10th Anniversary Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

Good luck, and thank you for reading!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Deuce !!!!

Great success in the 80 Meter Fox hunt tonight, due to the great ears of Dave N1IX and Tom KV2X. The fact that Dave lives in New Hampshire and Tom in New York was to my benefit as these are pretty easy hops for me on 80 Meters.

I went to the ARRL's Web page today and downloaded the Diamond DXCC (DDXCC) Scorecard, which is an Excel file that you can use to keep track of the entities that you have worked towards the award.  So far in January, I worked 15 entities that count.  So I am 15% of the way there.  Not a terrible start and we have the major DX contests still to come - the ARRL DX Contest coming up in February as a matter of fact.  I don't know if I will be able to achieve the certificate; but it is a worthwhile and fun goal for the year.

15 Meters did not seem as active this morning as yesterday morning.  I did manage to get Cuba in the log, working CO6WD before heading off to work.  Down the band, there was a huge pileup, spanning many kHz; but for the life of me, I don't know who everyone was trying to work.  I couldn't hear the quarry (and I didn't have the DX Cluster up on screen); but I would assume it was most likely either HK0NA, TN2T or perhaps VP6T.  These seem to be the three "biggies" right now.

The more that I am on the air this year, the more I am coming to realize that "Happiness is listening to a good fist".  I hope that I fall into that category; but I can sure tell you that there are a lot of folks out there who don't seem to.  And that's a shame.

The problem seems to be spacing and "hurrying up".  And I think I make that mistake myself from time to time, especially if I'm a bit tired and not paying attention to what I am doing.  A long time ago, my Mom gave me a little angel that hung from the rear view mirror in my car that said, "Never drive faster than your Guardian Angel can fly".  I think we Morse Code enthusiasts should have something along the same lines.  "Never send faster than your fist can send" (or something like that!).  If you get sloppy, or take for granted what you are doing and don't pay attention to the task at hand, you're going to sound pretty awful.  And that's not fun for anybody.

Sending good Morse is an art.  It is a deliberate act that takes concentration and diligence and practice. Spacing is just as important if not more important than anything else.  It's a good thing to remind ourselves, from time to time.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Decisions, decisions .....

A little back story is in order to set the scene.

In my department at work, it's just me and one other guy (in our building).  Our office has to have coverage each day from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM.  So we have two "shifts, if you will.  The "early guy" works from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM, while the "late guy" works from 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM.  We rotate from week to week, so that neither of us gets stuck staying until 6:00 PM all the time. 

This week, I'm the late guy - so after dropping the kids off at school for 7:30 AM, I have some time to kill each morning this week until I have to leave for work.  Today, when I came home, I decided to see what 15 Meters was like.

There, at about 21.020 MHz was 4Z5AD calling "CQ NA".  He was not terribly loud; but there was not much of a pileup, so I decided to throw out my call.  Nothing.  I changed from HF9V to EDZ - same result - nil.  As time is going by, he is getting louder - coming closer and closer to 589/599.

I switch back to the vertical (I'm hearing him louder on it) and throw out my call again. This time I get an "LJ?"  But I am thwarted when I hear him come back to someone with a JLK suffix.  Determined, I keep sending out my call.   This time, I get a "W2L?".  I send my call a few more times more.  But he's not hearing me and goes back to calling "CQ NA".

I look at the clock - it's 8:10 AM, I have to get headed for work VERY soon.  What do I do?  I have worked Israel before; but never QRP.  But at the same time, I am trying to accomplish Diamond DXCC this year; and I think this could count for Palestine.

So I made an "executive decision" and I turned up the power knob.  This time when I sent my call, I was greeted by an exchange of "W2LJ 449 TU".  Israel is once again in the log - not QRP, but at least I can use the contact towards Diamond DXCC.  If I had left the knob where it was, I may or may not have eventually worked him - but I'll never know as I had to leave for work.  I don't think my boss would have appreciated, "Sorry I'm late, but Israel was on 15 Meters, and ........."

By the way, when I checked the power output after the QSO, the K2 was at 8 Watts.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least! (Most times!)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Keeping the streak going,

I got two quick QSOs in the books tonight as January 29th turned to January 30th UTC time.  Both were on 30 Meters.  The local QRN was non-existant and since today is the layoff weekend between AFC and NFC Championship football and the Super Bowl, I am not all that surprised.  This is why I'm leaning towards the culprit being a Plasma TV.

Anyway, the QSOs were with PJ2/AA9A and KI9E.  I used the Butternut HF9V in both cases.  In any event, I wanted to get this out of the way quickly tonight, not because I don't like being on the radio (you all know THAT's not true!).  My son Joey asked me to watch a movie with him that starts in a half hour.

I can't deny a request like that!

Hey, if you get a chance, hop on over to John AE5X's blog.  He has a link up to pictures from the HK0NA DXpedition.  Wow!  This is definitely not a "lap of luxury" DXpedtion!

'Nite all, I'm headed upstairs for a little Phineas and Ferb!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A good day on the radio

'Twas a fine day on the radio.  Lots of activity and lots of stations to be worked.  I added a few new ones, new ones as far as working for Diamond DXCC goes, that is.

C6AKQ - Bob N4BP in the Bahamas
UT7UJ - Dmitry in the Ukraine
OE5PGL - Peter in Austria
CT8/HB9CQL - Rudolf in the Azores

and .........

HK0NA on 17 Meters this afternoon.

Yay! Finally managed to break through the pile up.  The team has been there a few weeks now and the pileups don't seem to be diminishing at all, they're still in great demand.  Today was the loudest I have ever heard them to date and was lucky enough to get them in my log.

I also spent a few minutes this afternoon working on the antenna setup that I hope to use next Saturday for FYBO.  I hooked up the Buddistick to the magmount and stuck it on top of the Jeep.  Using an antenna analyzer, I found the settings that I need to be at for SWRs of 1.2:1 on both 20 and 40 Meters.  I didn't make any QSOs but did do some listening.  I heard Ken WA8REI in QSO and his signal was so loud, I thought my ear drums were going to burst.  One of the few times that I actually had to turn the volume control on the PFR3A almost all the way down.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Not quite what I suspected

You know what they say about conventional wisdom - that more often than not, it's wrong.

