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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Field Day - this the way to do it.

Field Day, as it should be. QRP, fun and good friends.  This is a wonderful example of putting out the maximum effort to get the most out "of sending the very least!"




I've worked these fine folks individually many times over the years. It's so nice to be able to put faces and voices to the people "behind the code".

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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Radials done!

For now at least!  ;)

After mowing the lawn early this afternoon, I finished the job that I had started the other evening. I finished getting my new set of radial wires down for my Butternut vertical.

My first set, put down so many years ago, consisted of a set of 25 foot  (8 Meter) long wires, fanned out from the base of the Butternut. If memory serves me correctly, I originally put 25 radials down. They have long since disappeared under the lawn, but I know for a fact that two were damaged over the course of the years. One by me, and one by our dog.

Today, I put another dozen wires down, but these were not 25 footers. Today, I laid down wires as long as I could to the opposite end of the back lawn. In all, I put down approximately 650 feet (198 Meters) worth of wire. I used up what I had leftover from last time and entirely used up a brand new 500 foot spool of 14 gauge wire.

I still need to buy another bag of landscaping pins, so that I can secure the wires to the ground s little more securely in several areas. There are a few spots where I believe the lawn mower wheels might push the wire around, unless it's secured a little better.

So that makes a total of 37 radials down around my Butternut. Someday, I'd like to get that total closer to 60. I have read in several articles that 60 is the magic number, where adding more than that causes no significant increase in benefit.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summertime and the living is easy .......

The day started out hazy, warm and humid. As I parked my car at work this morning, I was able to see the haze just hanging in the air, against the dark background of the trees. According to Google, humidity at the time was 91% - almost like being in a shower.

This is the type of summer weather that you get accustomed to if you live in New Jersey for any extended period of time. While it is expected, it can make a Ham's life .... interesting, to say the least. Antennas are left disconnected, as you never know when a thunderstorm is going to pop up. And pop up they do, swiftly - and seemingly without a lot of warning. Just yesterday, we had two bouts - one near 4:00 PM and another around 7:00 PM, complete with lightning, thunder rumbles and heavy downpours. The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for just about all of New Jersey, effective until 10:00 PM tonight. Summer in NJ - you gotta love it!

This weather is also making my radial project interesting. Kneeling down on a wet lawn, in order to secure the wire to the earth is, well .... just so much fun. The bright side is that the grass will grow much quicker in these tropical conditions, and as a result, the green colored insulation will disappear into the lawn all that much faster. My wife will appreciate that.

Pickings were slim at lunchtime. There were many signals on 17 Meters. But it seemed like it was a case of either,

A) It was a new station and I wasn't being heard, or
B) It was a station that I had already worked before.

As a personal rule, I try to avoid working the same DX stations over and over on the same band. I would much rather someone else get the chance to put that particular DX station in their log for that band.

I did snare DL6ZXG, Klaus in Derenburg, Germany, receiving a 559 report. From his QRZ page, you can tell that Klaus is quite the active Ham. Not only does he hold 5BDXCC, and the ARRL's Triple Play WAS award, but he also has over 20,000 look ups on QRZ. That shows me that you're on the air a lot!

The lack of working a plethora of stations at lunch time gave me time to snap some photos of the setup, as requested. Nothing exotic or spectacular, which is a good thing. If I can have success with this arrangement, then you can too, with something similar.

Will I earn DX Honor Roll this way? No, of course not, but I will get more than my fair share of fun, and THAT'S the point, isn't it?

I must give credit where credit is due. Bob W3BBO gave me the idea of using my Buddistick on the car this way. Up until then, I had been deploying the Buddistick in a much more "conventional" manner. Bob clued me in about using the car as an enhanced ground plane, and let me tell you - this arrangement makes the Buddistick soar! (That's a W3FFism!) I had never thought of this on my own (duh!) and I will forever be indebted to Bob for his "out of the box" thinking. This works so much better than individual Hamsticks.


Starting to put the Buddistick together in the back of the Jeep. It screws directly onto the magmount.


The Buddistick in place on the roof of the Jeep. 


Buddistick in place, whip extended to full length - rear liftgate open, that's where the station is.


Usually use earbuds, but today I brought along a small speaker and an audio amp. Velamints tin holds the earbuds, the blue box is the battery and my tablet is in the sleeve underneath the battery.


The open liftgate provides some shade.


All those trees have cicadas, which are LOUD!  Undid the speaker and went back to the earbuds ...
 much better!

Yes, this setup is a compromise. But it also means getting on the air quickly for maximum operating time during a one hour lunch break.  The results are decent, and it's better than not getting on the air at all. But most of all, it proves that QRP works - even under less than ideal conditions!

