ham he was trading with. That should have set off the alarm bells; but the "good news" was that the key was on its way back to him and it would be shortly mailed to me.

That's the last I heard from him; even after about 4 or 5 inquiries on my part since. The e-mails to me have ceased; and ever since, all I've been hearing is the chirping of crickets.

I guess P.T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every minute; and I guess I'm one of them. The downside is that the next time a perfectly honest opportunity for a trade comes along; I'll probably never pull the trigger - you know that old adage about "twice bitten".

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Station in a box

To the right is my QRP "Station in a Box", that I keep in the car for portable QRP ops.

The case is an aluminum one that I got from Harbor Freight. It is 12" X 16" X 5". I don't remember what I paid for it; but I got it on special when it was dirt cheap.

It's a lot fuller than it used to be (as in the picture). It is currently populated by the following:

K1 with autotuner
12V 5Ah sealed lead acid battery
Emtech ZM2 tuner as a backup
Autek RF-1 antenna analyzer
LDG 4:1 balun
NorCal Doublet which I keep wound up on an empty monofilament fishing line spool
A Glad storage container with a Bulldog paddle, Morse Express Christmas straight key, cable for the battery to rig, an extra small jumper coax (about 12" long), allen keys for the Hamsticks.
Cheap-o set of Walkman type headphones. I also keep a roll of twine in there for doublet support ropes, a Swiss army knife, and a pad and pencils for taking notes during QSOs.

Also in the back of the car is the Black Widow crappie pole with homebrewed support mechanism, the PAC-12 and Hamsticks; as well as a canvas folding chair and a canvas collapsible camping table.

The only thing that I need to remember to bring along from time to time is my solar battery charger, which I keep in a safe place at home so it doesn't get damaged.

It pretty much has everything I need to set up a temporary QRP station in the great outdoors. If need be, I can transfer everything to a backpack if hiking becomes necessary. This is more in the line for setting up in a park or a picnic grounds.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Courtesy - the lack of it ..... (Part Deux)

I hate to rant on and on about this; but the lack of courtesy reared its ugly head again this past week. In fact, it was Wednesday night during the NAQCC Sprint.

A bunch of us NAQCCers had moved over to 80 Meters on and about 3.560 MHz. While we weren't exactly wall-to-wall; there were enough of us spread out over a few kHz so that ANYONE could tell there was something going on.

Anyone that was listening FIRST, of course. Because out of nowhere and without warning, in the middle of this bunch of QRPers came a loud, earsplitting PacTOR "CQ" signal. I've done enough digital back in my day to know what a digital CQ sounds like. This idiot, whomever he was, was at least 10 over 9 and he tore the band up. Fortunately, he gave up after about two attempts at a QSO, as no one came back to him.

So the question is .... just how hard is it to listen for a bit before you fire up the transmitter? Is this rocket science; or is it more like, "I just don't give a damn to whatever else might be going on ..... this is what I want to do?"

I can understand accidental interference. It happens to all of us sometimes. But to just blindly turn on the TX without so much as a few seconds worth of listening is just so alien to me. It definitely makes me shake my head.

73 de Larry W2LJ

QRP Afield

It looked like a promising day for the annual QRP Afield event, which is sponsored by the New England QRP Club.

The weather was great, being in the 70s with lots of sun and mostly sunny skies. I set up both the NorCal Doublet and the PAC-12 in the backyard. The NorCal Doublet was supported at the center by my 20 foot Black Widow crappie pole.

There was not much activity at all. Calling CQ and alternately doing the "hunt and pounce" thing on 20 Meters in the morning yielded all of about 2 QSOs in the first hours of the contest. The NorCal played very well on 20 Meters but was giving me a very high SWR on 40 Meters, which is strange. It used to play very well for me on 40 Meters also; so I think there's a wire busted somewhere. I'll have to build another as I still have a goodly sized hunk of computer ribbon cable sitting in the basement.

Anyway, after getting the grocery shopping out of the way, in the afternoon I made contact with W5ESE in Texas and 20 Meters seemed to have more activity going on. Then the cell phone rang and I got called into work for an emergency. I ended up getting home around 8:00 PM and thus, my QRP Afield day got ruined.

If nothing else, it was a good excercize in portable antenna deployment.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thank you

In the 7 years since 9/11/01, there have been no terrorist attacks on our Homeland.

Thank you so very much to the following:

Our brave men and women in our Armed Forces.
All firefighters and police and EMS personnel who safeguard us daily.
All intelligence weenies who are carefully poring through 1000s of bits of data daily, looking to decipher threats.
All our Coast Guardies, Border Patrol, NTSB workers, Customs officials who look to safeguard our borders, ports and other points of entry.
President Bush for your determined resolve, even when it seems like everyone in Congress is fighting against you.
To anyone else I might have unfortunately forgotten to mention.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Rainfall total

The rainfall total from Tropical Storm Hanna, in my little corner of South Plainfield, was 4.5 inches.

No winds above 30 MPH - so no broken limbs or felled trees or major damage in our immediate neighborhood. No power outages, either - power remained on throughout.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Courtesy - the lack of it .....

40 Meters was wall to wall NA QSO Party QSOs; so I ventured down to 80 Meters, not knowing what to expect with the atmospheric conditions roiling all day.

Pleasantly, there was a major lack of QRN and static crashes. Maybe Autumnal conditions are starting to make their presence known on 80 Meters once again. That would be a welcome to me as I enjoy QSOs on 80 with regularity. The G5RV does a very nice job for me on 80 and I have no complaints. I don't seem to garner much DX with it; but I have no problems having nice ragchew QSOs on 80 Meters with stations I guess could be considered "local".