I got my QSO in tonight on 80 Meters, which was again practically deserted.  Scanning the entire CW portion and only hearing a handful of QSO/signals is depressing.  We have all that beautiful spectrum and it's like no one is using it!

Anyway, after a QSO with Burt K1OIK who lives on Cape Cod, I decided to do a little experiment.  I wanted to find out, using the Reverse Beacon Network, what the difference in performance is (roughly) between the 88' EDZ and the Butternut HF9V on 80 Meters.

Since activity seemed to be light at best, I figured I could call CQ for a good amount of time without any takers.  Unfortunately, my assumption turned out to be correct - even though that turned out to be good for the experiment.  I wouldn't have minded being interrupted in order to have a good rag chew.

I called CQ for ten minutes using the wire and then ten minutes using the HF9V.  I figured that would give ample opportunity to be heard by a variety of skimmers.  My hypothesis was that the wire would be a better performer on 80 Meters.

My hypothesis seems to have been proved wrong.

There were some slight differences, but at most (at most!) the differences were only 1 dB.  And that could have been due to normal QSB as the 1 dB difference was not always the same.  By that, I mean the vertical wasn't always 1 dB lower compared to the wire - sometimes it was 1 dB higher.  Of course, I was comparing reports from the same skimming stations.  Many times the reports were dead even between the two.

My modus operandi up until now was to pretty much use the HF9V for 20 Meters and higher, while using the wire antenna for 30 Meters and lower.  I think that will change.  The Butternut has always been a solid performer and now I think I will be using it on the lower frequencies a lot more than I have been.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stupidity and inspiration

Argh!  Sometimes I feel like such a dolt!

80 Meters was quite vacant again tonight.  Spinning the dial, up and down, looking for someone to talk with.  I hear a loud station down near 3.511 MHz calling CQ.  Notice that I said I heard a loud station calling CQ.  But as it turns out, I didn't listen!

The operator was Car N3AS and when I called him, he politely chatted with me for a few minutes.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries and the QSO was very brief.  After we bade our good-byes, Car starts to call CQ again.  But this time, I was truly listening, and I heard him calling "CQ DX".!!  He must have been wondering what kind of moron from W2 land would call a W3 station calling "CQ DX"?  And he would have every right to think of me as an idiot - I had made the classic mistake of hearing, but not listening.

I felt about an inch tall. A QSL card with an apology will be going out this weekend.

Then I got a totally unrelated inspiration for a topic of discussion.  I get many private e-mails with regard to the contents of this blog.  And of all the questions that I get asked, the one I receive most often is (generic), "Larry, how do I get started in QRP and how can I do it in the least expensive way?"

And that's when it hit me that I never really covered this.

The answers are many - it's almost like asking 100 different people what their favorite ice cream flavor is - you're going to get 100 different answers.  But there are some basics that we can cover.

First and foremost, the easiest and most inexpensive way to get started in QRP is to use the radio you already have!  Yes, most (if not all) modern rigs will let you turn down your output power to 5 Watts.  And as we all know, 5 Watts for CW and 10 Watts for SSB is considered to be QRP.  If your rig will not go that low, then you can hook up an attenuator between the output connector and the antenna.  This will effectively get you down to QRP levels.  In fact, I just recently posted about the new attenuator that is being offered by Hendricks QRP Kits.  Of course, if you have a decently stocked junk box you can easily roll your own with parts you may already have.  Googling RF Attenuators is a good place to start.  I believe that John K3WWP covers this quite nicely at his Website.  Going this route, you can have a full featured radio that you're already comfortable with for QRP.

For those of you who truly desire a dedicated QRP radio, there are several ways to go.  Pre-owned (as the car commercials call it) or new.  By keeping your eye on eBay, QRP-L, QRZ classifieds and eHam classifieds, you can probably find an HW-8, or a Ten Tec Argonaut or any of a myriad of used QRP rigs for sale.  One tip that is not generally known ..... if you can find yourself a used Icom IC-730 at a decent price, you might want to consider it.  There's a pot under the top cover that will allow you to set the minimum output of this radio to as low as 100 mW without affecting the 100W top setting.  I had one until I foolishly sold it a few years ago.

Another thing to keep in mind.  As the Elecraft KX3 becomes available, there just might be more and more K1s, K2s and KX1s coming on the re-sale market. Those of us without deep pockets have to find some way of financing a new purchase!

If money is a real problem, but you still want to be involved in QRP without taking out a second mortgage, there are alternatives.  Building a kit is one of them.  Dave Benson, owner of Small Wonder Labs offers several kits that will yield you a high quality radio when you are done building, without breaking the bank. Another source to consider is Rex Harper's QRPMe kits  Rex offer Tuna Tin 2s, companion receivers and accessories at amazingly low prices.  Yes, these aren't deluxe-do-everything radios, but if your budget is tight, sometimes you have to go with what you can.

If you can spend a little more, then there is always the aforementioned Hendricks QRP Kits, Elecraft and Oak Hills Research for more expensive, but more feature packed radio kits. And I am sure there are others that I have not mentioned here - again, you can always Google "QRP kits" and do some exploring yourself.

The bottom line is that QRP can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be.  But the great thing about this facet of Amateur Radio is that a huge, horse choking bank roll is not needed to get started or to keep enjoying it.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

This is a good thing

Looks like the 40 Meter QRN is going to knock me out of the QRP-L Foxhunt for tonight - again!  It's a good thing I am 80 Meter capable.  In a bit, I'll go down and get a few QSOs in the log before turning in for the night.

The good thing, that I mention in the post title is that I am noticing that as I spend more time on the air, I spend less time on the Web.  And the time I do spend on the Web, is Amateur Radio related.  I might check Facebook for a minute or two just to see what Ham friends are up to, but not much more than that.  And the news sites are filled with politics and sensationalism, which gets my blood boiling, so I am better off staying away from those, too.  There hasn't been true news coverage in this country for decades anyway, as today everything is either infotainment or an editorial disguised as news.

Blogging about Ham Radio, e-mail and Ham Radio Web pages - what more could you want, anyway?  Well, if you're not a Ham, a lot more I suppose; but ..........

