Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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
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
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 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 eHam.net. 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
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
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
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
You know, snow in July ..... 90 degree weather in December ...... a hurricane in Minnesota ....... a blizzard in Miami ...... W2LJ winning the doorprize in a Hamfest.
Yep, that's right! I came home from work today to find a package waiting for me. A brandy new Icom IC-208H was waiting for me along with a note, "Congratulations, you won the SCARC Hamfest doorprize!"
You could have knocked me over with a feather. This is the first time I have ever won anything! And one of the things I was planning to purchase in the near future was a dual band VHF/UHF rig for the car. I really need 440 MHz capability for CERT; and this will replace the monoband 2 Meter Yaesu that I have in there now. Of course, now I have to acquire a dual band antenna; but that's OK. I'm glad to have to do it.
Wow! The good feeling from this is definitely going to last a day or two. Thank you so much Sussex County Amateur Radio Club and KJI Electronics!
73 de Larry W2LJ
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The 73 in the title is about one of my pet peeves in Amateur Radio, the misuse of "73".
This train of thought all came about because of a "discussion" (that's Ham talk for "argument") that started on the SKCC e-mail reflector. One Ham used "hi hi" in his post to indicate laughter; just as it's done on the air. Another Ham got bent out of shape about it and commented on it.
At first, I thought the criticism was pretty petty and picky; but then I remembered my own peeve. The misuse of "73". On the air, while sending CW, it's pretty hard to misuse "73". You send the numerals 7 & 3. Pretty cut and dry. For those of you not in the know; or new to Amateur Radio, "73" means "Best Regards" and is used as at the end or sign off of a QSO.
However, in the spoken QSO, 73 is often misused and for some inane reason, that irritates the heck out of me! It's "seven three" when spoken. That's it - no more and no less.
It's NOT "seven threes".
It's NOT "seventy three".
It's NOT "threes".
It's NOT "seven thirds".
and the most idiotic way I've ever heard:
It's NOT "trees".
It must be a bit of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder that affects me; but hearing 73 used the wrong way just makes my skin crawl. Almost as bad as dragging fingernails across a chalkboard or scratching a balloon - but not quite.
Oh, and by the way, don't even get me started on those two "favorites" of mine from 2 Meter FM:
"I have to sign now because I'm destinated." or "This is WA2BCD for ID".
73 de Larry W2LJ
Monday, July 14, 2008
'Tis a pity.
Good Amateur Radio blogs are not as common as you'd think. There are a lot out there that die by the wayside. I have to admire Jeff though, for officially closing it out and not leaving it to languish and leave you wondering when the next post will appear.
Sorry to see you leave the blog scene, Jeff; but I can understand your motives. Keeping this up on a regular basis IS a lot of fun ....... but there ARE times.
Times you'd rather be doing something else (actually being on the air, perhaps?).
Times when you just don't feel like turning on the computer.
Times when you'd rather be with family or friends.
Times when your creativity dries up and you can't even begin to think what to write about.
If it becomes a chore and it's no fun anymore, then it is time to pack it in.
Good luck, Jeff. I look forward to your next Internet adventure.
73 de Larry W2LJ
Sunday, July 13, 2008
The SCARC Hamfest is one of the best hamfests left in New Jersey. Where the others continue to get smaller (with the exception of the Raritan Valley Radio Club - which seems to be growing), SCARC is holding its own. The hamfest is held in the Sussex County Fairgrounds and there is an 'indoor section" with vendors and an outdoor "tailgating section".
I'm happy to say that both selling sections were well attended; and the hamfest in general was well attended with plenty of buyers. The tailgaters actually were asking reasonable prices; as far as I was able to ascertain from stuff that I was familiar with. Take straight keys, for example. While there were no "steals", there were no really bad rip-offs, either. About 20 bucks would buy you a decent specimen, which is probably a bit less than you would pay on eBay these days.
I didn't have any major purchases in mind, I just went to browse and meet up with old friends. I came away with a bag of PL-259 connectors (12 for $10), a 100 foot spool of antenna rope, a pair of angled cutters for $3 and a neat CERT placard for $2 that I can put in my windshield when I'm on duty for the town.
Speaking of town, I picked up a capacitor made by Cornell-Dublier which was based in South Plainfield for years. In essence, I was able to bring the capacitor "home". The factory site is an EPA Superfund site and all the buildings were just knocked over and ground has been paved over. In a few months they are going to rip up the paving and start to remove the PCB tainted soil.
