Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's nice to share

It's nice to share ..... so I will!

My good QRP CW friend Jim Cluett W1PID has had another outdoor QRP adventure. This time he was operating from the frozen surface of Hermit Lake, which is near his home QTH of Sanborton, NH.

For the rest of the story (ala' Paul Harvey) and some neat pictures, do yourself a favor and visit Hey, Jim, you're not supposed to be able to do this - Global Warming and all, don't ya know!

The 40 Meter Foxhunt was a bust tonight at station W2LJ. The Foxes were strategically placed in NJ and VA tonight. Let's put it this way. The Russian "letter beacon" on 7.038 MHz and some K6 stations were coming through loud and clear. 40 Meters went long and the Foxes were too close!

I just checked out the temperature forecast for Saturday. Looks like a high of 49 degrees. I don't think there's going to be too much freezing bonus points in the FYBO contest this coming weekend!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shave and a haircut ,,,,,

two bits!

Tonight was the Barbershop QRP Sprint where all the ESE's (dit dididi dit) get on the air to hand out QSOs. The goal is to work as many ESE stations as possible.

I worked only one, Joe K5ESE from South Carolina on 80 Meters. In all I made 11 QSOs (4 0n 40 Meters and 7 on 80 Meters) before punking out early so I can go to bed.

The bands were nice and QRN free; but they also seemed to be devoid of a lot of stations, too. But these 11 QSOs gave me 125 in the log for the month of January; so, so far, I'm living up to my resolution of getting on the air a lot more than I did the second half of last year.

Always gotta look at the bright side!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Did I read that right?

The thread started this past weekend, I think.

A gentleman posted to QRP-L that his antenna had come down because squirrels had chewed through his antenna support ropes. Ever since then, Hams have been volunteering their ideas for ways around this problem.

Yesterday and today, several Hams have suggested soaking new support ropes in Cayenne pepper or habanero sauce, and various other kinds of hot sauces to discourage the wily little rodents from causing further damage.

But today, there appeared the latest response to this thread, which caught me totally off guard. I thought to myself, "Did I read that right?" "Did he really say that?" I suppose the post could be interpreted in more than one way.

Aw heck, I'll let YOU decide ...... here was the post that had me scratching my head, word for word:

"Squirrels are too smart to eat that stuff. (although, I suppose you could put some on their nuts) "

I had to admit, it gave me a chuckle!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, January 28, 2008

Back when rigs were rigs .....

and Hams were fidgety and nervous!

A link to the Library of Congress and this photo appeared on QRP-L the other day. The photo is of a spark gap transmitter circa 1910 - 1915.

This is our heritage! This is when homebrew was the order of the day and there were kiloVolts present at the Morse Code key. And you wondered why those Navy keys are called flameproof!

Those Old Timers would more than likely think we're a bunch of wimps and sissies with the stuff we use to get on the air with today.

Tonight, 40 Meters was back to its accustomed mess and 80 Meters was dead. I knew I was in trouble when I heard two relatively close by Hams, N2ESE and N2WJW calling CQ on 80 Meters and they were each about 449 respectively. Normally, those two fellows have great signals on 80.

I was disappointed about not making a QSO tonight; as I desperately wanted to try a new little gizzmo that came through the mail today. I recently purchased an ExtendaDot from Frank W7IS. This little device fits over the dot arm of a bug and allows you to slow it down. The vintage Vibroplex Original Standard that I restored and use most of the time goes at the blazing speed of about 40 WPM with a single weight in a normal position. It was explained to me that the WWII era bugs had very stiff main springs and that this is normal for Vibros made in the mid 1940s.

I was using an extra large weight and a part from a view camera to slow down my bug. The "Rube Goldberg" that I put together did the job; but for some reason the code didn't sound "smoothe". I think all the weight I was using made for a herky-jerky sound. The ExtendaDot is brilliant. I took the weight off altogether and installed Frank's device. Now I can get the bug to send at about 20 WPM quite easily, and maybe it's just my imagination; but I think the Code that I generate now sounds smoother and flows better.

I've stated before that one of my goals is to become as proficient with a bug as I am with a keyer and paddles. Frank's ExtendaDot is going to go a long way towards making that a reality. If you have a bug that you've always wanted to use; but were daunted by its speed then take a look here. So far, I am very happy with my ExtendaDot.

BTW, I had to report for jury duty today. Here in Middlesex County in the state of New Jersey, our jury duty system is "one day, one trial". You report to the County Courthouse; and if you're not selected to be on a jury the day you report; then you go home at the end of the day. If you are selected, then you sit on that jury for however long the trial lasts. The majority are a day or two; or sometimes maybe three. Certain trials can go a lot longer than that; and a bunch of us were a bit nervous as they were looking to seat a jury for a criminal trial that was looking to last three weeks.

Anyway, it was a long day sitting in the prospective Jury Pool room - 8:00 Am until 4:30 PM with not much to do. I brought a bunch of QSTs, WorldRadio magazines and my Palm Tungsten E loaded up with a bunch of KE9V's "Long Delayed Echoes" podcasts. It made the day go by a little bit quicker. It was nice when a guy caught sight of my magazines and asked me if I was a Ham. A positive response from me brought an introduction from him along with, "I'm a Ham, too!".

It turns out that he's an inactive Ham, who has been that way since his antenna blew down in a Winter storm a few years back. Our conversation was a good one; and I certainly hope I re-sparked the embers; and got him sufficiently interested enough to give it another shot. It turns out that he's a retired engineer and one of his jobs was to help design and build the microwave transmitters that went on the Voyager spacecraft. A guy like that should be on the air having QSOs. He was telling me that he didn't want to put up anything obtrusive as the neighbors tended to give him heat over his last set of antennas. Of course I put in the good sales pitch for QRP and simple wire antennas!