By the way, before I forget to mention this . For those of you out there who enjoyed operating the K6JSS/X stations in 2011 - please take note that you only have until February 29th to send in your logs for a certificate denoting your accomplishments.  The details can be found here.  Don't feel that just because you didn't work all 50 that you'll be left out in the cold.  Nothing could be further from the truth, my friends!  If you worked as few as 20 states, you are still entitled to a piece of wallpaper for your humble shack.

I finally did a formal count of the K6JSS/X stations that I worked in 2011.  I ended up working 47 states. The three that I missed were South Dakota, New Mexico and Oregon (how the heck did I miss Oregon?).

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Coming soon to an outdoor venue near you!

Courtesy of Rem K6BBQ - Amateur Radio video maker of note:



BTW, the rules for the contest that K6BBQ is speaking of can be found here.  That's right folks, save the date - February 4th - one week from this Saturday!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another 80 Meter night

40 Meters and 20 Meters were quite loud with neighborhood QRN - so 80 Meters was my refuge once again.  Even so, it took me quite a while to get a QSO in.  Activity seemed to be on the light side.  Maybe the ionosphere is still a little bit hootsy from the CME the other day?

I ended up having a nice chat with Phil W8OZM from Willowick, Ohio.  Willowick is between Erie. PA and Cleveland, Ohio - right close to the shores of Lake Erie.  In about 20 minutes however, the band began to change and increased QRN and QRM on Phil's end cut our QSO short.

Speaking of QRN, Mike VE3WDM posted a YouTube video that he made on his blog. It shows the MFJ1026 noise cancelling unit in action.  Watching and listening, it seems like Mike's situation is akin to what I am facing here.  I will probably end up purchasing one of these units. Of course, the ideal solution is to find the offending device in the neighborhood and see if anything can be done,  If it ends up being a plasma TV, like I think it is, I am wondering what the reaction would be on behalf of the owner.  Up until a few years ago, if you knocked on a neighbor's door and politely explained the situation, you might get some help.  These days, it seems that confrontation and anger are all the rage. Pardon the pun.

The reason I think it's a TV is that this noise on 40 Meters (and to a lesser degree on 20 Meters) seems to occur during "prime time" on a lot, but not all, weeknights; and usually when there's football on, on Sunday afternoons during football season.  Saturday afternoons and weekday afternoons, right up until prime time, the bands are very usable here.

KX3 update - It was mentioned on the KX3 reflector that for the first few weeks, the pre-assembled units are going to get priority as far as shipping goes.  So now I am thinking probably late March or early April before I see anything. I guess in the end, getting my order in within the first hour after orders were being accepted didn't mean as much as I thought it would. Oh well, it is what it is. Patience is a virtue - I keep reminding myself that!  :)

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

80 Meters and the CME

Coronal Mass Ejection or not; I was successful in bagging both Foxes in the 80 Meter Fox Hunt tonight. Paul AA4XX and Drew K9CW have magnificent ears.  I cannot know what band conditions are like at their QTHs, but I am finding 80 Meters to be significantly more noisy than normal.  I guess the ionosphere is still in a tizzy after Ol' Sol's bout of solar indigestion yesterday.

Before the Fox Hunt, I took a few minutes to check with Ham Radio Deluxe to see exactly what I need for CQ's WAZ Award.  I need six more zones.  As luck would have it, they're all on the opposite side of the globe (of course).  Would be nice to have a beam like WA8REI's.  BTW, if you want to see it, it is a thing of beauty, He has posted a picture on his blog.

Hopefully, conditions will just keep getting better and the vertical and wire will be able to cut it. Ah, to have band conditions like they had back in the late 50's.  The stories that I have been told!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Log of the World can be used for CQ awards

This is the skinny straight from the ARRL:

"The ARRL and CQ Communications, Inc have signed an agreement to begin providing support for CQ-sponsored operating awards by the ARRL’s Logbook of the World (LoTW) electronic confirmation system. The agreement was announced jointly today by ARRL Chief Operating Officer Harold Kramer, WJ1B, and CQ Communications President Richard Ross, K2MGA.

CQ’s awards will be the first non-ARRL awards supported by LoTW and will be phased in beginning with the CQ WPX award, with additional CQ awards to follow. The ARRL’s LoTW system -- an interactive database recording contacts between radio amateurs -- was created in 2003 and has been adopted by 47,500 radio amateurs worldwide. It already has records of 400 million contacts and is growing weekly. The target date for beginning LoTW support for WPX is April 1, 2012. Amateurs will be able to use LoTW logs to generate lists of confirmed contacts to be submitted for WPX credit. Standard LoTW credit fees and CQ award fees will apply.

ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, observed that this step gives radio amateurs throughout the world an inexpensive and convenient means of gaining credits toward CQ’s popular operating awards: “LoTW has significantly increased interest and participation in the ARRL’s DXCC, Worked All States and VUCC awards programs. We anticipate a similarly positive response to the addition of the CQ WPX award. Amateurs will be able to spend more time operating and less time chasing QSL cards.”

CQ President Richard Ross, K2MGA, said he is very pleased to be able to move forward with LoTW support for CQ awards. “We have had excellent results with electronic confirmations for several years,” he explained. “I am glad that we are now able to begin expanding that convenience to those participants in our award programs who use Logbook of The World. We look forward to a smooth launch for WPX and to the expansion of LoTW support to include the rest of our award programs, as well.”

Personally, I never kept track of any progress with any of the CQ awards.  I would guess the one that I would be closest to accomplishing would be Worked All Zones; but I'm probably not even close to that, either.  It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Out of 7,209 QSO records that I have posted to LotW, I only have 1,417 QSL records. Not exactly a great rate of return.  Maybe the ARRL is hoping that this will bring in more users.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Whoa!

I'm sitting on 3.560 MHz listening for 80 Meter QRPers and all of a sudden an ear splitting tone comes on frequency.  Then I hear some SSB, weakly in the background.  I quickly changed the K2 over to LSB and I hear KB2H calling "CQ 75 Meters".  Wow - that can't be right!  According to QRZ, Lou lives on the North shore of Long Island, so he's not that far away from me. Must be something wrong with his rig somewhere? Maybe he doesn't realize the split button is on? (I've done that !!!!)  I looked him up on QRZ looking for an e-mail, so I could let him know that he's coming in quite clearly in the CW portion of the band; but none was listed.  This would have been a good time to have a rig that could do SSB. If anyone reading this knows him - I think it would be a good idea to let him know that he's generating some signal all the way down in the CW portion of the band.