Back to discussing my purchases .... I also picked up an MFJ crystal controlled QRP 40 Meter transmitter along with a crystal and a home brewed straight key for $10. And lastly, I picked up a neat project box for $5 - which would be the perfect size for a small homebrew 40 Meter receiver to accompany the MFJ transmitter.
I was tempted to pick up some ARRL antenna and QRP books; but then I realized that a majority of the articles were reprints from QST that I could get online whenever I want.
I did hook up with a few friends from the now defunct Piscataway club and I hooked up with Joe WA2QHA, who had won one of the door prizes. Joe lived across the street from me when I used to live in East Brunswick back in my single days. We would often blow each other out of the water with our HF operations; and we would both bother a mutual neighbor who complained that we were BOTH ruining his TV picture. It was good to run into Joe again, who told me he was running mostly QRP these days. I guess our old cranky neighbor is still cranky!
Then, as a extra special treat, I got to have an eyeball QSO with Don W2JEK. Don is a fellow NAQCC member and we've QSOed with each other many times in various QRP sprints; but as a result of our meeting, I now have a face to associate with the fist. And THAT is way cool!
It was a hot morning; but I had a lot of fun walking around. It was good to rummage through all the junk ....... er, I mean treasures, looking for useful items. My main problem is avoiding impulse buying; which would mean coming home with stuff that I'd end up never using. I did good today on that front.
73 de Larry W2LJ
Saturday, July 12, 2008
For the most part, I used the PAC-12 with the multi-band coil; although I did also use the Hamsticks on the top of the Explorer. It was much nicer to sit at the picnic table and spread out a bit and enjoy the beautiful weather rather than work from the cramped rear hatch of the Explorer. As I mentioned before, the transceiver was the K1 and I used a 12V sealed lead acid battery as my power supply. The key was a Bulldog iambic paddle and I used QSO Diary on my Palm Tungsten E for logging.
I had QSOs with Fairfax, Virginia and Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Sherbrook, Quebec among other locations. 20 Meters was nice on Friday with lots of European signals being heard with the loudest coming from Germany and Poland.
The sound of Morse Code and the sight of the PAC-12 brought a few curious vacationers by the picnic table and I was able to give the "pitch". A few guys and their sons walked away quite interested, especially after hearing those signals coming from across "the pond"; and I promised to follow up with e-mails detailing how to go about getting a license. It seems the "magic of radio" still has the albility to capture imaginations, even these days! Strangley, the folks I spoke to were as impressed or even more impressed with the solar panel that I was using to keep the battery up to snuff.
And quite by coincidence, it turns out that the occupant of the next cabin over from us used to be the mayor of Newington, CT; so he was quite familiar with Amateur Radio and the ARRL.
By the way, this is the view I was able to look at while operating:
Not too shabby, eh?
I brought along my Autek antenna analyzer; and it made using the PAC-12 so much easier! I was able to pin point the tap setting on the PAC-12 multi band coil to the point where the match was so good that I was able to disable the antenna tuner on the K1. It amazed me to see what a big difference just one coil tap setting would make. With the Autek hooked up I was able to see the SWR jump from 3:1 down to 1.4:1 on the next! It sure takes the guess work out of things! The Autek will now be a permanent addition to my portable ops kit.
I brought along the NorCal Doublet; but ended up not using it. Chuck LaPlante, who owns the Stepping Stones Resort, where we stay is VERY accomodating to my Amateur Radio exploits. I didn't want to push the envelope too far by putting up a dipole in his trees, even if it was the very stealthy NorCal Doublet.
By the way, if you're an Amateur Radio op and you're thinking of a Lake George vacation; do make a point of looking into the Stepping Stones. It is a VERY family friendly place and my wife Marianne and our two children love the place. Chuck runs a very tight ship; but like I said, he is VERY accomodating to Amateur Radio as long as it doesn't bother any of the other vacationers.
Tell him that Larry W2LJ from NJ sent you - I'm pretty sure he'll remember me.
73 de Larry W2LJ
Friday, July 04, 2008
Indeed, just down the road from me is the historic Oak Tree Pond, which was the site of a skirmish between the NJ Militia and the British Regulars that put an end to a flanking maneuver that the British were trying to accomplish in an effort to win the Battle of Short Hills.
In the next town over, in Piscataway, NJ, resides the historic Indian Queen Tavern which used to sit on the waterfront in New Brunswick. It was in this very inn that John Adams and Ben Franklin stayed when they came to "inspect the troops" in New Brunswick on behalf of the Second Continental Congress. George Washington was a guest at the inn numerous times; and it is believed that Thomas Jefferson composed parts of the Declaration of Independence while staying there.