As it turns out, I didn't get selected to a jury this time around.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, January 27, 2008

January Run For The Bacon results

The Run For The Bacon for 2008 has started off with a bang!

We had 24 participants; and certificates have been e-mailed to our top three finishers, who are:

George KX0R in First Place
Kent W9NX in Second Place
John K4BAI in Third Place

Rounding out those who used the autolog (in order of finish) were:

Mark K5GQ
Brad AA5CH
Martin KH6MB
Larry W2LJ
Ivin W9ILF
Bill K5JHP
David W0PQ
Perry WA8THK
Harry K9DXA
Dale KT4LF
Aron NN1F
Brian KB9BVN
Chuck K4PBY
Yuki K6YUU
Leigh WA5ZNU

I'm looking forward to the February RFTB. There will be a prize given away to the top finisher! Anyone is invited to participate; but to qualify for the prize, the winner will have to operate at QRP power levels and be a "paid in full" member of the Flying Pigs QRP Club International.

I used the " " because there are no dues! But you do have to join and have a valid FP number to be eligible to win a prize.

For more information on the FP QRP ARCI, please visit:

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Comic of the Day

This comic appeared on one of the QRP CW groups that I belong to on Yahoo Groups. It was contributed by Rick KC8AON. I think he took another comic and "doctored" it for Ham Radio purposes - but it is funny!

And FYBO is next Saturday ! What is FYBO you might ask? For those not familiar with the QRP contesting world, FYBO is exactly what the title of the little cartoon states it is - Freeze You B*** Off.

This is the day a lot of QRPers leave the nice warm confines of the Ham shack and take off to operate in the Great Outdoors in the dead of Winter. The lower your ambient temperature, the higher the bonus points you get!

It sounds crazy; but it is fun. And you learn a lot. You learn how batteries hate the cold; and how to keep them powering your rig by sticking them inside your coat. You learn how hard it is to operate a rig or use a paddle with "warm" gloves on. You take your "warm" gloves off to operate the rig and learn how fast your fingers can lose their feeling. You learn to drink a lot of hot chocolate or coffee to feel warm. You learn how long you can sit in one place before you have to move around to keep your legs from going numb. You get a first hand, up close and personal learning session about wind chill factor. You learn about how long you can hold on to all that coffee and hot chocolate you drank before you have to ...... um, so to speak.

You learn how much fun it is to put up a temporary antenna in rather less than ideal conditions. You learn how to get your headphones on your head and your wool cap over that without going through back flips. AND ..... if you take a buddy out to the field with you for this delightful excersize, you'll probably learn a new swear word or two!

Feeling brave? Feel like taking on the elements and becoming Amateur Radio's version of Nanook of the North? Then please visit for all the pertinent details.

Hmmmmm .... I just scoped out the long range forecast for next Saturday for Central NJ. Becoming partly cloudy and breezy (that'll feel good!) with highs in the upper 30s. Not the greatest for bonus points - but cold enough to probably make you wish you were inside!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sometimes you're the bug ....

sometimes you're the windshield.

Last night I was the bug - tonight I was the windshield.

Last night I tried to participate in the 40 Meter QRP Foxhunt. I tuned around the band looking for either the Fox or the pack chasing him (them). Then the switch turned on and the 20 over 9 QRN came on and effectively killed 40 Meters for me for the night.

Tonight was a different story. This time I was the windshield. 40 Meters was quiet and stayed that way. I called CQ around 7.028 MHz and was answered by John K1ESE. John and I have worked each other in many QRP Sprints; but we never really had the opportunity to just shoot the breeze for a bit. That changed tonight. I was fortunate enough to work John on his brandy new Ten Tec Orion that he just received yesterday. John was 599 all the way; and the new radio sounded so sweet! I certainly hope that John gets a great many years of enjoyment out of his new rig. And from what I understand, he will. Ten Tec has the reputation for making the finest CW rigs out there. There are a lot of guys out there who swear by them. Someday, if I ever hit the lottery; or come into a huge some of money, I would love to buy one for myself.

Until then, I'll just stick with Ol' Reliable .... my K2.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hams Nearby

I got on 80 Meters tonight. 40 Meters was QRN free once again; but by the time I got on, it was pretty much dead. So the switch to 80 Meters.

I called CQ for a bit and was answered by Ron W2RYJ who happened to live in the next town over from me. Unfortunately, the QSO was not to last. Ron was using a TS-530 to a doublet at about 20 feet; and he was using a Johnson Matchbox. Something was wrong. His CW tone kept jumping all over the place as if he was changing frequency. A guess on my part is that he was having a high SWR problem that might have been giving his rig fits. Ron cut the QSO short to go and troubleshoot his problems.

While the QSO didn't last; it did get me to thinking about local Hams in the area. There are not many active hams that I know of in my immediate area. The guy who is my backyard neighbor is a Ham; but has not been active in years by his own admission.

Next block over from me is a guy who has what appears to be an R5 or perhaps R7 mounted on a mast close to his driveway. He also has what appears to be a small beam mounted to a tripod on top of his garage. I guess it's a tri-bander as some of the elements appear to have traps. He's close enough to me that if we were to be on at the same time, he'd most likely blow the front end of my radio off the map. I never hear him.

The only Ham in my town that I know is HF active for a fact is Marv K2VHW. He and I taught a Ham Radio class together for our town's Office of Emergency Management. He's a retired broadcast engineer for WABC TV. He got himself a new Icom rig last year and whenever I pass his house, I always look up at the beam and tower with envy.

I did a search on QRZ once, to find to my amazement that there are nearly 50 Hams in South Plainfield. From what I can tell, I'm one of only one or two that get on the air on a regular basis.