I stopped on the way home from work at the electronics store and picked up the two components that I needed.  I soldered them in and was able to do the "Stage 1" smoke test on my NE QRP Nescaf filter.  Upon hooking up my 12V SLA, nothing blew up, so that was a good sign.  All the voltages at all the listed check points were spot on, so I guess I can proceed to the next stage, building the Audio Amplifier stage.

Two nice QSOs tonight. One with Ken WA8REI on 40 Meters. His signal was blasting into New Jersey again courtesy of his Yagi antenna.  I think Ken is going to be spoiled by the beam and might not want to go back to plain ol' vanilla wires after too much longer.  It's a good thing our QSO ended when it did, though, because not more than 5 minutes later, the over S9 local QRN reared its ugly head.

I switched down to 80 Meters and had a nice 2X QRP QSO with Craig N4PLK at the 80 Meter watering hole.  After the QSO with Craig, I've just been monitoring, and that's when I began to hear KB2H call CQ. And from what I can make out, Lou is in QSO with a W4 station, so I think the spur, or whatever it is being generated way down here may be quite unknown to him.  Wish there was a way I could let him know.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My eyes

are not what they used to be, that is for sure.  I re-started building my NE QRP Nescaf filter kit this afternoon.  Last time I started, all I managed to get installed were the three IC sockets, before I got called away to work on something else.


This afternoon, I began to solder components in.  And of course, I misplaced a resistor and a capacitor since I unpacked it so many months ago.  Looks like a trip to the local electronics store on the way home from work tomorrow.


But back to the title of this post.  My eyes are not what they used to be.  I used to use a binocular magnifier just to read the printed info on capacitors, ICs and transistors.  Now I seem to need them for reading the component designations of the PC board itself.  And they are a must now for soldering and checking for solder bridges. My bifocals don't seem to be doing the job by themselves, anymore.  It's probably time for another trip to the eye doctor, anyway.


In between soldering components in, I got two QSOs in the log to count for January 23rd, as they were after 7:00 PM local time.  One was with P48ADI in Aruba on 40 Meters.  He was very loud into New Jersey - 599 Plus.  I was calling and calling and calling with no luck.  That seemed strange to me as Aruba is a very easy go from New Jersey (most of the time).  On a hunch, I decided to switch from the EDZ to the Butternut - cha ching!  First shot - go figure.  On 40 Meters, the wire is usually a better player than the vertical; but maybe I am going to have to re-examine that theory with a little more experimentation.

I switched over to 80 Meters and to my delight, my CQ was answered by Jim W1PID, who was my first QSO for 2012 back on SKN.  We had a nice chat for just over a half an hour.  It's always super nice to run into Jim; and the QSOs are never boring or routine.  In fact, they're the kind of QSOs you wish would go on for a while.

So for the week ahead, I have to get over to Greenbrook Electronics to pick up a few 4.7 Ohm resistors and some 33uF capacitors (I only need one of each; but can you imagine heading up to the cash register with just one of each?).  And I also have to make an appointment with the eye doctor.

Getting old is a pain.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snowy day

But not bad - only about three inches of the fluffy white stuff.  Enough to make for a nice day at home where I was able to spend some time behind the K2, instead of running around all day like a chicken with my head cut off.

When I got on for a small morning session, 15 Meters was nicely open.  I worked Pavel OK1MU from the Czech Republic who was very loud into NJ - 599 Plus.  A funny thing happened though.  When I sent out my call in answer to his CQ, upon answering me, he immediately knew my name and asked me if I was running QRP.  I'm used to people knowing my name, as it's so easy with logging programs tied to call book sites.  But the QRP question threw me.  I guess he was a quick read of my QRZ bio.

17 Meters was open too; and I was able to work Andy LX1DA in Luxembourg. Later in the day I went back to 15 Meters and worked YN7SU in Nicaragua.  HK0NA was loud as anything on 17 Meters; but I was not able to break the pileup, which spanned a whole 10 kHz.  I'm still hoping to get into their log before they leave in early February.

In two weeks, it will be time for FYBO, the first big QRP event of 2012.  The rules can be found here.  There's a new mobile category and that's how I'm thinking of operating this year.  Buddistick on the magmount on top of the Jeep, hooked up to the PFR3A.  The way this Winter is going, it will be interesting to see what the temperature will be that day.  It wouldn't surprise me if it was 58F ...... or 22F.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A new challenge

After reading Ron AE5NO's post "CQ Panama" on AmateurRadio.com, and the Stan Horzepa WA1LOU's latest post, "Doing Something New" on the ARRL Website, I decided to give a closer look see into this ARRL Diamond DXCC Challenge. This challenge is to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the DXCC program.


Psssssst...... so here's the low down.  The Diamond DXCC Challenge is very much like the Millennium DXCC Challenge that was held back in the year 2000.  The difference here is that you have all of 2012 to work 100 DXCC entities that existed back in 1937, the inaugural year of the DXCC program.  For the entities that no longer exist, you get to work their present day equivalents - for instance, since Abyssinia no longer exists today (but did in 1937), working present day Ethiopia counts for the same thing, and so on and so on and so on.  There's a complete list of entities and equivalents available at the ARRL Website.

Sounds cool, right?  It will definitely be a challenge to see if I can do this QRP.  There are several caveats.  There are no endorsements, per se, only for the amount of countries worked.  So I can't get an endorsement for doing this using QRP and all CW; but I'd be able to get stickers for working 125, 150, 175 countries and so on (like THAT's going to happen!). Also, this is totally on the "Honor System" - no QSLs required.

I know to a lot of you out there, that cheapens or invalidates the award,  There was a big discussion about this on QRP-L a couple of days ago with regards to QRP DXCC, which doesn't require QSL proof either.  But I have "regular" DXCC and QRP DXCC and DXCC Millennium; and I'm just as proud of the last two as I am the first.  I know I worked 'em all, QSLs or no - I wouldn't have applied otherwise. Geez, if you can't be honest with yourself about something like this - then I don't know what to say. How desperate can you be for a piece of wallpaper?

So this should definitely be fun, and should definitely fit right in with the program of getting on the air more this year.  Not only making more QSOs on a regular basis; but applying myself much more diligently during the major DX contests seems to be in order this year.  It's always nice to have a goal to work towards.