And so it was tonight. Calling CQ netted a nice QSO with Bill WA1ZFE who hails out of Norwalk, CT. Bill was also QRP, running 5 Watts out of his Kenwood TS-2000 to a loop antenna. Conditions were such that we were able to give each other RSTs of 589. We were going at it nicely, comparing Hanna weather notes when IT happened.

And by "IT", I mean unannounced contest stations blasting on an occupied frequency without even so much as a complimentary "QRL?" Nothing like inconsiderate contesters to bust up a good ragchew. I understand that since I was running QRP, they might not have heard me; but even that being said, there's NO reason to just start blindly transmitting without throwing a "QRL?" out there as a courtesy. Such as it was, even turning on the K2's tight crystal filters made copy go from sublime to almost impossible in a matter of seconds - they were indeed, right on top of us.

Now I know there are many A-1 op contesters out there who are a shining example to uphold. Unfortunately, there are also "some" out there who break the cardinal rule, "Listen first before transmitting." They're the ones who give all contesters a bad reputation. I certainly don't mind sharing the bands with fans of contests; but it would be nice if they listened before jumping in with both feet.

Heck, it would be nice if EVERYONE would listen before they transmit - contesters, ragchewers, traffic handlers alike. I wonder why that's such a difficult concept for some?

73 de Larry W2LJ

Don't let the glass

'hit you on your way out the door, Hanna! Good bye and good riddance!

Hanna is beginning to leave our environs. A bit more rain is expected until Midnight; but it seems the worst is over (at least that's what various radar pictures are showing).

The winds are picking up on the backside of the storm. While 20 MPH gusts were intermittent before, it seems like a 20 MPH wind is about the norm right now with some higher gusts. A few minutes ago, I went out to check my rain gauge and it looks like a total of just just a skosh over 4.5 inches.

All in all, it wasn't a devastating storm. We've had some winter time Nor'Easters that were much worse. Back in 1994 (I think that was the year) we had a December Nor'Easter blow through and later it was called a "white hurricane". Those were much worse non-hurricane storms.

Tomorrow the forecast is for a very sunny Sunday with highs in the mid 80s. What a difference a day makes! Now maybe I'll head down to the shack for a bit to see what's brewing on 40 Meters.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Hanna is over DelMarVa

As of 6:35 PM EDT, the center of Hanna is over the DelMarVa peninsula. Heavy rain bands are falling over New Jersey; and as you can see, most of the state is colored yellow. Since the beginning, some 4 hours ago, about 3 inches of rain have fallen here in South Plainfield, at least in my back yard.

Strangely enough, just across town lives another SkyWarn spotter - Marv K2VHW. He has recorded about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch more rain than I have received here.

Luckily, I live on the crest of a small rise and I am not experiencing any water problems to speak of - notwithstanding a leaky skylight here in the rec room. Many parts of Middlesex County which are lower in elevation are reporting moderate to major flooding of local roads and highways.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Raining cats and dogs ......

It has rained approximately 2 inches in the last 3 hours. More heavy bands of rain are expected until Hanna clears out sometime between 11:00 PM to Midnight. So far, winds have been very quiet; a lot more quiet than I expected. I would guesstimate no more than some 20 MPH gusts; and those not often at all. They will probably pick up on the backside of the storm.

On a lighter note, Jim W1PID went on another one of his QRP hiking adventures recently. For a recap, along with pictures of the awesomely beautiful New Hampshire scenery, please visit:

73 de Larry W2LJ

Hanna has arrived

Approximately one hour ago, at 2:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time, the first of Hanna's rains have arrived in Central New Jersey.

Going out to do the grocery shopping this morning, the air felt like a sauna. This was truly a good indication of the tropical air accompanying the storm.

The radar image up top, courtesy of AccuWeather, shows the heavy rain bands across most of New Jersey.

SkyWarn has been activated, CERT is on standby and I have set out a rain gauge that will hopefully let me record total rainfall amounts that occur here in South Plainfield. Since it's a temporary gauge of my own design, I hope it doesn't blow away in the expected heavy winds to come. There have been accompanying rumbles of thunder occuring at random intervals. So I guess there will be no HF transmissions from W2LJ until they stop.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, September 05, 2008

Keeping an eye on the lady

Hanna, that is.

Tropical Storm warnings have been posted up along the East Coast all the way up to Massachusetts. Hanna should be just off the New Jersey coast around 2:00 PM or so tomorrow afternoon if present trends remain.

As of right now, anywhere from 3 to 7 inches of rain are expected depending on how close to shore Hanna's center tracks. Winds up to 70 MPH are expected - I'm sure my antennas will just love that!

I will have the Sayreville, NJ K2GE repeater tuned on the handheld all day. I am a Skywarn spotter and the Skywarn nets are held on that repeater for Middlesex County. Our Office of Emergency Management here in South Plainfield has already put our CERT Team on standby.

It should be an interesting day. I have all my radio batteries charged up and ready to go. Hopefully, no power lines will come in the way of any falling branches. We're not expecting any of the misfortune that recently hit the Gulf States; but there are several communities in Middlesex County that are prone to flooding during hurricanes and Nor'easters.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A fascinating read

I an currently reading David McCullough's fine work, "John Adams". Early American and Revolutionary War history is one of my passions. John Adams has always been a fascinating historical figure to me; and this book makes him my favorite personality of that era.