There was a Ham in Plainfield (same town that W2RYJ is from) that used to be very active. His name is Henry and his call is W2QF (last time I heard). Henry was an active CW QRP'er. He was also into kit building from the few conversations I had with him. Funny thing is that I used to hear him on one of the local repeaters all the time; but I only conversed with him on HF CW. I'm not big on getting on the local repeaters. A few summers ago, Henry and his wife moved up to Maine - right on the coast. I've worked him once since he's moved up there.

So, is it a plague or a blessing that there are not a plethora of active local Hams? I guess it's not good for the hobby; but in my case, I never have to worry about local, intense QRM. I had that problem back when I used to live in East Brunswick where I grew up. There was a Ham that lived across the street from me and he was VERY active. I could always tell when he was on the air; because he was always overloading my front end.

My mind is rambling ..... a sure sign that it's time to turn in.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, January 21, 2008


The Flying Pigs monthly sprint, the "Run For The Bacon" was rather poorly attended last night. I attribute that to Packers/Giants Championship series football. I made 8 contacts before I gave up for the night. Fortunately, 40 Meters was again usable last night; but the band was long. Arkansas, Louisiana, Colorado were a few of the states I worked last night on 40. 80 Meters was a bit on the noisy side which is odd for Winter. The RFTB Autolog on the Flying Pigs Web site reflects the lack of participants.

I think I might put up a key or two on Ebay to try and raise funds for one of the two VizKey bugs. I am intrigued by the vertical bug as well as the right angle bug. There's a video on YouTube showing off the vertical version in action; and it looks like it can be slowed down as low as 15 WPM or so. Plus, it seems that there's also the benefit of the small footprint such a bug would provide.

As mentioned before, I've really become enamored with using a bug. I want to become really proficient at it; to the point where it would take a real hard listen to discern whether I was using a bug or keyer and paddles. A lofty goal perhaps, but a fun one to try and attain.

I've taken some blogs off the Blogroll and have added a few new ones. I took off a couple that have not had entries since last summer. It stands to reason that they will probably not be updated in the near future. I'll keep my eye on them; and if there are new posts added, I will put them back on the list.

It is quite cold here today. The high didn't go past 25 F; and there was quite a breeze, making it feel colder than that. I had the day off, in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. My old company didn't give us the day off. This was the first time since it has become a Federal holiday that I've had it off. Having Monday off is nice; but it always seems to make the rest of the work week seem longer than normal.

So far, as of right this moment, I have 108 QSOs on the books for January. I know that's not a tremendous amount compared to how often some of you out there get on the air. But, it's a lot more than one QSO per day! And that's a lot more that I've been on the air since about last April or May.

Last little note. I am noticing that the daylight hours are getting perceptibly longer. Twilight is taking hold now between the hours of 5:00 and 6:00 PM; maybe with an edge a bit closer to 6:00 PM. Today marks the "1/3rd of the way through" Winter mark. The only thing that could please me more were if it were May. May, June and July are my three most favorite months of the year.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More on the HAARP project

This appeared on QRP-L today, as some background on the HAARP project. Thanks once again to Paul Harden NA5N for explaining things!

That HAARP - LWA moon bounce thing

For those of you participating in the HAARP moon bounce experiment, or plan to tonight ... thanks. You are participating in "History in the making."

There has been no significant scientific investigations into our ionosphere since the 1960s ... not since most commercial communications moved to the higher frequencies. Sure, we know the effects the sun has on our ionosphere and propagation, but it does not explain all of the phenomenon. For example, last week many of you reported great DX in spite of no sunspots. Why? We simply don't know, because so little in known about our ionosphere.
Radio astronomy was an accidental discovery in the 1930s by Carl Jansky, a telephone engineer trying to determine the source of noise on HF circuits. This was done at 22 MHz. Since then, radio telescopes operate at L-band (1-2 GHz for the hydrogen spectral line) to 40 GHz, and the millimeter radio telescopes above that. There has been very little investigations at frequencies below 1 GHz.

The Long Wavelength Array (LWA) is being designed and built by the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and the Naval Research Lab (NRL) for frequencies from about 5-88 MHz. The prototype array has been built at the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico (where I work), giving them some assistance.

The LWA will be built primarily for low frequency radio astronomy, such as plasma physics of our sun and galactic center. However, the 2nd major science goal of LWA is to model our ionosphere, something that simply has not been done from a physics point of view. One of the projects of LWA will be to (hopefully) make 3D real time maps of our ionosphere, where the D, E and F layers are, their heights, and as a hopeful predictor of HF propagation.

This will be done by HAARP regularly bouncing signals off the moon, which will illuminate the ionosphere. This weekends test, plus some unadvertised tests in the past few months, is the first stages in testing the early stages of the LWA prototype array at the VLA, and the science in general.

So far, results have been very encouraging.

The point is ... this is the first time in our lifetimes that a major scientific instrument is being built to study our ionosphere. When the LWA is completed and science begins, there will no doubt be significant changes to our understanding of the ionosphere. There will probably even be a website somewhere where we, as hams, can see real time images of where the D, E, and F layers are, critical frequencies, etc. Though a few years away, this could well change how hams can predict HF propagation and use the bands.

Our involvement (the ham radio community) into this is very important!!!

There are only a few instruments able to "listen" to the HAARP signals bouncing back from the moon. This weekend's experiment is also to see what kind of response they get from the ham community. If sufficient with some good quality reports, we as hams may become very involved in this new science in the years to come. I can tell you first hand, the people involved in this project are very aware of the large pool of hams out there, which could be put to use at this program develops.