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Some thoughts

Argh! If my head wasn't screwed on, I would probably forget that, too!

Rem K6BBQ wanted me to mention that he has added a SOTA category to this year's inaugural Scorch Your Butt Off contest, coming this July. If you activate a SOTA summit, you can claim an additional 100 points to your SYBO score. Please keep in mind that this has NOTHING to do with your SOTA activation points, this is for your SYBO score only.

I had my last Pastoral Council meeting tonight, so I didn't get the chance to put any more radials down this evening. I have served on the Parish Pastoral Council for the last four years. Two meetings a month, all year around. That may not sound like much, but there are always many peripheral duties involved, as well as peripheral events where attendance was not mandatory, but desired. The normal term of service is three years, but I was asked to, and served for four. Now that these are going to be over, I will be able to attend Amateur Radio club meetings again. I hesitated to in the past, as I always tried to keep away from being out of the house multiple nights a week. To say my attendance of club meetings was sporadic is being generous. It was, for all intent and purpose, non-existant.

This Friday evening is an Electronic Testing Society of NJ meeting. Fancy name for a repeater club meeting, eh? The group is better known as the Greenbrook repeater group, and the meetings are always the last Friday of the month. Even though this would mean being out two evenings this week, I am going to make a best effort to attend, so as to get back into the swing of things.

I also hope to attend a lot more VE sessions when license exam season starts up again in earnest this September. I have always enjoyed being a VE, going back to the days when I regularly attended and volunteered at the sessions that were offered by the Raritan Bay Radio Amateurs.

I had to go to a remote site at work today, so I didn't get in my lunchtime QRP session, so no photos today, maybe tomorrow, weather permitting (but alas, it seems there's a 75% chance of rain for tomorrow).

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Asbotively tropical

Again today, I headed out at lunch time to the car.  It was hot ....  90F again, but this time before I left the building, I checked into WeatherUnderground and saw that the humidity was at 77%.  It was tropical to say the least.  I had a very pleasant QSO on 20 Meters with my good friend and fellow Polar Bear Ken WA8REI.  He was at home on his Mosley, so he was a solid 599+.  Fortunately, the beam was able to rope in my signal and I got a 579 in return.

Ken was enduring the sogginess in Michigan too, and was telling me that he is going to head on up to his trailer "in the country" soon to escape the heat and humidity.  Can't say I blame him.  When I got back to my desk, I felt a bit soggy myself.

Tomorrow, I will bring a camera along with me to snap a few quick photos of the set up in the back of the Jeep.  A few have asked, curious to see exactly how I have the Buddistick set up.

With that much humidity, you know that sooner or later, something has to give.  Around 4:00 PM, we had a prototypical summer afternoon thunderstorm and downpour.  Sad thing is, it really hasn't changed anything, and it feels just as soggy after, as it did before.  No cool fronts will be running through for several days at least.

After dinner, I got the first two radials down.  The lawn was all soggy and while that made things a bit messier than they would be otherwise, at least the gardening pins that I am using to hold down the wires went into the soil like a warm knife through butter.


The wires are screwed down onto to the sink strainer using crimped eyelets, which have been dipped in anti-oxidant paste.  I am using De-Oxit's paste which is the same thing as Butternut's "Butter it's Not" as far as I can tell.  Each is also secured with a star washer.

When all is said and done, I hope to have another 20 radials down which will put me very close to 50 total if count the original 25 I put down years ago.

Oh, I worked Crete for the first time in 13 years this evening.  I heard SV9/SV2FPU calling CQ on 30 Meters (88' EDZ antenna) and I threw out my call. Out of all the stations calling, I was amazed to hear him come back to me!  This also makes the first time I have worked Crete via CW.  Last time, all the way back in 2000, I actually used that mikeyphoney thing.  Don't tell anybody!

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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Got started


When I got home from work, I took Joey to the South Plainfield Community Pool for a bit. We were there for a little while when the air horn sounded. One or more of the lifeguards had seen a flash of lightning, so it was everyone out of the pool.

Once we got home, it started raining, even though I never saw lightning or heard any thunder. The rain precluded me putting down radials, but at least I was able to get a start. I attached the braid that I am using to the sink strainer that will serve as the common connection point for the individual radials. The other end of the braid will of course be hose clamped to the very bottom part of the vertical that is anchored in the earth.

I am hoping that tomorrow evening that I will be able to get the first couple of radials down.

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

It's a good thing.....

It's a good thing that I have my lunchtime QRP opportunities, as lately, I seem to get more "on the air" time from work than I do from home! The weekends seem to be filled with nonstop chores and house responsibilities. Time for Ham Radio is scarce and at a premium.