John Adams, in my humble opinion, is THE "Founding Father". If it were not for his talent, timing, fortitude and vision, this nation would be nothing of what it is today. While we have strayed far from his vision, I think on the whole he would be pleased to see we remain a strong, vibrant nation some 232 years later.

What is amusing as a result of reading this book, is the realization how much hot air and baloney is the argument of today's extreme Left regarding the "separation of Church and State". Their idea that it was the Founders fervent wish to push religion out of the public square is ludicrous to the point of being laughable.

It is apparent, after reading volumes like this, that our Founders realized and depended upon the benevolence of "The Creator" or "Providence", or if you simply prefer - God. They were not religionophobics, rather, they realized the importance to the nation and society the values and morals that came with believing in and relying upon the Almighty.

What they ardently desired, was that the United States would not become like England and found a state religion. They believed in allowing multiple religions to coexist and prosper in peace. And they did not believe that it was necessary to remove religion from the public square for this to happen.

May God be willing, that our nation will return to this view; and not become the secular state that so many seem eager for us to become.

73 de Larry W2LJ

It works!

I stopped by Lowe's on the way home from dropping my two children off at a birthday party; and I picked up a piece of PVC that's 2 inches in diameter by 2 feet long.

I removed the 1.5 inch diameter piece that I previously had attached to the angle iron and replaced it with the larger. Viola' !!!!

As you can (hopefully) see from the photo to the left, the Black Widow crappie pole slides right into the PVC and is held nicely upright.

This should now allow me to make more frequent use of my NorCal doublet when I set up QRP portable. The PVC cost me all of two bucks and change; and the angle iron was about the same. So for under $5, I have a neat holder for my Black Widow crappie pole, which I purchased from Cabela's a few years ago for $19.99. I went on their Website this past week and they still stock them; but I don't remember what the cost is - I think they're still about $20.

So, if I have a couple of trees on either side, I can have a nice flat top dipole - if not, I'll carry along two tent pegs and set up as an Inverted Vee.

BTW, it was very hot and muggy here in NJ today. About 85 degrees with lots of humidity. Real August weather, which up until now has been abnormally cool and dry. From the extended forecast, it's looking like September weather in August and August weather in September!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No controversy today

20 Meters was booming in at lunchtime today. I heard and worked (very briefly) G3RGD, Ray from Birmingham, England. He gave me a 559 and them moved onto W8FU. Ray was loud into NJ. I don't know what he was running; but he was 599+. It's not often that I hear an English station so loud.

I heard a lot of Europeans - this was all around 1700 UTC or so at the lower end of 20 Meters. EA4s, G3s, SM3s, etc. Maybe the sunspots are coming back?

Which has me thinking portable antenna set ups again. Today, I was using the Hamstick and I'm seriously considering using the NorCal Doublet more. I dragged the 20 foot Black Widow crappie pole out of the basement and stuck in the back of the car. Below is what I used to support my Buddipole back in the day when I had one.

As you can see, it's a piece of angle iron, which I sawed off to a point on the earth end. Attached to it with two hose clamps, is a piece of PVC pipe. The Buddipole mast just slipped into the pipe and was held upright. Unfortunately, this pipe isn't a big enough diameter to allow me to slip the Black Widow in. I'm going to have to make a trip to Lowe's or Home Depot for a slightly bigger diameter piece of pipe. I hope I won't have to buy a whole big length of it for just the relatively short piece I need.

Here's another shot of it; but not in the ground. Not that great a photo; but you get the idea.

The only disadvantage that I can foresee is that I'll have to carry a small sledge so I can pound this thing into the ground. But the upside is that a doublet at 20 feet or so (probably set up as an Inverted Vee) should outperform the Hamstick on the car.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, August 24, 2008

CB Lingo

I had my Alinco HT turned on last night, on my nightstand, listening to some of the local Hams chatter away as I was drifting off to sleep. I heard something that instantly had me wide awake, listening.

A very minor thing; but it stuck out; and I feel the need to offer some advice, or perhaps a word of warning.

Two Hams were conversing, one from South New Jersey, the other from Philadelphia. The New Jersey Ham asked the Philadelphia Ham, "What's the personal over there?" To his credit, the Philadelphia Ham came back with, "My name is ........" I was anxiously waiting someone to come on the air to make a big stink out of it. Perhaps, it was the lateness of the hour, and the incident went unnoticed.

Please ......... no!

All of you, don't get offended; or rip me for being snobby or elitist. I welcome everyone to Amateur Radio. Whether your first fledgling steps towards the hobby have been as an SWL or a CB'er - makes no matter to me. You're all welcome with open arms!

But please, all you ex-Citizen Banders out there ..... please leave the CB lingo behind. We have enough of our own vernacular that gets used and abused all too often as it is. The CB stuff just smacks of ...... well, I'm not sure just what.

You're more likely to be abused by some know-it-all elitist out there who feels that he has been anointed "The Guardian of Amateur Radio" - God knows, we have our share. Don't give someone who is not versed in holding their tongue well, the ammunition they need to possibly embarrass or make you feel bad on the air.

And to all of you "Guardians" out there - please engage your brains before your mouths. Let stuff like this slide and instead of criticizing, instruct the person the correct way, quietly on the side. I cringe at the thought of someone discouraging a newcomer. We need all the newcomers we can get - not drive them away.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

E-mail reflectors

I subscribe to a lot of them, all related to either QRP or CW. As you can imagine, as a result I get a ton of e-mail everyday. I use the "Delete Key" a lot to sift the wheat from the chaff. Every now and then, though, you come across a real gem.