In a different vein, tonight I had the most delightful rag chew with Jim K4AXF down in Grottoes, VA.  Jim and I are both participants in the QRP Foxhunts.  It was good to finally be able to sit and chew the fat in a relaxed manner as opposed to just sending "599 NJ LARRY 5W".  Like that conveys a lot of information.  But for our QSO on 80 Meters tonight, the band was in superb Winter time condition and Jim was 599 Plus all the way.

Speaking of Winter time conditions - snow tonight into tomorrow. Ugh!  The weather prognosticators are saying anywhere between three to eight inches before turning over to that ever lovin' "wintry mix" of snow, sleet, and freezing rain.  I hope they're wrong and that they have to send reporters all over creation just to find one flake.

But if they are right, then maybe I can hunker down and stay inside all day and play radio.  Gotta look for that silver lining!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Not a bad life, if you can get away with it!


Thanks to fellow RVRC and ETS of NJ member, Don K2DSV for sharing.

My evening was spent on good ol' 80 Meters tonight as 40 Meters had that unfortunate 20dB over S9 QRN on it tonight (so no 40 Meter Foxhunt for W2LJ).  But ...... wow!  The pickin's were very sparse!  Not many signals at all on 80.  I did have one QSO with a fellow who cut it very short after I told him he had a 579C signal.  He asked what the "C" was for, and I honestly told him he had some pretty bad chirp on his signal.  I went from being "FB COPY" to pretty hard to hear in a matter of seconds.  I guess he didn't appreciate being told that he had a less than optimal signal.  But what are you supposed to do .... lie?

So I went looking for another QSO, but as we used to say, (at the risk of offending PETA folks or other animal lovers) that you could swing a dead cat without running into anyone.  My CQ was finally answered by Randy KX1NH and we had a bit of a chat. That call, which is so distinctive, had clearly stuck in my mind. And the reason his call stuck in my gray matter is that we just worked each other Sunday evening in the Run for The Bacon.  And it turns out that this is the same Randy who used to be K2VT, with whom I have QSOed MANY times before.

When Randy moved to New Hampshire, he acquired his neat call.  I mean really ..... how cool is KX1NH?  It's not the kind of call that you are going to easily forget once you've worked him.  IMHO, that was a stroke of genius on Randy's part to obtain a call like that.  Rarish prefix, nice rhythm on CW, and distinctive with regard to his QTH.  A tip of my hat to Randy! Oh, and Randy's daughter's call?  K2KID !!!

And by the way, that QSO with Randy was number 95 for 2012.  I know, I know ..... a lot of you out there can do 95 QSOs while taking a catnap on a Saturday afternoon, while standing on one leg and with one arm tied behind your back.  But the last couple of years, my QSO count was pretty well below average compared to what I'm usually used to.  So while this is nothing to write home about (but that's kind of what I'm doing, aren't I?), it's very good compared to where I was at this point in 2010 and 2011.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January NAQCC Sprint


I had a meeting to attend tonight that lasted way longer than I had anticipated.  It didn't let out until close to 10:00 PM.  By the time I got home, there was only 15 minutes left of NAQCC Sprint time left.  With that, I made 5 QSOs.  I can only imagine what a nice total I could have had if I had the full two hours!  Oh well, maybe next month.

One of my goals for this year was to increase my activity.  A good way to do that is to participate in these monthly QRP Sprints - the Run For the Bacon, NAQCC, ARS Spartan Sprint.  I am also going to do my darndest this year to participate in the "other" Sprints - FYBO, FOBB, QRP-ARCI events, MI QRP events and the like.  Not to win, as I don't have the aluminum in the air to be a serious contender; but as a "Giver of Points", I should be in good shape.  And then there are the social events like the Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Events - I am hoping all these will help for a healthy year, Amateur Radio-wise.

I am sure you have noticed a lot of Web sites that have been talking about SOPA and PIPA.  I think these laws were proposed with good and noble intentions in mind; but as written, are too likely to fall prey to "The Law of Unintended Consequences".  For a good explanation of all this, I would direct you here.  I am not good at explaining stuff like this, but this file is a good comprehensive read.  If you don't want to see a lot of good material that is available on the Web, up and disappear, it really is time to let your legislators know how you feel. This would affect ALL of us.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kudos to 4RN

Sitting here trying to work Dale WC7S, the "second Fox" in the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunt. I already grabbed a pelt from Jim N0UR.  All of a sudden, without warning 4RN tries to call up the net on frequency, right on top of Dale.  A cacophony of "QRL"s and "PSE QSY"s erupted from many of the Hounds.  And lo and behold, they did!

I wish the WVN (West Virginia Net) was as compliant.  When the NCS came on frequency, calling up the net without a "QRL?" and I in turn did send a "QRL", I was answered with a "YES".  I guess he couldn't grasp the fact that I wasn't asking; but was telling. The lack of a "?" on my part should have been an indicator. Sigh.

And ....the 2012 streak is still going, 17 days into January. Over half the month is over and I've made at least one QSO each day so far.  Many days, I've made more. Woo Hoo - big deal, right?

The other day, I successfully worked the PJ4C DXpedition.  I caught a look at their Web page today, and to be honest with you, I was kind of amazed.  I was blown away by the scope of their operation. Really - for Bonaire?  I didn't think it was that rare or needed.  But to be honest with you, if I had a shot to go to a Caribbean Island right now, I'd jump at the chance!

Never worked Dale WC7S, by the way.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day off today

I am lucky enough to find myself with a day off from work - as the firm is closed to honor the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..  It will not be an idle day however, as there is always much to do around the house. But as I sit here with a morning cup of coffee, I am glad to be inside as it's only 13F (-10C) here. Now I know a lot of you out there experience much colder temps on a routine basis throughout the Winter; and that you chuckle to yourselves when I mention how cold this seems to us around here.