So if you monitor the HAARP/LWA tests yesterday or tonight, please report them. Even if unsuccessful. What is important here, in addition to the reports, is for HAARP/LWA to hear from us hams. We need to let them know we are out here and eager to help. After all, we will likely be the largest body of users in a few years of their product. Who else is using HF on an hourly and daily basis besides hams, the military, and a few others.

I will try to get permission to get the plots of this test as recorded by the LWA at the VLA and post them on my work website. They really are neat, as some of you have heard yourself.
More on this later

72, Paul NA5N

PS - The timing on your reports is important. HAARP is manipulating thier beam, bouncing off different areas of the moon, such that different parts of the sky above our heads are being illuminated. So if you don't hear the signals, keep listening, and they will eventually be illuminating the space above your head.

--- end of post ---

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One Resolution kept !

One of my Amateur Radio resolutions for 2008 was to complete the required number of QSOs and earn the SKCC Centurion Award.

I finally got my log information culled from Log-EQF and filled out the application today. I wanted to do this to see how many more SKCC QSOs that I needed to complete the required 100. I thought I was 2 or 3 short; but to my surprise, I actually met the goal this past week.

Thus came the dilemma. I, W2LJ, am the person who certifies Centurion applications! It didn't seem quite right to just give myself the award. So I sent my application to Gordon Benjamin N6WK who is the gentleman who used to do the certifications. Gordon asked me to take over for him a few months ago, in order to free him up for other things, like family, and actually getting on the radio, you know ..... important stuff! But I asked him if he would kindly check one last log; and he very graciously did. And thanks to Gordon, I am now Centurion# 167; and in SKCC QSOs, I can now proudly give my club number as SKCC# 49C.

Thanks to the SKCC, I have become addicted to using a bug over the past two years. I would say that when I send Morse Code now, about 60% of the time, I use a bug. Then my paddles and keyer fill up another 25%; and the straight key get used for the remaining 15% of the time.

I'm still not as good with a bug as I would like to be; but I think I'm getting there. It's definitely a work in progress. I'm not bad with a straight key; but after a while, my wrist begins to hurt like blazes! The side to side motion of the bug is a lot easier on my wrist. Also, there's something "old-timey" and nostalgic about using a bug that just satisfies some inner craving about returning to the Golden Age of Amateur Radio.

I guess I'm just crazy! But the ultimate goal is to end up sounding like guys like Milt K4OSO. I get into a QSO with him and it sounds like he's using a keyer and paddles - he's THAT good!
I want to be that good someday; and the only way to get there is to keep practicing.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 18, 2008

I could get used to this!

My neighbor (whichever one it is) who owns the RFI Generator from Hell must be away on business or on a vacation this week. Last night and tonight, 40 Meters has been the way I've always remembered it - good signals with low background noise.

Last night, I was actually able to snare one of the 40 Meter QRP Foxes and tonight I was able to enjoy a half hour long ragchew with Cookie, K5EWJ out of Santa Fe, Texas. 40 Meters has been blissfully free of 20 over 9 QRN that plagues me most nights.

I don't know how long this reprieve will last; so I'm going to enjoy it as long as I possibly can. Once it returns I have a plan to walk around the neighborhood with a little battery powered SW receiver tuned around 7 MHz. Maybe I can pinpoint the house that's creating all the RF hash. Right now, it's a mystery as to who it is; and what exactly it is that's causing it. It's definitely an evening phenomena, though, which leads me to think the cause is something that someone is turning on. Most evenings it goes away by 10:00 or 10:30 PM. I'm wondering if it could possibly be a plasma TV or some other kind of appliance.

One of the kids next door fools around a lot with an electric guitar and amplifier. I'm wondering if it could possibly be something in the amp that's oscillating and is playing havoc with 7 MHz.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Vaya con Dios

It was a nasty way to start the morning, when I checked on the blog of Jeff Davis KE9V, "Long Delayed Echoes"; only to find out that Jeff has decided to shut it down.

LDE was the first blog that I ever really checked upon on a regular basis; and it was the inspiration for me to start this one up, some three years ago this coming April. I check on a lot of Ham Radio blogs during my travels upon the Internet; but for me, LDE was, is, and ever shall be the epitome of what an Amateur Radio blog should be.

Jeff is an outstanding wordsmith; and I found his blog to be the ideal mixture of topics technical, historical and Ham "human interest". LDE was never boring, never simplistic or patronistic; but yet never way over my head, either.

My thanks to Jeff Davis for sharing his Ham Radio life with us over the past few years. Your writing will be missed, Jeff; but yet, I can hardly wait for you to embark upon (as you put it) "the next big thing". Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be First Class!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Are you an insomniac?

If you have a hard time sleeping; and need to find something to while the wee hours away ..... or if you're hard core into "cool science stuff", then have I got a deal for you!

ARLX002 Lunar Echo Experiment looking for Amateur Radio Participants

Special Bulletin 2 ARLX002
>From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT January 17, 2008
To all radio amateurs

ARLX002 Lunar Echo Experiment looking for Amateur Radio Participants

The HF Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) in Alaska and the
Long Wavelength Array (LWA) in New Mexico are planning an additional lunar echo experiment for January 18-19.

Interested radio amateurs are invited to participate in this
experiment by listening for the lunar echoes and submitting reports.

On January 19, listen on 6.7925 MHz from 0500-0600z, and on 7.4075
MHz from 0600-0700z. On January 20, listen on 6.7925 MHz from
0630-0730z and on 7.4075 MHz from 0730-0830z (depending on frequency occupancy at the time of operation, it may be necessary to adjust the frequency slightly).

Based on previous experiments, investigators believe it should be
possible to hear the lunar echoes with a standard communications
receiver and a simple 40 meter dipole antenna. The format for the
transmissions will follow a five second cycle beginning on the hour
and repeating continuously.