I came across such a gem today on the Straight Key Century Club reflector, which was posted by Milt K4OSO. It's titled:

NEW CW OPS - 8 reasons for not getting on the air

Copy skills get better with time and practice. Nerves is certainly a factor at first. The answer to nerves is exposure. Get on the air and practice those skills. After all, you're not copying vectors for a brain exploration surgery……just fun stuff. What if you do miss some? Eh?

Who cares? Everyone does! If you show me an op who sends flawless CW, I'll eat my hat. Even keyboarders make mistakes. Its what you do when you make one that is the measure of an op. A good op corrects his mistakes. When you glide past mistakes it leaves the other guy guessing.

Accuracy transcends speed! Accuracy is absolute, while speed will increase/improve over time. What you DON'T want is to get faster at sending poorly. Fast and poor are an awful twosome. Practice sending well, at a speed which is comfortable for you. You WILL make mistakes,…just correct them and move on.

As many have suggested, by writing down the parts of a typical exchange/qso, you will be better able to get through a qso. Its really funny how few comments are directed to spelling. Spelling
slows us down and trips us up in many qso situations. When you practice off-air, its fine to use a sheet of text, but I find that sending as if in a qso is much more helpful. Practice this by sending out of your head. You'll get used to sending off the cuff and your spelling will improve tremendously. If ragchewing is your goal, keep your exchanges short, at first. Don't try to say too much in one exchange. That way, it will give you time to think about what you'll say next, and will slow the other op down as well. That will make his transmissions easier to copy. Keep it casual, and don't let it become hard work.

Keep a hand towel at your operating desk. My palms sweated on my first date too but, it didn't stop me. Remember, no one can see you! Try PRETENDING you're as calm as a cucumber. Think of yourself as a "take charge" op who can handle any situation. As an op thinkest, so shall he be on the air.

One particular activity that improved my confidence and ability to handle most situations was learning traffic handling on the Maryland Slow Net. Net speed was maximum 10 wpm (and flexible), the instructors were patient and considerate. That training gave me the confidence I desperately needed. I'm now an Instructor/NCS on that Net and watch the transformation of new ops from tentative and unsure to ops who would be welcomed on NTS traffic net throughout the country. Its easy and painless and proceeds at the new op's own pace. Even if you don't become an active traffic handler, the training is invaluable for learning general operating practices.

Bull Crap!!! Everyone expects new/inexperienced CW ops to be somewhat tentative, make some mistakes and miss some copy. They expect it because THEY PERFORMED THE SAME WAY WHEN THEY WERE NEW/INEXPERIENCED. Some well-meaning ops, in an attempt to sooth the nervous new op will say, "Aw, no one will notice your mistakes" Bull crap! Of course they notice them! They'd have to be idiots not to. BUT, no one cares about a your mistakes. This is a hobby,…..a means of having fun. It WILL be fun if you stop agonizing over it. The amount of fun you have at CW is inversely proportional to the amount you worry about it.

That's fine if you like spending your time procrastinating. "He was gonna get on the air tomorrow" would make a unfortunate epitath. "He really enjoyed his ham radio hobby and his CW" is a much nicer one. I waited until I was over 60 to finally get started in Ham radio. I often think of how much fun I could have had over the years if I had just bitten the bullet and jumped in. Now, I'm trying to make up for lost time. But, we all know that's impossible.

Ok….use whatever you're good with, and develop your skills on the others at your own pace. Whatever you do, don't try to assuage your fist into a type of key that frustrates you. Learning new skills, while not easy, should be fun. Measure your progress in small chunks. Don't set your goals too far ahead. You must be able to see progress. If speed improvement is your goal, measure it one word per minute at a time. Don't try to go from 5 wpm to 10 wpm. That's doubling your speed!. It would be like me trying to go from 35 wpm to 70 wpm. Never happen,…..go from 5 to 6. Then to 7, and so on….


Golden words of advice from relatively new Ham who practices what he preaches. If you ever get the chance to work Milt K4OSO in an actual on the air QSO, you will be working a quality CW op! (I know, I've had the pleasure!)

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Great Website !!!

I was using Windows Live to do some searching on the NorCal Doublet, when I ran across this Website:

If you've ever done QRP outdoors, or are thinking about doing some QRP outdoors, this Website is a "must read" as far as I'm concerned. It's chock full of useful information; and if for one second you think that WD8RIF doesn't know what he's talking about - just check out his "Event Reports" section.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, August 14, 2008

St. Maximilian Kolbe

In the calendar of the Catholic Church, August 14th is the day that the Church honors and remembers the life of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr.

The following short biography appeared on the Catholic Exchange Website:

As a child, Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) had a deep devotion to Our Lady. On one occasion he had a vision in which Mary offered him either a white garment, symbolizing purity, or a red one, symbolizing martyrdom. “I choose both,” the boy replied. His heart was transfixed by Our Lady. Later he prayed that when he died, he would be blessed with departing life on a Feast Day of the Blessed Mother.

Maximilian entered the Franciscan Order at age thirteen, and was ordained a priest in 1918. After serving some years as a humble parish priest, Fr. Kolbe was named director of one of the largest Catholic publishing firms in Poland.

To better “win the world for the Immaculata,” St. Maximilian’s friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques. This enabled them to publish countless catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000, and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. Maximilian started a shortwave radio station and planned to build a motion picture studio — he was a true “Apostle of the Mass Media.”