Which lead me to wonder sometimes, that if Jefferson, Adams, Washington and Franklin were to fall asleep at the Indian Queen on a night in 1776 and were to awake to find themselves in the United States of America in 2008 ..... what would they think?
After the initial shock and awe, which would take a long time to overcome, I think that they would have mixed reviews as to what has become of their dream, their "experiment".
I think they would be proud of our ingenuity, our technological advancement, our nation's character (for the most part). I think they'd be proud that we expanded to include 50 great States; choosing not to rest and be content to remain a Union of 13 States. I think they'd be proud that we survived the Civil War and became a stronger Nation for it. I believe that while our Founding Fathers were isolationists, preferring not to become embroiled in Europe's politics, that they would be proud that the United States was behind the voice of Liberty and Freedom that carried through two World Wars and various other times of conflict.
I believe that the Founding Fathers would be proud that until this day, we remain for the most part, "The Breadbasket of the World", feeding millions besides our own. I believe that they would be unbelievably proud that our flag, The Star Spangled Banner, flies on the Moon and is on the sides of spacecraft that have left our Solar System to explore the deepness of space. I think as a whole, they would be delighted with the character and dignity of the people that today, we call Americans.
On the other hand, I am sure there are MANY things that they would shake their heads at; and hold in contempt. I am sure they would deplore the lack of personal responsibility that seems to be so prevalent today. They would certainly abhor the desire of so many for a type of "Nanny State" government that would take care of everything FOR the people. Indeed, they saw such as a throwing away of personal liberty which they regarded as man's most sacred possession. In their minds, government was supposed to exist at the will of the people. It's not supposed to force people to do things they wouldn't otherwise want to do; or interfere with their personal lives and liberties.
The would be very sad with the Judicial Branch of our government, who feels it is their responsibility to make laws instead of interpret them - "legislation from the bench". And they would probably be angered to the point of apoplexy by politicians who spend too much time trying to hold on to their jobs instead of DOING their jobs.
I think the concept of "political correctness" would smack too much of "European delicacy and gentility" and that they would stay away from that like a cat from water.
I am sure they would most definitely shake their heads in sorrow with our fanatical obsession with the "separation of Church and State". I can almost hear them now ... "When we wrote, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" that is ALL we meant!" The desire was for no state religion like The Church of England to become an American institution whereby the President or Congress would become the head of said religion. The Founding Fathers had no desire to separate the United States from God! In fact the Founders believed that a healthy fear and respect of God was necessary for the continuing survival of this Nation. It's so pitiful that so many of our country spend so much of their time divorcing our Nation from God in every circumstance; and then wonder where He is when some kind of natural disaster or calamity occurs.
I think they would look at our current system of taxation and would wonder whatever became of the idea of "taxation without representation". This inflation of the size of government and the plundering of the citizen's personal wealth to keep it all going would be very distasteful to them, indeed.
Lastly, I think they would have a terrible time with the concept of abortion; and how the Supreme Court could have so badly misinterpreted the Constitution as to think that somehow murder (yes ...... murder) would be protected by that Document.
So ....... the question remains ....... would they be proud? I am certain that for the most part they probably would be; but at the same time they'd also be very sad to see how their legacy was mishandled by succeeding generations.
In any event, the Nation remains strong, prosperous and proud. Happy Birthday, United States!To all of you out there, have a wonderful, safe and happy 4th of July weekend.
And may God continue to bless America.
73 de Larry W2LJ
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Bill was surprisingly loud; and I found him quite easily. He was a good 589-599 and was handling hounds at a nice clip. But I expected to hear him less well than I did, given the proximity between New Jersey and Georgia.
I thought that Wyoming to New Jersey would be the easier trip for 20 Meters; but I was sadly mistaken. After working Bill, I went hunting for Dale and found him - barely. He was 339 (maybe 449 at peaks) all the way. I called him for a good hour and fifteen minutes and there was once or twice when I thought he'd heard me, so I sent my exchange anyway.
Let's put it this way - if my call find its way into his log, I will be VERY surprised!
For the second year in a row, it's been my job to organize the QRP Summer 20 Meter Foxhunt season. The operators are superb - all top notch and it's been a pleasure working with them. It's also nice to be involved in something that gives a lot of your fellow Amateur Radio operators so much fun.
73 de Larry W2LJ