The HAARP transmitter will transmit for the first two seconds. The
next three seconds will be quiet to listen for the lunar echo. Then
HAARP will transmit again for two seconds, repeating the cycle for
one hour. In the second hour, this five second repetitive cycle will
be repeated at a different frequency. All transmissions from HAARP
will be CW (no modulation).

Depending on ionospheric conditions, it may or may not be possible
to hear the HAARP transmission directly via skywave propagation.
Since HAARP will not be using any modulation, set your receiver on
to CW mode to hear HAARP and the lunar echo. Investigators are
interested in receiving signal reports from radio amateurs who may
be able to detect -- or not detect-- the lunar echo or the
transmitted skywave pulse from HAARP.

Submit reports via e-mail to and list your
call sign and the type and location of your receiving equipment and

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I was all pumped up, ready to participate in the monthly NAQCC Sprint for the first time in months. Now that I seem to be back in a radio groove, I was really looking forward to it.

The 40 Meter RFI monster did me in, however. From 8:30 until about 9:30, 40 Meters had about S20 noise throughout the band. The neighborhood RFI source got switched off at about 9:30 with a half hour of the Sprint to go; but by that time it was too late. The band went long and I only made about 5 or 6 contacts.

80 Meters wasn't too kind to me tonight, either. The contacts there were just a paltry few, too. Rather than blame the band, though, it was probably my fault. My best results used to occur when I would pick a frequency, sit on it by calling CQ and then just answer the responding stations. I guess I got too antsy tonight and did too much "search and pouncing" rather than run one frequency.

Oh well, better luck next month. This coming Sunday night is the Flying Pigs "Run For The Bacon" monthly Sprint. Maybe I'll have better luck then.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Got one!

In the 80 Meter Foxhunt tonight, I was able to work one of the Foxes, Jim NØUR in Minnesota. He was 569 in New Jersey and made for easy quarry. Jim KGØPP in Colorado was "a whole 'nuther story" as they say. He was 219 in New Jersey at best. I was going to tough it out and listen for him until the bitter end (hoping that his signal would increase); but someone really loud came on his transmit frequency and started calling CQ. I had turned off the AGC in an attempt to hear KGØPP better and my "N7" CQ'er almost blew the headphones off my head!

As Monty Python would say ...... "Now for something completely different".

Word came on QRP-L through Ron Polityka WB3AAL that Ken Louks WA8REI had a stroke a few days ago. Ken is a QRP CW fixture. You can hear him in a lot of the QRP Sprints. You can also hear him operating portable QRP on many of his trips. Ken and I QSO from time to time; and he is always a pleasure to talk to. He is just "good people" plain and simple.

The good news is that it looks like Ken is doing pretty well, all things considered. As per a telephone conversation between WB3AAL and Ken .... Ken has been transported to a Physical Therapy Center and is already giving the therapists a whole bunch of "trouble"! Yes ..... that would be Ken!

It would be a nice gesture for those of you who know Ken (and maybe those of you who have never met him) to drop him a QSL with "best wishes" for a speedy recovery. I think Ken would enjoy hearing from all of us; and knowing that we haven't forgotten him in his hour of need. Ron reports that Ken's brother drops by Ken's house everyday to pick up the mail and bring it to him; so a card to his QRZ address should definitely make it to him.

That's what Ham Radio and especially QRP is all about - sticking by each other and making lifetime friendships!

73 de Larry W2LJ

From Today's Newspaper

This was in today's newspaper. Courtesy of "Loose Parts" by Dave Blazek.

If you're a regular reader of this blog ..... I had better NOT have to tell you what it says on that tombstone !!!!

In my last post, I stated that I was going to comment on an article written in December's "WorldRadio" by W3BE about the fact that the "codeless" license is the snake oil of our times. Subsequently, I came across a post on the very same topic by Jeff Davis KE9V is his blog, "Long Delayed Echoes". Jeff is way more eloquent than I could ever hope to be; so I will just link to it here. I agree with his comments.

Tonight's the 80 Meter Foxhunt! Please excuse me while I go get ready to play.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Today was the North American QSO Party or NAQP for short. It runs until 1:00 AM Sunday morning. I decided to get on and give it a whirl. The bands were crowded; and I was just playing around, doing some S&Ping (searching and pouncing) for the louder signals on 40 and 80 Meters. Yes, to my delight, 40 Meters was usable tonight!. In about an hour, I worked 20+ stations. No great shakes; and perhaps even crummy by "Big Contester" standards. But I was just getting my QSO for the day in and adding to my QSO tally for the year. Best DX was working Puerto Rico on 40 Meters. And I was able to make contact with BOTH the HF9V and the G5RV. My temporary fix on the vertical seems to be holding up just fine.

The day here was busy from sunup until sundown. It was pleasant to be able to spend an hour behind the rig, getting to listen to the magic of radio.

What a difference a few days makes, huh? Last Tuesday we flirted with the 70 F degree mark. Definitely not typical for January. On tonight's news, I heard the weatherman mention the possibility of 3 to 6 inches of snow come Monday morning!

With that, I am going to put an end to the rambling. Maybe either tomorrow or the next day, I will comment on an article that I just got to reading in the January issue of "Worldradio" magazine . The author and I seem to be pretty much on the same page as to the effects of the abolition of the CW requirement for Amateur Radio licenses.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sacre Bleu !!!

Sorry if I misspelled that! But the meaning was there.

I was surprised to look at my Webpage counter this afternoon to see a surge in "hits". I usually get 20 to 30 visitors on a typical day. My Webpage is a modest little affair - nothing too fancy, nothing too, too technical. My Webpage is kind of like me - plain ol' vanilla.