Following the German conquest of Poland in 1939, he (like many priests) was arrested, but soon released. Maximilian devoted himself to helping Jewish refugees. When the Nazis discovered this, he was again arrested and sent to Auschwitz in 1941. There he tried to set an example of faith and hope for the other prisoners.

When a prisoner escaped from camp, the Germans chose ten men at random and sentenced them to death by starvation; one of them was a Polish sergeant, Franciszek Gajowniczek, whom Kolbe had befriended. Fr. Kolbe left his place in the ranks and asked permission from the commandant to take Gajowniczek’s place. The shocked German officer agreed, and Kolbe and nine others were taken away to die. Maximilian helped the others prepare for death. He was the last to succumb, dying on August 14, the eve of the Assumption.

In addition to his priesthood, Father Kolbe was also an Amateur Radio operator. His callsign was SP3RN and the picture above shows him at his station. He is credited with keeping many of the world's Amateur Radio operators informed about the atrocities committed by the Nazis prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Because of his exemplary life and because of his devotion to God and to his fellow man, Fr. Kolbe was canonized as a Saint of the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in October of 1982.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Something is not right

I was listening to a conversation on 2 Meters tonight on the way home from work. I heard something, that were I drinking coffee, would have caused me to do a spittake. That's the term for the comedic tool where you see someone who is surprised spew out whatever beverage they happen to be drinking at the time.

A Ham (who will remain nameless) was describing how much fun he's been having with his Yaesu FT-817 and how he loves making 5 Watt contacts ...... yadda, yadda, yadda. So far, so good.

The he went on the describe how he hasn't used the radio much lately because the current sunspot lull is making QRP contacts so hard. OK, I don't really agree with that assessment; but I can see how for someone else it might have some merit.

THEN came the kicker ..... he continued on to say, and I quote "It's hard enough making QSOs with 600 Watts from the home station".

Really? ..... Really?!?

I was about to jump in and question that; but he had arrived at his destination and shut his mobile station down.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, August 11, 2008

An investment of "self"

A friend and I have been privately corresponding over the past week about the decline of the retention of "Newbies" to Amateur Radio; and the increase in the popularity of QRP. We have been engaging in philosophical arguments as to whether not the two phenomena are somehow linked.

Personally, I think that the explosion of the popularity of QRP and the decline of "Newbies" staying interested in Amateur Radio are totally non-related and are 180 degrees apart in the spectrum.

My personal opinion is that for many, QRP hearkens back to the "Golden Age" of Amateur Radio. The tradition of building, homebrewing, operating on a shoe string is very akin to Amateur Radio of the 20s, 30s and 40s. Back in those days, it was very rare for a Ham to open up some boxes, plug a few things in and get on the air. Back then you had to scavenge, scrounge and build. Getting on the air was the end step of an entire process. Back then, after you took your test, you waited six weeks or more for your license to come and you used that time to make final preparations. When you got on the air, you knew how and why your station worked. Heck, you built most of it yourself, including the antenna. Fortunately, there still seems to be a large segment of the Amateur Radio population that shares that ethic and wants to enjoy it, again.

Today things are different - radically different. Without getting into arguments, the process today is more akin to this:

1) Take a multiple choice test
2) Find out your results within 15 minutes of completing your exam
3) Go to the FCC Website within a week and get your callsign.
4) Use that week to order and receive a fancy new "box" and antenna from HRO or AES.
5) Open the boxes, plug a few things in and get on the air.

Where's the romance in that? Where's the anticipation in that? Where's the pride of a "job well done" in that? Where's the "magic" in that? Is it any wonder then, that so many of today's new licensees are losing interest?

Amateur Radio was so popular way back when; and retained its newly licensed because they had made a major investment of "self". It WAS harder back then! It took a lot of effort, discipline and self motivation to study, scrounge, build and get on the air. The words "instant" and "gratification" hadn't even been linked together yet! After all that study, building, effort, blood, sweat and tears, you would have looked like a bloody idiot to go through all that only to say, "Nah, this isn't for me".

Today's "plug and play" society makes it easier to walk away. The "investment of self" has turned into an "investment of money". Open some boxes, throw some stuff together and get on the air. It turns Amateur Radio into a (yawn) "been there, done that" kind of thing. And even the 'investment of money" isn't a total loss; because if you find out that Amateur Radio isn't your "thing", then there's always eBay.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Looking forward to things

It's not a good thing to always wish for the time to pass quickly. I wonder how many of us realize we are wishing our lives away when we concentrate so hard on wishing for the arrival of the next weekend or the next holiday or the next vacation.

However, that being said, I really am looking forward to next weekend. Going against my own advice, eh? But there are two events coming up that I have been looking forward to for a while.

The first is the QRP-ARCI SK Memorial Sprint, which is an annual event to honor all the dedicated QRPers who have gone on the the "big shack in the sky" ahead of us. This is a four hour Sprint and I'm hoping the weather will be good enough to allow operations from the backyard. Instead of the PAC-12 (or perhaps in addition to it) I would like to set up the NorCal Doublet as an Inverted Vee using my 31 foot Black Widow crappie pole as a center support.

The second event occurs a few hours later, which is the NJ QSO Party. I've "fooled around" in this contest in years past; but have never made a serious effort. I'd like to give it a go this year as a true QRP entry just to see how I stack up.

In addition, this coming Tuesday night is the NAQCC Sprint for August. That will serve mightily well as a warm up for the weekend's events.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, August 08, 2008

Broke the pileup!