But keep in mind, only about 25 miles due East of here is that Big Puddle that most folks call the Atlantic Ocean.  It's relatively warm waters tend to keep us pretty warm during the Winter.  For us, going down into or near the single digits is the same as when you get hit with deep minus F temperatures.  In fact, in my 55 years on this big blue marble that we call home, I can only remember a handful of times (if that many) that it actually went below 0F (-17C)

As I mentioned there is plenty do around here; but I still hope to get on for a little this afternoon.  The shack is probably a little to chilly to sit in right now anyway.  When I left the shack at the end of RFTB last night, it was 58F (14C) down there.  Nothing a T-shirt and sweatshirt can't handle; but after a night of frigid temps, it might even be a bit lower.  That will moderate as the day continues and the house warms up - I do have to get a fire going in the fireplace soon - next chore.

I noticed this morning that last night, Doug Hendricks announced a new kit at QRPKits.com - a 41dB Step RF Attenuator.


This looks like a really nice unit.  A lot more elegant than the mish-mosh attenuators that I used to jury rig back in the day.  All the details can be found here.

If any of you get QST, you may have noticed in the February 2012 edition that one of our own has an article in it.  Par excellant QRPer, Mert Nellis WØUFO (fellow Flying Piggie) has a very FB article entitled "Characterizing Solar Panels for Amateur Radio Applications".  Mert appears on many lines in my log book, as I have worked him in many QRP Sprints.  I always get a kick when someone in the QRP community gets good mention in any of the Amateur Radio publications.  It's kind of like "knowing the celebrity" if you know what I mean - how cool is that?


You might be thinking to yourself, "Hey Larry, that's old news, I've had my QST for weeks now".  That's another thing I wanted to mention.  I always seems to be the last person, out of the folks that I know, that gets their copy of QST.  I wonder if that's strictly a zip code issue, or as a Life Member, the League feels that I'm not going anywhere - so we get ours last?   ...... Strange things that go through my mind while the coffee kicks in.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

The January RFTB was fun

The January edition of the Flying Pigs Run For The Bacon QRP Sprint was fun.  Activity seemed to be on the light side; but that might be from a lot of folks being exhausted after a full day of playoff football. Conditions were strange too. Deep QSB made it seem like a station that was in the clear and loud one second, was gone the next.

As I write this, there are 10 minutes to go in the Sprint. The K2 is merrily pounding out "CQ FP DE W2LJ" on 80 Meters. But to be honest, I don't expect another QSO between now and 0400 UTC.  So I ended up with 14 QSOs (6 on 40 Meters, 8 on 80 Meters) in the log, with 11 different states/provinces worked.

Below appears a map of my effort for the night.  The only thing incorrect is that Don K3RLL was operating from Florida, not his normal QTH of Pennsylvania.  The biggest disappointment of the night was not working KX9X.  He was very loud into New Jersey; but for whatever reason, I just could not make myself heard with either the EDZ or the HF9V.


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I'm a card carrying member of the GOP

and when I say this, I'm not talking about political parties - I mean the "Giver of Points" Party.

I spent some time this evening handing out points to stations running in the North American QSO Party.  Just hunting and pouncing, handing out points here and there. Doing this, I re-affirmed three things.

1) In contest situations like this, it's relatively easy to get used to sending and receiving faster than your normal "comfort zone".  This is a great activity for those of us trying to increase our code speed.  By my fifth or sixth contact I was exchanging with stations at a rate significantly higher than my normal rag chew speed.

2) I was glad to see a goodly number of my contacts popping up in my log as NAQCC, SKCC, QRP-ARCI and Flying Pig members.  Obviously, I had worked these stations before in the various QRP Sprints.  These folks obviously have the contesting bug and it's good to see them in a non-QRP contest, too.

3) That even though I did not join the contest for any significant effort, it is still a lot of fun to make a lot of contacts in a relatively short period of time.  Not only do I build up my log, but I also get to see how the bands are, how propagation is and where the loudest signals are coming from.  I also get to switch between antennas and see how they stack up against each other, giving me have a feel for what works better in what situations. Not a bad teaching tool.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Baby, it's cold outside!

I have been spoiled by our relatively dry and warmish Winter.  Tonight, however, the winds are howling and the temperatures have been dropping all day like a stone.  Right now it's 25F (-3C) and if you step outside without the proper protection (ie. jacket, gloves, hat, earmuffs) it feels even more bitterly cold.  The weekend temperatures are supposed to be lower than normal; and certainly lower than they have been up to this point.

I recently finished a QSO with N3YWQ who has it not only windy, but snowy too - so things can always be worse, I guess. Conditions are good tonight; but I'm not having much luck.  I tried working a couple of European stations at the bottom of 40 Meters, but am not being heard.  I'm so tired from a hard day of work; maybe my heart's not in it tonight.

BUT..........Sunday night is Run For The Bacon night - so keep that in mind.  If you're new to the QRP game and am wondering what the heck I am jabbering about - RFTB is the monthly Sprint held by the Flying Pigs Amateur Radio Club International.  It's held the third Sunday evening (Monday morning UTC) of every month.  No pressure - just a lot of fun.  The rules are here; and you don't need to be a Flying Pig to partake. Membership in the Flying Pigs is free and it's a great bunch of folks, slightly irreverent at times; but NEVER rude.  Pigs just wanna have fun!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ARRL Quiz

If any of you have been over to the ARRL Website lately, you may have noticed that Ward Silver N0AX posted a quiz about Ham Radio on TV.

Question # 10 is:

10) Which show featured a ham radio phone patch between a soldier and his girlfriend back home?
a. M*A*S*H
b. McHale’s Navy
c. Combat!
d. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Now I didn't get the intended answer on this one, which was a) M*A*S*H, because one of my very early TV memories was this episode of McHale's Navy, which originally aired back on May 19, 1964.  I had recently turned seven years old and obviously, was at a very impressionable age !!!

 

Two things I know now that I didn't know back then - the callsigns used are all whacked out.  Secondly, since McHale's Navy was set in a WWII background, it would have been impossible for a US Radio Amateur to have been on the air.

But it was a great episode and it's my earliest Amateur Radio memory.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Good question

I saw this posted on eHam yesterday as a "stray":

Where is every contester the rest of the week? Week days you have to CQ for 15 minutes to get a good QSO at 15 to 25 wpm.
KF6GC

And you know, it is a very good question.  Some weekends you can't find a place on some of the bands even if you grease yourself up and use a shoehorn. Then, the end of the contest comes and ........ there's silence.  Like most questions of this type, there are no easy answers. And there seldom is one answer.  Why are the bands so dead on any given weeknight, especially when our numbers are supposedly at all time highs?