So when I saw that I had over 250 hits today alone, my immediate thought was, OK ...... somebody must have made a comment about my Website somewhere; or maybe someone famous put me in their links. That may or may not be the case; but the majority of visitors came from France. 74% of the hits came from France.

I wonder what's on there that's so popular in France?

But getting back to my Webpage. I have to admit, I know next to nothing about HTML. If it wasn't for the Mozilla Webpage editor, I'd be in deep trouble. My Webmaster abilities were all self taught. A trial and error kind of thing. I'm still learning each time I try to do something new. I would like to make it more up to date and flashier; but without getting frivolous and superfluous. The goal is to help people get their feet wet in homebrewing, QRP, portable operations and Morse Code (of course).

BTW, before I forget ..... I reached 70 countries via QRP CW last weekend when I worked Mile, YU7VX in Serbia. He was calling CQ on 40 Meters and I was trying my best to be heard; and quite frankly, I was not having much luck. That's when my good friend John Laney K4BAI came on frequency and worked Mile with an earsplitting signal! I have NEVER heard John so loud and we work each other a lot in all the QRP sprints. Anyway, John works Mile and asks him to listen for the W2 QRP station that is calling him. Success! Mile gave me a 449 and the QSO was in the bag. Thanks so much, John .... I owe you one!

And I also worked two more SKCC members this past week. That brings up my Centurion total to 92. I just might make Centurion before they reach the 200 mark!

This coming Wednesday night is the NAQCC Sprint. I haven't made one of these in months and I am chomping at the bit! I'm really looking forward to this; but I have my fingers crossed that my neighbor's S9 RFI on 40 Meters will do its vanishing act for the evening. If it doesn't then I am screwed as all my contacts will have to be on 80 Meters.

All that being said ..... no radio tonight. I'm still a bit under the weather; and I don't feel like hanging out in the chilly basement. I think after I post this, I'll go upstairs and turn in early again.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It Might Have Been Nice

I see on the QRP Foxhunt reflector, that Charles W2SH bagged both Foxes tonight. Since Charles is less than 20 miles from me (as the crow flies) chances are pretty good that I might have done as well.


Just my luck! The last few evenings, 40 Meters has been quiet and enjoyable. But tonight, which is Foxhunt night, whatever neighbor is using whatever RFI producing monster, just had to turn it on tonight! From 9:00 PM to well past 10:30, 40 Meters wasn't even listenable (new word, courtesy of W2LJ).

So just how does one go about finding the offending appliance; and on top of that, tactfully tell the owner that their device is killing the heck out of my radio? And could you please turn off that Plasma TV that you took out a second mortgage to buy? Yeah ...... right. The snowball stands a better chance.

Thank God for 80 Meters! The noise is there, too; but maybe at an S1 level. The problem was that 80 Meters was very dead tonight. A few signals; but nothing to write home about. After tuning through the band and alternately calling CQ here and there; I finally nabbed a short QSO after about an hour.

I have to admit, I got a nice 589 report. The QSO was going pretty well until I happened to mention that I was using a K2. Then all of a sudden, the other Ham was plagued by QRN and QRM and was having a tough time copying me. Gee, he had one of them fancy IC-756 Pro IIs. I thought those had all those fancy filters and stuff that helps in situations like these. Guess I thought wrong.

Or it could have been a simple case of QRPhobia. Where the receiving station develops a tin ear as soon as they come to believe that the sending station might be using something less than 100 Watts. I've seen many cases of that, over the years.

Sorry for the rant, folks. Still not feeling 100% - guess I'm just cranky tonight.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Even though I'm feeling lousy, I went down to the shack tonight, to dip my feet into the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunt. The two Foxes tonight are Tom KV2X in NY State and Al KØFRP in Colorado.

80 Meters is pretty noisy tonight with lots of QRN. I'm pretty sure that I got a valid exchange with Tom KV2X at Ø216 UTC. Pretty sure because I know he heard me; but I couldn't quite hear if he was asking for repeats of any of my info. Well, the log will tell the tale; and I'm not about to worry about it.

I couldn't hear Al or any of the hounds chasing him for that matter. Colorado is probably a stretch for 80, although I did work KØEVZ in New Mexico last week when I was Fox. In any event, I feel too crummy and have nowhere near the patience required to stay behind the dial tonight. It's either my sinuses that are killing me; or it's a head cold. I tend to think it's sinuses as I have no fever or any body aches that you would normally see accompany a cold. Just coughing, congestion AND a runny nose (if you can believe that!) and a nasty post-nasal drip. Is that graphic enough? Ewwww!

So. let's just say I feel badly enough where here it is 10:00 PM EST; and I'm going to pull the plug and head off to bed. MAYBE a good night's sleep will help me out.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Anybody got any NyQuil?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Not Good News

It's not a good day when you see this appear on the QRP reflectors:

"Hi folks -

We will not be conducting the Atlanticon QRP Forum this year.

We will likely do it again in 2009 ..."

The following reasons were given:

1) Dwindling attendance
2) Dwindling enthusiasm
3) The "Atlanticon Kit" model no longer works

Wow! That is a disappointment. Now I'll be the first one to admit that I've never been to Atlanticon. Current family circumstances have prevented me from attending; but I've always wanted to. And I planned to make one in the near future.

It's sad to see this happen, though. There are not enough Ham Radio events these days; let alone QRP dedicated ones. Atlanticon was kind of the "yardstick" against which all the others were measured. My good friend W3BBO was fortunate to attend a few times; and he enjoyed himself thoroughly. My dream was to make it there with him some year.

So what's the reason? Rising gas prices? A general lull in Ham Radio interest due to the crummy part of the sunspot cycle? The aging demographic of Hams that might not want to travel much anymore?