'Twas not "exotic" DX; but it was a rather rare entity; and the pileup was HUGE! When I went out to the park today at lunchtime, I found a buzz saw of stations at 14.042 MHz. Going down one, I heard VO2A the DXpedition to Paul Island (NA-205), off the coast of Labrador in Canada.

There were a ton of Europeans calling, EA3, G3. UA9, HA5 were among some of the prefixes I heard. Labrador isn't so far from New Jersey in terms of the world of DX; but I thought I'd give it a whirl.

And about 10 minutes or so in, I managed to break through, putting 5 Watts into a Hamstick which was nestled in some tree limbs because of where I had parked the car.

The K1 doesn't have "true" split capability; so I had to set the K1 to the transmit frequency (where I was guessing that VO2A was listening) and I used the RIT control to tune "down 1" where VO2A was transmitting, so I could hear him. There's also a XIT feature on the K1 which will allow you to do the same thing, but basically the other way around; but I haven't really figured it out yet.

Soon after I worked VO2A, it started showering; so I packed up and headed back to work early. It was a portent of things to come as we had a pretty bad thunderstorm with some very hard rain later in the afternoon.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I guess it's just me .......

Maybe I'm stupid ...... maybe I'm blissfully ignorant ..... maybe I just missed the bus.

I received an e-mail today from a Ham I've known for a while; but never had the chance to meet face to face - opposite ends of the country and all that. He was writing to me to tell me that he finally had QRP all figured out; and how really, really difficult it actually is!

Sigh - heavy sigh.

It really isn't. At least I don't think it is.

I never seem to lack for QSOs. I don't always have one; but I do more often than not. There are times my CQ's go unanswered (more on this in a bit) ; but there are more often times that I get a response. There are times I get a 339 or 449 report; but then there are just as many times that I get a 589 or 599 report. In fact, a few minutes ago, I worked Yuri RW3QO in Russia on 40 Meters. He gave me a 589.

Maybe it's all in the attitude. My attitude is not so much that it's QRP. My attitude is that it's Amateur Radio and I just happen to be using 5 Watts. Geez, if I got discouraged about my power out and became obsessed with always using 100 Watts or better, I would have never gotten through my Novice days. I guess I didn't know any better then; and I still don't know any better now!

And by the way ..... I'm sick and tired of hearing the QRP "rules". You know, the ones the "experts" tout:

NEVER call CQ while operating QRP.
ALWAYS expect that your signal will be weak on the receiving end.
ALWAYS use a slower code speed to make yourself understood.
ALWAYS keep your QSOs short, NEVER expect to be able to have a rag chew.
NEVER start out your Ham career using QRP.

Sheesh - I think I've broken all those rules about a million times over! I call CQ a lot; and I get a lot of answers. Look, odds are your signal is going to be loud somewhere. Why not call CQ? Even if you end up working the guy across town; it's still a QSO.

Always weak on the receiving end? What a bunch of baloney! I can't tell you how many times I've worked Todd N9NE only to have my earphones blown clear off my head! I wrote him once that I felt like the radio studio engineer in that episode of "The Little Rascals" who always had his headphones blown off when Spanky would drop a lightbulb near the microphone. And Todd is not the only 599+++++++ QRP signal that I've had the pleasure to receive - not by a long shot.

Slow code speed to be understood better? That just doesn't make sense to me. I don't think code speed has anything to do with being understood just because you're QRP. The only time code speed enters into the picture is when the receiving station can't copy as fast as you're sending.

Short QSOs? Criminy - I've had plenty of rag chews that have lasted an hour or more while running QRP. Another bit of hogwash.

Never start your Ham career using QRP. I laugh at this one the most. Back in the day, most of us Novices had flea power radios and crappy antennas. We might have put out 35 Watts or so; but by the time we loaded up the bed springs we were probably only putting out 2 or 3 Watts. Of course I'm exaggerating here; but you get the idea. The idea that you HAVE to run 100 Watts to get your instant gratifications is immature and idiotic.

Well. so much for my evening rant - probably just another sign of my ignorance of how "it really is".

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, August 03, 2008

10 Meters was open

I didn't get a chance to get on the air on Saturday; but I saw several postings to various e-mail reflectors touting the fact that 10 Meters was open on Saturday. This was also confirmed to me by Bob W3BBO who participated in the North American QSO Party over the weekend; and he made 46 QSOs on 10 Meters.

Today, after an afternoon full of yardwork, I got on the air for a bit and decided to tune around the 10 Meter band. It was so quiet, there wasn't even much static or white noise. Then at 28.028 MHz I heard AF4OX calling CQ. I answered back; and Bob and I had a nice chat for a little bit.

It was nice to have a QSO on 10 Meters for the first time in I can't really remember when. Maybe this is a sign that propagation is starting to improve. More than likely, though, it's not so much that 10 Meters is always dead. It's probably more that we all ASSUME 10 Meters is dead when it really isn't; and we're ignoring a valuable resource that is available for us to use, if only we would.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Evicted ..... tossed ..... thrown out!

My luck has not been the greatest so far this week. On Sunday, I got rained out of participating in the 2008 rendition of the Flight of the Bumblebees. Yesterday, I received another disappointment.

I went to the park during lunchtime at work yesterday and set up the PAC-12. Just as I was attaching the K1 to it (in a nice shady spot underneath a tree) a park worker comes up to me and tells me that I have to pack up and leave. It seems that they are beginning some kind of upgrade that involves excavation and that they were blocking off that side of the park, including blocking off the entrance. They had orange and white traffic barrels and yellow caution tape at the ready to do the job.