One reason could be that a lot of contesters are just that - contesters.  That's "their thing" and that's what they want to do.  Sitting down for a rag chew on 40 Meters and gabbing about their latest home improvement project just might not be their cup of tea.

But what about the rest of our community?  Why the lack of signals on HF?

Times change, things change.  Personally, I think when the FCC did away with the Novice License, the emphasis for new Hams really turned away from getting on HF and turned to VHF/UHF operating instead. For years, it seemed the rage was repeaters, repeaters, repeaters, repeaters.  If you asked one of these new ops about setting up an HF station - well, maybe they just weren't so geared up for that.

Society changed.  Your all familiar with the term "disposable income". I think we need a new term - "disposable leisure time".  It's not like the old days anymore, where Dad would come home from work, eat dinner and then go bowling or devote time to some other hobby (such as Amateur Radio!).  Dad's roles have switched from being solely the provider to doing more things, like transporting the kids around, helping around the house, home improvement projects and the like.

And getting back to transporting the kids (and this includes grandkids) around ....... it's not like it was when I was a kid.  You'd come home from school, get your homework done and run out the door to play until your Mom yelled that it was dinner time.  Most parents I know are too worried about the psychos out there to just let their kids run around unsupervised.  The lack of freedom is a shame; but it's become a fact of life.  So,ergo, once again the kids are toted around to supervised events and activities.  That eats heavily into the bank of "disposable leisure time".

There are probably even more factors (like sunspots) that I haven't hit upon yet, that may pop right into your heads.  But the ones I listed above all contribute, I think, to the lack of HF activity (compared to how it used to be).

So what to do about it?  I think you have to just make a conscience effort to get on the air more, anytime you can, as much as you can.  Other than that, there's no magic bullet or cure. Heck, I should know - I'm guilty myself!

See you on the bands!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

So cool!

While reading Dave K2DSL's blog today, I came across a tool that I was not previously aware of. Dave has made available a utility where you can generate a map from an ADIF file.

So, I figured, "What the heck?"

I made an ADIF file of part of the QSOs that I had during 2011 and generated a map.


But wait, there's more!  Dave's utility allows you to download a KML  file with which you can open using Google Earth, and do some playing around there.  It seems that my antennas seem to favor an axis that runs NorthEast to SouthWest relative to my QTH.


This is so neat!  Thanks, Dave!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, January 09, 2012

As seen on eBay

Pins for sale by Joe KK5NA:


I should buy one - they're only $3.59 plus shipping. But:

A) My Ham friends might think I was being snobby.
B) My gun friends would think I was buying a flash suppressor, which would be strange, as I don't own a gun. But in their world a KX3 is the model of a flash supressor.
C) My "regular" friends wouldn't know what the heck I was advertising.

The neighborhood QRN is gone from 40 Meters tonight. Unfortunately, I am tuning around and not hearing all that much activity. I hear Bob N4BP down in the low end calling "CQ DX" and he's blowing my ears off. But not much going on around 7.030 or 7.040 MHz, the two QRP watering holes.  Fortunately, I did manage two brief contacts on 80 Meters with a K3Y station and W8ST, so the streak lives another day.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Streaks

I got on 80 Meters tonight, determined to keep my streak going.  I've been on the air each day since the New Year began, as part of my resolution to get on the air more. I did the MOCAD (Make One Contact A Day) thing successfully back in 2005.  That was tough enough, dealing with work, two young kids, solar storms, etc, etc, etc.  And I am bound and determined to try and do it again this year. Human nature being what it is, it's way too easy to get lazy and find excuses to not get on the air.

So here I am, proud of myself for getting on every day for a stinking, measly week, when I run into John K3WWP.  The same K3WWP who is the Streak Master, having made at least one CW QRP QSO each day for over 17 years. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that - at least one CW QRP QSO for over 6.300 days!

After a very nice chat with John, I ran into Gary N2ESE with whom I had the pleasure to QSO with last week.  During this rag chew, I find out that Gary is running his own streak - at least two CW QSOs a day since November 2006.  That's over five years now!

So here I am, feeling pleased with my own lil' week of operating only to be returned to earth after working two fine amateurs who make my efforts look pretty putrid by comparison.  But, working these fine folks is quite an inspiration to keep this going.  Not that I am going to do it for years - but at least A year, once again.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

A few QSOs

But not nearly enough time spent on the radio today, there were just too many things to do.

I had hoped to participate in the Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Event by putting together a portable station using my Buddistick in conjunction with my magmount, using the Jeep as a groundplane.  W3BBO has been doing this, using his Buddistick on a mount on his car instead of a normal Hamstick radiator, and has been getting great results, including working Fiji the other day!

The weather would have been great for this, too.  A high of 60F (15C) and sunshine. It felt more like April than January.  If Winter keeps up like this, I will not be sad; but sooner or later, you just know we'll have to  "pay the piper" for this.

So I ended up just operating from the shack in between chores.  Fortunately, I dd make two Polar Bear contacts - Scotty N0AZN on 15 Meters and Ken WA8REI on 20 Meters who had an absolutley MONSTER signal due to his new Mosely Yagi that went up yesterday.  599 +++++++ into New Jersey, Ken!

In between the two of them, I also managed to work WT5RZ who was running a SOTA (Summits on the Air) station.  The signal was weak here - 339 at best.

I would like to take advantage of 40 Meters for a rag chew tonight as the neighborhood QRN is not bad tonight.  The folks with the plasma TV must be at the movies. Hi!  But the RTTY Roundup has digital signals all the way down to 7.030 MHz.

Switching on down to 80 Meters yielded a QSO with Bob W1IS from Stow, MA, near Boston, who was pumping 100 mW into the aether with a homebrew rig. Good enough for a 559C signal into NJ.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very

Friday, January 06, 2012

Friday night - best time of the week!

Work is officially done for the week; and the possibilities for a great weekend lie ahead. That's why Friday night is the best part of the week!

After dinner, I came down to the shack to get in my QSO for January 7th. Still going strong the first week of January, having made more than one QSO each day of 2012 so far.