But during the work week, I get that one hour break for lunch. If I'm lucky, I'll get out to the parking lot to find the bands hopping. This afternoon, I got lucky again.

I started my lunchtime session on 17 Meters, as has become my custom. I was fortunate enough to work two DX stations, S573DX in Slovenia and F5NTV in France.

After finishing with those two, I headed on over to the QRP Watering hole on 20 Meters. Once there, I called CQ for a bit, to be answered by John KG9HV, in Lafayette, IN. We had a nice 2X QRP QSO. I was on the KX3 and Buddistick, while John was using his Kenwood TS-570S to a dipole at 5 Watts. Even though the QSO was plagued by QSB at both ends, we were able to have a very nice conversation. And in fact, when the QSB let up, at times John was actually as good as 589!

The one bad thing about operating from the parking lot is dealing with the weather, kind of like a mini Field Day. It was hot (close to 90F - 32C), and it was the Noon hour, so the sun was at its peak. I didn't feel like wasting gas to run the AC, though, so I just lifted the tail gate (rear door) of the Jeep and allowed it to provide some needed shade. The nice thing was that the building's AC provided a nice refresher ...... after a nice radio session.

Hamlog for Android is perfect for my portable logging needs. It's super easy to use and has so many neat added on tools. I don't even bother with plain paper, anymore. I recommend it highly.

As luck would have it, there's not much to do at home tonight. While it would seem like it would be the perfect opportunity to get on the air, unfortunately there's also a severe thunderstorm watch on until 10:00 PM.  I may get on for a bit; but I'll have to be ready to pull "The Big Switch" at a moment's notice.

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

Peoples is crazy!

When I was a kid, I vaguely remember a comedian on TV, who would say in a thick, mock German accent, "Peoples is crazy!" or something very similar to that.  That line kept running through my mind tonight as I volunteered as a CERT member for South Plainfield Emergency Management at the South Plainfield High School graduation ceremony, held at the football field.

Jost Field - the South Plainfield High School Football Field and Track facility.

We provided a whole bunch of services. We directed people to parking spots, and as it was a hot day - we handed out cold bottled water to anyone who desired it, we provided "a presence" and kept our eyes peeled for anyone who looked like they might get ill or faint, or might otherwise need assistance.

By the end of the ceremony, 260 high school grads received their diplomas after many speeches, much cheering and screaming and hoopla.

The best came at the end of the night, though, as dusk was falling and the near full moon started to rise.  On three separate occasions, I kept spectators from jumping over the chain link fence and running onto the football field to greet their graduates.  In each case, I'm not talking about kids here. I am referring to older "Dad types" who should have known better than to attempt such a stunt.  On each occasion, as the improbable was about to be tried, I simply but firmly stated, "Please go around to the gate and don't jump over the fence."  The first two guys said nothing - and just complied.

The third guy?  Oh, he was a good one. A rather snarky "And why should I listen to you?" was what I got for my request.  Rather than argue, I just very politely asked, "Sir, do you really want your son or daughter to remember their high school graduation night as the time that Dad had to go to the Emergency Room to get stitches in his leg after he cut it while trying to jump the football field fence?" He looked at me, thought about it for half a second and went around to the gate.

Peoples is crazy!

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

Follow up - Saw my fence jumper today at the A&P - yep, the third guy.  While I was shopping, he tapped me on the shoulder, shook my hand, and thanked me for preventing him from doing something "potentially very stupid", as he put it.  Sometimes it's all worth it.

Today was a GOOD lunchtime QRP session.

The good news is that I am comfortable enough at the new job, where now I don't mind heading out to the car to conduct lunchtime QRP sessions. You always kind of wonder at a new place .... what will they say, you know ....... about that guy that sticks the antenna on his car roof and starts doing something with a small radio ..... is he a spy?  A drug dealer?  Some kind of foreign agent?  As it turns out, the parking lot is HUGE and nobody pays me any mind.

The past few days, I was getting skunked. No contacts, and in fact I wasn't even hearing much of anything. And silly me, the last thing I think is "dead bands" - nope, the first thing I think is "Crud!  What did I do to the rig?"  "Did I mess up the antenna?"  Stuff like that - the first thing I think is that it was me,  I screwed something up!

But today ....... today allayed all my concerns.  Today, 17 Meters during lunchtime was almost magical.  In short order I worked Milan OK1KW in Praha in the Czech Republic.  Milan was calling "CQ FISTS" and I answered and we ended up having a very pleasant QSO.  Milan was 589 in NJ and I received a 549 in return.