I returned to work; and during a quiet moment, I pulled up a Google map of the area and began scoping out other parks in the area. I found two and spent lunchtime today reconnoitering the two sites.

I think the one I will use is called Boynton Park in Woodbridge, which is the next town over. The drive to the park I was using was about 5 minutes. This one is about 7 minutes in the opposite direction. It has horse shoe pits, two lighted baseball diamonds and the mandatory playground area. However, next to the far ball field is a nice grassy area with a huge maple for shade. It looks pretty good; but it also seems to be used more than the other one I frequented so there might be more "visitors".

I'll be going there tomorrow to give it a shot if it doesn't rain.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No FOBB again!

For the second year in row, my plans for the Flight of the Bumblebees were thwarted.

As I was driving home from visiting my Mom this morning, the skies started darkening ominously. By the time I has approached the outskirts of South Plainfield, I saw numerous cloud to ground lightning strikes as well as cloud to cloud strikes. The Middlesex County SkyWarn Net had begun; and there was a severe thunderstorm warning issued for Middlesex County. The skies opened as I got out of the car and ran into the house. We got quite a downpour, lots of lightning and thunder; but thankfully, no hail or circular winds. Several other parts of the county reported pea sized hail as well as highway and road flooding.

From 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM, we had a doozy of a boomer; and thus ended FOBB for 2008, just like in 2007.

73 de Larry W2LJ - Bumblebee #27 who never got the chance to fly.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

One more time ..... does QRP really work?

I got a really nice e-mail from Todd, KK7WB, who is getting back into Amateur Radio after being away for a bit. He wants to get back on to HF; but doesn't want to spend a king's ransom in the process. So he has decided to go the QRP route. Simple equipment that won't drive him into bankruptcy is an attractive thought; but ...... will it work? Can it be fun? As Todd put it, "With this being the solar minimum how successful has QRP been for you? Is it still worth your time go get on the air and do you make many contacts at all?"

Here's my answer; and the reason I'm posting it is because there are probably some folks out there who think "That W2LJ talks a good game; but I'll bet he goes running for the 100W rig first thing when the chips are down!" Not true! In fact nothing could be further from the truth!



How successful has QRP been for me? VERY! Since 2003 I am 100% QRP. I clung to my QRO rig for a few years after the switch over; but sold that off about 3 years ago. I own a K1 and then laboriously saved up enough for a K2. It took me a while, but I finally did it.

QRP has been a lot of fun and continues to be. I have been a Ham for 30 years now, first licensed in 1978. I can say without fear of lying that QRP has been the most fun in Amateur Radio that I have ever had.

I think the trick in becoming successful with QRP is just learning to forget that you're running QRP. To me it's just Amateur Radio. I have learned that even while running 5 Watts, your signal is going to be loud SOMEWHERE. I get my share of 449 and 559 RSTs; but I also get my share of 589 and 599 RSTs, also. In fact, I got a 599 from a guy in Williamsburg, VA once who would just not believe that I was using a Rockmite at 500 mW! My antennas are nothing exotic - a G5RV at about 25 feet and a ground mounted Butternut HF9V vertical.

Now before I go painting a picture that's all butterflies and roses, there will be times your QRP signal won't do the trick; and there are times you will get frustrated. I find those times to be a distinct minority, though; especially if you're blessed with the virtue of patience. If you learn how propagation works; and you learn how to work DX, you'll get your share of that, too. DO NOT try to work DXpeditions the first few days out - work them towards the end when THEY are begging for contacts. Jump into a DX contest on the 2nd day - you'll be amazed how many foreign stations will listen for a weaker signal when there's points to be had!

I have found ragchews to not be a problem - with one caveat. I rarely mention I'm running QRP. If you just let a ragchew flow, they can last a long time. I have had nice ragchews busted up because all of a sudden I have QSBed ONLY AFTER I mentioned I was running QRP! I think it can be psychological on the receiving end! Plus, unfortunately, you're going to run into ops who will just not QSO with anyone who puts out less than a 599 signal; but then it takes all kinds to make up this world we live in.

As far as the sunspot cycle goes, if the bands are dead - they're gonna be dead whether you're QRO or QRP. If you can't seem to make a contact; then it's time to go build something or read a book or QST or something. But I would urge you to go take a look at John Shannon K3WWP's Website if you haven't already. John is a special individual for sure; but he really proves that QRP works. He's made at least one QRP QSO a day for like the past 5000 days or something like that - we're talking YEARS here! And he doesn't own a tower or beam. He uses all simple wire antennas; and I'm pretty sure that 1/2 of his longwire is inside his house!

As far as rigs go, simple inexpensive ones will yield as good results as fancy, expensive ones; and sometimes I think the contacts are more rewarding with the simpler ones. A side benefit of QRP is that since it tends to dwell on simpler rigs; it kinds hearkens back to our Amateur Radio roots when everything was homemade! I would urge you though, that if you're going to be using monoband rigs, rather than something that has multi- bands; that you get something for 20 and 40 Meters. Those are the two bands I operate with the most success, although on winter evenings, 80 Meters is quite workable, too.

Lastly, the QRP fraternity is truly special. I have made close friendships with several Hams that I never even met in person! I consider them to be amongst some of my best friends. For the most part, QRPers are extra special friendly and very supportive, helpful and generous. For the life of me, I can't explain why - it just seems to be that way.