80 Meters is barren and 40 Meters has digital signals coming down to about 7.035 MHz.  If I remember correctly, the first weekend of January is the ARRL RTTY Roundup, so 40 Meters might be useless this weekend.  But on the other hand, 30 Meters is wide open!  I heard SV2GNC, Mike in Kilkis calling CQ with not many takers.  Fortunately, my 5 Watts out of my 88' EDZ was heard immediately.  Mike and I worked back in April of 2011, so I am already in his log, which explains the immediate "GE LARRY".

A little up the band, I can hear HK1N working stations.  He's doing a bit more than "Wham Bam TNX 599" QSOs, so why do other folks insist on sending their call out before he's done?  Is that what we've come to - such short QSOs without the possibility of any real talking?  Stepping on each other mindlessly, just to get another QSO in the log?  Even though the pile up became a bit insane, I managed to get through at 01:53 UTC and got Jim in the log.  It's so nice when a QSO with a DX station is even just a wee bit more than a signal report.

This weekend is the Polar Bear's Moonlight Madness Event - the PBMME.  I hope to get out for a few minutes tomorrow afternoon and try something different, inspired by my good friend W3BBO. If it's successful, I will post about it tomorrow night.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Thank God for 80 Meters!

Because the QRP Foxhunt on 40 Meters was a bust.  20 over S9 noise.  Unless you were three houses down from me, beaming a kilowatt towards me, I wasn't about to hear you.

But on 80 Meters, for the previous almost an hour, I had engaged in a really FB QSO with Gary N2ESE.  Gary is also a New Jersey resident, all of about 26 miles from me.  We've worked each other in many a Sprint; but this was a nice change of pace.  Gary's TenTec Omni was putting a 599 +++ signal into the aether and for another evening, the copy was armchair quality.

Earlier in the evening, I was perusing the latest QST, CQ and Sprat.  Gosh, I wish I had the ability to come up with designs and circuits like the guys who write articles for those publications.  Not everyone can be a KD1JV, I guess.  The rest of us have to be content building the designs of the trailblazers.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Making time for air time.

So far, this new year of 2012 (only five days old), I have been on the air, each day.  I don't know how long I can keep this up due to family or work commitments, but we'll see.

Tonight I had the most delightful rag chew with Eric WA3QWT who lives in Butler, PA. Butler is the home of a pretty good hamfest, according to my friends W3BBO and K3WWP; so we had something to talk about.  Eric was in the mood for a rag chew too, so we went from there and were on the air for a total of about 40 minutes or so. I remember hours long rag chews when I was a Novice; but in today's QSOs of "599 TNX QRZ?" - this seemed like one of those long ago gabfests.

Eric has been licensed for over 40 years, but came back to the hobby recently after a hiatus.  He was using his new Kenwood TS-590 to a doublet fed with 450 Ohm window line. His signal never waivered from 599. And I got a 559 report in return - copy was armchair quality all the way on both sides.

I love QSOs like this - to me, this is what this hobby is all about.  It doesn't get any better than this - well, yes it does - but that's another story.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Winter is here!

I must say, that throughout November and December, we have enjoyed quite warm (comparatively) weather for this time of year.  January has brought Winter, with a vengeance.  The temperatures started dropping on Sunday, along with a mighty wind, which made it feel colder than it actually was.  Right now, as I type this, it is 21F (-6C) and it is supposed to go as low as perhaps 14F tonight (-10C).

In a way, this is a shame, as tonight (tomorrow morning) is supposed to be the peak of the Quadrantid Meteor shower.  NASA has reported that the possibility exists for us in the Northern Hemisphere to see about 100 shooting stars an hour around the 2:30 AM peak. I indeed, think that this would be neat to view; but I highly doubt that I am going to brave the frigid cold temps to do it. Many years ago, in my pre-high school days, I dreamed of being an astronomer one day.  Then I met higher Math. He didn't like me - and to tell the truth, I didn't care for him too much, either.

So I will probably content myself with trying to work one of the two 80 Meter Foxes tonight, either Rick NK9G or Jim WA4ILO - or even perhaps both if I am lucky enough.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Addendum - Got both Foxes within one hour of the start of the hunt. Band conditions were good tonight - not much QRN at all.  BUT, it's 59F (15C) down here in the shack. I'm going and getting under the nice, warm covers!  Brrrrrr !!!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

SKN was definitely fun!

2012 started out on a good note, with Straight Key Night being a total blast!

Right off the bat, you know the year will be a good one as far as QRP matters go, when your first QSO for the New Year is with  Jim W1PID.  When you start off the year working one of QRP's best, how can things go bad?

I had a great QSO with Grant AA9LC who was using a homebrewed TAK-40 that he built after seeing the article in an issue of QST.  Grant was running 40 Watts to an Inverted Vee and his rig sounded so sweet! The fact that he was using a WWII vintage British Mark III Straight Key was like icing on the cake.



On New Year's Eve, I also had the pleasure of working K3Y/8, Dave in West Virginia. K3Y is the Special Event station held every January to commemorate the founding of the SKCC, Straight Key Century Club.  You will find them active in each USA call district; so if you hear them, give them a shout.

Today, during New Year's day, I had several more nice QSOs including one with FM/F6AUS who is currently in Martinique.  This QSO was on 12 Meters, so the higher bands were open during the afternoon. A little later in the day, I had a delightful rag chew with Ron W3GIS who lives in Maryland.  Ron is retired from the Federal Government; but still lives in the DC suburbs.  Our chat was on 40 Meters and was really nice. As I've said so many times, there's nothing like a great rag chew.

Later this evening, I was calling CQ on 40 Meters and was answered by Ken WA8REI.  Ken was loud into NJ tonight.  But just to show how volatile the bands can be, Ken went from a loud 589 to a mere ESP 229 in the span of less than 10 minutes.  That's almost the blink of an eye, and Ken was using 50 Watts to my 5 Watts. So in turn, I went from 559 to NIL in the same amount of time. I sure hope Ken was able to copy my final "73 ES HNY".

But all in all, it was a relaxing day behind the radio; and in honor of SKN, all my QSOs were made using my Vibroplex Original bug that I restored a few years ago.  Even though I haven't practiced with it all that much lately, I fell into a good rhythm with it and it was a nice change of pace from the keyer and paddles.  I will try to use it a lot this year.


Rich WB9LPU's, BugNapper makes it a joy to use, even at such "slow speeds" (for a bug) like 20 WPM.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Happy New Year !!!!!


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!