After ending the QSO with Milan, I heard Frank OV1CDX calling "CQ DX".  I figured to myself, "Hey, I just worked the Czech Republic, so why not Denmark?"  I put my call out  a few times and Frank answered. He was a good strong 599 in NJ and I earned a 559 in return.  Cool - the band was hot!


So now the decision comes about ..... "I have 15 minutes left. Do I tear down and head back in, or do I try for one more?" No contest! Try for one more, as the signals were abundant.  And I did, and I made it!

This time I worked Serge R6YY.  This was the tough one of my session, as I had to send my information to Serge several times.  Thanks to his fantastic ears, we were able to complete the QSO.  Serge was only 579 here in NJ, and I was only 439 in return.  A tough one, but we did it!


Not bad for 5 Watts to a Buddistick mounted on a magmount plunked on the roof of my Jeep, eh?

Next time someone tells you that QRP is a waste of time and that "You'll never work anyone with only 5 Watts", just smile right at them, chuckle to yourself and just walk away.  You'll walk away, and they'll be left standing there, thinking to themselves, "What does he know that I don't?"

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Plans for the weekend

A lot, if not most of you probably have Field Day plans for the weekend. Not me.

There are several clubs in the area that have operations going on, but none really super close. Marianne is working on Saturday, and I don't want to go anyplace farther from home, while leaving the kids home alone.

So, if everything goes according to plan, I want to spend the afternoon putting down more radials for the Butternut. The goal is to get about a dozen to twenty more radials down, after mowing the lawn. That would give me a total of 36 to 46 radials total, depending on how many I get down.

The Butternut really plays well with the current 25 radials that I already have in place. Some more can only make things better.

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Strangeness

While the rest of the blogosphere and Amateur Radio world seems to be having a spit-feckled nutty about Heathkit zombies, I decided to get on the air tonight (only after replacing the towel rack in the XYL's bathroom, mind you).

On 40 Meters, I had a pleasant, but rather taxing QSO with Bruce W1CVE from Providence, RI. Summertime conditions were the rule for 40 Meters with lots of band noise, QRM, QRN and QSB. Despite it all, Bruce and I had a pleasant chat. He was 579 here and I received a 559 in return - not terrible.

On 20 Meters, I had a brief QSO with EW1DJ in Belarus. Alex was 599  here, and I received an honest report of 579 in return (not the automatic 599 DX report that you usually get). For this one instance, the haul from NJ to Belarus was far easier than the haul from NJ to RI. Go figure.

A word about last night's post regarding the tuner and amp for the KX3. In no way did I mean to disparage anyone who has already ordered, or is considering ordering these pieces for their KX3s. If the KX3 is your only radio and you have the funds to afford these, then I am heel clicking, somersault tumbling, high fiving happy for you! I was commenting on my own situation and was not attempting to cast sour grapes upon the Amateur Radio landscape.

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I don't think so

In my e-mail box was a special announcement from Elecraft. Today they announced they were taking orders for the KXPA100 amplifier for the KX3, and the KXAT100, the auto tuner for the amp.

The amp is $700 and the tuner is another $300.

At this point, I don't think these are in the cards for me, for a couple of reasons.

1) Price - I just don't have an extra thousand bucks laying around. Of course, I could always part ways with something, like my K3, but I'm not too crazy with that idea.  I bought it soon after my Mom passed, so it holds a lot of sentimental value.

2) Practicality - I like the idea of having two rigs. My K3 and my KX3 are mutual backups. If something were to happen to one, I still have the other. If I were to sell the K3 in order purchase the KXPA100 and the KXAT100, I would no longer have a backup. I also like having a main station rig and a dedicated portable rig.

3) Personal - I need to be happy with what I have and not always be on the lookout for "more". I am very fortunate to have what I already own, and while it may be less than some, it's still a lot more than even others. I need to enjoy what I have and get off the "consumer hamster wheel" of always wanting more.

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

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

I was able to get on the radio for a bit today.  15 Meters seemed to be alive jumping with "AA" contest stations.  I didn't have much interest in competing in the contest, but it's always interesting to work Asian stations using QRP power. I managed to work several JA stations, cherry picking my way around, and trying the loudest ones. I also worked a few Asiatic Russian stations. Unfortunately, I did not hear or work anything more exotic.

I attempted to work Met TA3AX on 17 Meters, but this time QRP. Alas, Turkey was not to be had with 5 Watts - today. ;)

I finished the day by participating in the Run For The Bacon, the Flying Pigs monthly QRP sprint. Not a whole lot of activity, probably due to it being Father's Day, but I did manage to work fellow blogger, Chris KQ2RP, and I also worked Jim W4QO and John K4BAI, twice. Earlier in the day we had another brief contact, so today was able to put John in the log three times today. I think that's a record.