Don't worry about being QRP, Todd. If you don't consider it to be a handicap; then it won't be. Put up the best antenna you can (even if it's just a random hunk o' wire) and get whatever rig you can on the air and start having fun. You might not be able to work everyone you hear; but believe me, you'll start filling up your logbook quicker that you would have imagined!


Everything I said there, I believe in 100% I realize QRP is not for everyone; but for those of you out there who can't get on the air any other way; but remain skeptical - "Let not your heart be troubled". You WILL have fun!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I tried ......

In my last post, I mentioned that I ordered an inexpensive Diamond dual band magmount for the dual band radio that I won. I came home from work last night to read an e-mail from Universal Radio telling me that the antenna is on backorder - with no mention of how long the delay is expected.

I replied by cancelling the back order and hopped on over to AES. I placed an order for the same antenna and received an e-mail today with a UPS tracking number. My order has been shipped already; and it's scheduled to be here on Friday!

I really wanted to do business with one of the smaller guys. I probably would have not cancelled the order if there was some kind of indication given as to how long the backorder would last - a couple of days - a week - a month. But when a backorder is in essence "open ended"; prior experience tells me it's going to be a long wait. Longer than I care to wait at this point.

There will be no HF emanations from station W2LJ tonight. There are quite a number of thunderstorms going through the area; and in fact, it hasn't completely stopped rumbling since I left work! I drove through quite a downpour on the way home and saw a lot of cloud to ground lightning. In fact, as I type this I can hear it begin to downpour on the skylight window here in the rec room again.

Speaking of lightning, there's a very good article on lightning safety on You can read it by clicking here. It's mostly common sense; but it makes for good reading anyway. One of the least controversial articles on eHam as it's all based on fact.

In 10 minutes the VHF net starts on the local repeater. Maybe I'll turn on the HT and check in for the first time in a few years. I guess it good idea to get on there every now and then to let all the guys know I'm still alive. See what happens when you're addicted to HF?

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's a good thing the antenna was unplugged!

Last night, even though it was Flying Pigs Run For the Bacon night; I hit the hay at 9:00 PM. I had to get up at 5:00 AM this morning so I could be at work by 6:00 AM. Every Monday morning I have to put together a 2000 line spreadsheet from scratch and the process takes me about 3 or 4 hours depending on how much I get interrupted.

Anyway, around 11:30 or so last night, I was rudely awakened by what could only be described as the sound of a stick of dynamite going off underneath my bed. We were having a good ol' fashioned heat wave thunderstorm. Problem is that the lightning was striking close ...... very close. The thunder was lound enough to wake me from my slumber, which surprised my wife (who once told me that I could sleep through an atom bomb going off).

It's a good thing that I keep the antennas disconnected from the radio and shunted to ground when not in use. I've seen blue static sparks jump the gap from center pin to ground on PL-259 coax connectors during Field Day thunderstorms. I definitely wouldn't like that kind of arc playing havoc with my gear.

I placed an order Friday night with Universal Radio for a Diamond dual band magmount mobile antenna. I went a little on the cheap side and got one of their less expensive numbers. I'm still trying to save up for that Kenwood tri-band HT - the TH6FA or whatever the model is? Once again, I digress. Hopefully the antenna will make it here this week - Ohio to New Jersey isn't THAT far; and hopefully I'll get to install my Hamfest Doorprize in the Explorer next weekend.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Toasty here in NJ

It was definitely the hottest day of the year to date in Central New Jersey. At 1:00 PM local time, the back porch thermometer (which is NOT in the direct sun) topped out at 101 Degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 C).

I don't know if it's going to be this hot tomorrow; but it's going to be close. And the weatherman is saying that this heatwave is supposed to carry on for the next few days.

Now I'm not saying that there's any carry over from the air temperature to the conditions on the airwaves; but 40 Meters was hot tonight!

At 0207 UTC tonight I worked a new country via QRP to bring my QRP country total to 87. I heard and broke the pile up to work YL3GFX and snare Latvia on the lower portion of 40 Meters. He was a very strong 599 into NJ and I got a reasonable 559 back.

A few KHz up was a European Russian station RA1AOB who had a bigger pileup than the Latvian station! Since I already have European Russia in the log; I didn't stick around to break that pileup, even though I was tempted just for the sport of it.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, July 18, 2008

The bands were dead today

As the temperatures sizzled in NJ today; so did the bands fizzle.

QRP operations the last three days were very good from the park that I go to in Carteret, NJ during lunchbreak. The K1 and the PAC-12 have been doing an outstanding job for me. Not only have the QSOs been good; but I've been getting compliments from the ops on the other end when they have been finding out that I've been using a QRP radio with a portable vertical antenna. You see, QRP skeptics? You can get 589 and 599 reports using 5 Watts!

Today, however, as the temperatures soared past 95 degrees; the bands seemed to head in a proportionally inverse direction. 20, 30 and 40 Meters yielded few, if any signals. After about 15 - 20 minutes of tuning around, I packed up and headed back to work. Not that I wanted to go back there by any means; but at least it was air conditioned.

By the way, the park I set up in is the Joseph Medwick Memorial Park. Joseph Medwick is better known as "Ducky" Medwick - professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals as part of "The Gashouse Gang" in the 30s and for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants in the 40s. He was the last National League Player to win the Triple Crown (league leader in three categories for any one season - home runs, runs batted in and batting average). Joe Medwick, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968, was born in Carteret NJ; so the park bears his name. Since I'm such a big baseball fan, it's fitting.

73 de Larry W2LJ