Whatever the reason, I hope that Atlanticon comes back bigger and stronger than ever in 2009. Maybe I'll actually be able to make it by then!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, January 05, 2008


I realized tonight while in QSO with Norm NZ5L, that when December 2008 rolls around later this year, that I will have been licensed for 30 years! Wow - how time flies! I have been KA2DOH, N2ELW and have now settled in on my 8th year as W2LJ.

Norm has been licensed a long time, too. He was using separates, a Heath DX60 transmitter and a National NC270 receiver; and he was pushing a mighty 65 Watts my way into NJ. We got to reminiscing about the Good Ol' Days and we both agreed that today's new Hams will never know the enjoyment of the experience of building a Heathkit.

Now THAT was an era! And I came in on the tail end of it; so I'm very fortunate to have had the experience. My very first receiver that I used as a Novice was an HR-1680 that I built myself. Other Ham Radio Heathkits that I have built included the HW-8 QRP rig (of course), the SB-104A (which had a 1 Watt QRP setting - are we seeing a trend develop here?), the electronic keyer with the built in paddles, as well as various accessories (Cantenna, anyone?) and other pieces of gear that I can't even remember now. I had built most of the go-along accessories for the SB-104A and had the entire console going on my desk at one point. I wish I still had the photos, let alone the gear itself.

My entire sound system in my late teens and early twenties was all Heathkit. Pre-amp, power amp, graphic equalizer, noise reduction unit. The only items of my stereo that were not Heath were my turntable, the FM tuner, and the speakers (DCM Time Windows). The pre-amp even had the "pre-pre-amp" because the turntable used a moving coil cartridge which required it. I was an official member of the Heathkit "Master Builders Club". I regret that I never got around to building a TV.

And the glory of it all; was that EVERY item worked the first time! Ah yes, I have melted a lot of solder these past 30 years (I have some scars on my hands to prove it!). I'm happy to say that I enjoyed every minute of it.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Small victories

Small victories are some of the sweetest. Today, while between trips of running up and down into the basement to put Christmas decorations away, I flipped on the K2 and heard KN4Y/M real loud on 20 Meters. He was probably part of the County Hunters Net as he kept advertising that he was in Broward County, FL. He was also running stations contest, shotgun style. Hey, he was loud and I worked him for a QSO for January 5th.

The next victory was with the HF9V. I went out to the backyard and installed a temporary jumper between the feed point of the antenna and the center conductor of the coax, which had pulled away and had snapped clean in two. The antenna hears fine again and tunes up great, too! I realize that this is not a permanent solution; but it does get me back to two antennas again!

Oh well, back to putting Christmas stuff away .....

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 04, 2008

At least I gave it a shot.

Do I get an "A" for effort? I dutifully went down to the basement tonight, in the attempt to get a QSO in the books for the fifth night in a row.

However, the bands stunk! I heard very few loud signals to speak of on either 40 or 80 Meters. I called CQ on 80 for what must have been over a combined 30 minutes .... nada! I even tried answering the CQs of K2A/4, the SKCC special event station in the 4th Call district, with no success. He was weak, I must have been VERY weak back to him; as all I got as a response was "QRZ?".

So much for "QSO a Day". I'm a bit tired tonight and didn't feel like sitting in the basement for hours trying to get a QSO going. I did that gig in 2005 when I did make a QSO every day for the entire year. At times, it got to be tiring, nerve wracking; and generally no fun. Better to relax and enjoy this hobby than get overwrought about imagined commitments and artificial deadlines. Goals are nice; but you can't let them become obsessions. Especially hobby goals!

Maybe I'll get a few minutes during the afternoon tomorrow to try and still get a Q in for January 5. In between taking down Christmas decorations, that is!

I'm going to catch some shut-eye. Tomorrow looks to be a busy day!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sounds like sour grapes - or just lame excuses ...

A friend sent me this today in an e-mail. This originally appeared on the "Technocrat" blog. It is a posting by Bruce Perens, the founder of No-Code International. The title of this piece is called, "No-Code Came Too Late To Help Ham Radio".

"On February 23, 2007, the U.S. FCC dropped Morse Code requirements for all ham radio license classes. Other nations, except for Russia, had done so earlier and the ITU had dropped code requirements from its international radio treaty. I had founded No-Code International 10 years previously, to fight for this to happen. We won, and we lost too.

One of the reasons for eliminating the code requirement was that many prospective licensees were deterred from getting their ham licenses by what, in present time, had become a wildly unnecessary and inappropriate requirement - that operators demonstrate the ability to read Morse code by ear. Morse is fun for many, but it was silly for it to be a requirement. The real reason it was there was that the hams themselves wanted to keep out "riff-raff", generally portrayed as undisciplined former CB operators, who they felt would be deterred by the lengthy process of developing code proficiency.

Well, the good news is that there was no flood of riff-raff into Amateur Radio. The bad news is that there was no flood of anyone. A lot of Amateurs upgraded their license class, but the overall population has not increased by even 2000 hams. The best that can be said for Amateur operator numbers is that we have stopped the decline for now, as you can see in these statistics."

Wow! Isn't that something! This is exactly what the proponents of Morse Code were saying all along! The Code is NOT a barrier; and in the end, all this boo-hoo'ing about thousands of people wanting to become Hams but couldn't because they were deterred by having to learn the Code was, in the end, just a bunch of nonsense!

And of course, rather than admit you were wrong, you just come up with, "Well, if we had accomplished this earlier ........." Thank the Lord for supposition based on no fact and revisionist history! The best thing that can be said of No-Code International is that their "claims" were Ham Radio's Urban Myth of the late 1900s and early 2000s.

This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me wonder what the likes of hucksters like Al Gore are going to be saying 20 or 30 years from now when we embark on a trend towards global cooling. Human caused Global Warming is the snake oil of our times. I'll bet the farm that 20 to 30 years down the road, thousands will lay the claim that "I never believed in that, anyway!"

Remember Y2K? The world was supposed to end that night, too. Amazing how that came and went with nary a whimper.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Got it done

I managed to get my QSO in for the day. I'm definitely not promising to make one a day for the entire year; but I will try to make more days than not.

Tonight's QSO was with Jim KCØJKD from Stover, MO. Our QSO was basically just an exchange of FISTS information as Jim was struggling to hear me. He gave me a 449 and I gave him a 579. The 579 was at peaks though, as the QSB was deep and slow. But a QSO is a QSO and it counts!

I was surprised by the lack of strong signals on 80 Meters tonight. Usually this time of the year, 80 Meters is my best band. Who knows, maybe all the RF was freezing and falling out of the aether! It's absolutely brutal outside and the entire house feels chilly as a result. The fire has died in the fireplace; and since it's close to bedtime; I'm not going to add any more logs for the evening. The embers are still glowing and I probably won't close the flue for another couple of hours, otherwise the fumes will have nowhere to go except inside the house - only to fill the house with a burning wood smell. If that happens my wife will just be so pleased with me - I just can't tell you how much!

I'll tell you one thing - give me hot, sticky, muggy Summer weather anytime. This Winter weather is for the birds as far as I'm concerned!

I see where Log-EQF has been updated to version 1.92. The version I am currently using is 1.89. I think I'll download that and install it and then hit the hay. 6:30 AM comes quickly.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Antenna woes

Last night, while serving as "Fox" during the 8o Meter QRP Foxhunt, I tried switching over from my G5RV to my HF9V vertical for a bit. Much to my surprise and chagrin, the HF9V was once again "deaf". I went out in the backyard tonight, after work, flashlight in hand to see what was the matter. Unfortunately, I discovered that the center conductor of the coax broke right at the antenna connection.


As I sit here typing this, it's 15 degrees Fahrenheit outside - and it's dark. Perfect antenna working conditions, right?


Maybe tomorrow after work, I will go out and hook up a temporary jumper which will serve me until Spring or somewhat warmer weather makes a comeback. But it doesn't look like I'll be out there with a soldering iron any time soon. Although, maybe I can stop by the local Radio Shack and pick up a couple of replacement butane tanks for my crappy Radio Shack portable soldering iron. The temperatures are supposed to moderate all the way up to the mid 30s on Saturday; so maybe I can do something more "permanent" then. It's hard enough as it is, lugging an extension all the way out there with a high wattage soldering gun during the Summer. I'm sure it's absolutely brutal to attempt it in the Winter!

In any event, I ended up using the G5RV for the entire time during last night's hunt. I really wanted to see if the vertical would allow me to maximize the signals of the "farther away" stations; but it was not to be. In the end, I worked 41 stations; and my best DX was K0EVZ in New Mexico.

The last almost 40 minutes were taken up by working a CW station that didn't realize I was in a QRP contest. The gentleman I was working has been a Ham for 15 years; but has only been on HF CW for the last four months. I decided to take the opportunity to have a bit of a QSO. Courtesy dictated that I not be rude; and besides I didn't want to just blow him off and leave him with the impression that all QRPers are a snobby bunch only interested in communicating amongst themselves. As a result, we had a pleasant, though relatively short QSO. I hope we meet up again for the opportunity for a good ragchew. We've exchanged e-mails and I'm hoping for the best!

It's nice here in the Rec Room with a fire blazing away in the fireplace. But in a few moments I'm going to tear myself away to go down to the basement to try and have a QSO or two for the day. It's chilly down there. When it's in the teens outside, it's only about 58 or so degrees in the shack. I may be a wimp; but I do hate the cold. I have a T-shirt, a sweatshirt and a fleece sweater on over that. That should keep me comfortable for at least a little while. Although i have found that my fist does get bad when my fingers are cold. Paddles or straight key, it doesn't matter - when my fingers are cold my CW suffers!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Quality - not Quantity

Last night's SKN contacts were not plentiful. I mean that in the sense that I didn't spend a ton of time operating. There were plenty signals on the bands; but I only had about an hour's worth of available free time to spend.

In the alloted portion of time that I had available, I did have two nice QSOs. One was with Kevin W3DAD near Baltimore, MD and the other was with Nate KC2MJT up in Peru, NY which is near Lake Placid.

Kevin was LOUD! He was a good 599 into NJ. He couldn't stay on the air too long as he had to tuck his daughter in for the night. But the QSO was enjoyable, even though it was brief. Nate was good 579 into NJ. We had an enjoyable conversation. He was telling me that he was a bit tired as the result of snow shoveling. Fortunately, that's not something that I've had to really deal with hear in Central NJ so far. We've had a few ice storms where I've had to shovel some accumulated sleet; but nothing overwhelming yet. Of course, by publicly stating that, I've probably jinxed myself for the rest of the winter!

In any event, it was nice to be on the air again. I was using the K2, of course, and my LTA SKCC straight key. Last night, Kevin was using a J-38 and Nate was using a Speed-X. It was great to hear two good fists on the air.

So far, I'm holding to my resolution to get on the air more. Tonight at 9:00 PM, I will be one of the two 80 Meter foxes in the QRP Foxhunt; so I should make a bunch of QSOs tonight. Nothing like getting 2008 off to a rollicking start.

73 de Larry W2LJ

BTW, you might ask why I didn't have a bunch of time to operate last night? Busy doing household chores is the answer! It was a good night to get the bathrooms and kitchen cleaned! OK, so it's not New Year's Eve at Times Square - but it's exactly where I want to be!