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

Saturday, June 15, 2013

W2QW - RVRC Hamfest

As mentioned previously, today was the Raritan Valley Radio Club (of which I am a member) Hamfest.  I got up bright and early at 4:00 AM to be on site by 5:30 AM, in order to help direct vendors and sellers to their spots in the Piscataway High School parking lot.

Providence was with us, and after a few days of soaking rain, when the sun rose this morning there was absolutely not a cloud in the sky.  In fact, for the duration of the hamfest, the sky was that deep, clear crystal blue that you see maybe only 4 or 5 times a year.

Things started off really slow but in the end, we ended up (again) having more sellers show up than last year and more buyers, too, which is a good thing!

Sadly, I really did not get a chance to browse and peruse the tables much.  In addition to my parking duties, I was asked to serve as one of the VEs for the test session that we held.

I'm the ONLY guy not wearing red - what's up with that?!?    :)
From L-R Marty KB2JSG, W2LJ, Tim AB2ZK (behind me), Marv K2VHW

Tim AB2ZK and Marv K2VHW keeping things under control with their iron fists.

We had 10 candidates come in for testing, and one candidate who wanted to upgrade walked away in a huff because we told him that he had to supply a photocopy of his license as per "da rules".  He didn't have a photocopy (only his original, which we were not about to take) and no one in the parking lot had a copy machine so he was a bit perturbed and literally stalked off.  We tried to tell him there was a supermarket near by where he could have gone to have a copy made, but for whatever reason, he was so annoyed that we didn't see him for the rest of the day.  Just goes to show that you can't please everybody.

Of the nine remaining candidates, two upgraded - one to General and one to Extra.  Six others got their Technician class license and one walked away empty handed.

By the time the VE session was completed and we had checked over all the paperwork and details, some of the sellers had actually left and a lot were packing up their wares.  I ended up doing a very quick run through.  I purchased a new binocular magnifying headset to replace my old, scratched up one.  This one has two LED flashlights built in.  I also ended up purchasing a hand held magnifying glass.  It's tough when you start getting older, only to find out your eyes aren't what they used to be!  I also purchased two 90 degree angle BNC to PL259 adapters for the KX3 at the good price of $3.00 each.

I really wasn't looking for anything in particular, but would have enjoyed a more leisurely window shopping session.  Luckily, I will be able to make the Sussex ARC Hamfest this coming July.  That's always a good hamfest and I will be able to peruse to my heart's content as an anonymous attendee.

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

Friday, June 14, 2013

Skeeters and Bees, oh my!

I have been getting a lot of e-mails about the Flight of the Bumblebees, which is understandable, as I managed it two years ago.  However, just a reminder, I am NOT managing it this year.  FOBB belongs to the Adventure Radio Society and falls under the province of Rich Fisher KI6SN.


Rich is a VERY busy man!  He edits and is largely responsible for a lot of the content of WorldRadio and CQ VHF.  So in between running around with his hair on fire trying to meet the deadlines for two very popular publications, he also manages FOBB and the monthly Spartan Sprints. That is a lot to have on your plate!

I would ask for you all to be as patient as possible.  The new edition of QST came out, and sure enough, FOBB is listed in "The Contest Corral" as occurring on July 28th, the last one of July.  I am sure that within the next few weeks (if not sooner), Rich will be making an announcement about FOBB on QRP-L.  My advice to you all is keep your eyes peeled and your stingers sharp.

Speaking of Summer time outdoor QRP operating events - please make sure to keep two others in mind!  The first being "SYBO - Scorch Your Butt Off", which is being sponsored by Rem K6BBQ.  This is scheduled for Saturday, July 20th.  This is a semi-inaugural event as SYBO is Rem's current edition of the Bubba event, which went by the wayside.  For all the details, please visit Rem's SYBO Website by clicking on the contest name in this paragraph.

The second event, of course, is the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt. The Skeeter Hunt will be held on the second Sunday of August - which is the 11th, this year.  You can sign up for a Skeeter number by sending me an e-mail at w2lj@arrl.net.  When you request a Skeeter number, please include your name, call and the state from which you plan to operate.  This years theme is "Bodies of Water" and you can earn bonus points by operating close to a body of water, whether that be a lake, pond, river, brook, ocean, etc.  Rules can be found at the hyperlink above.

Now, the reason that I am bringing up the Skeeter Hunt is that I received an e-mail from someone who informed me in that correspondence that it was his third request for a Skeeter number!  I checked my spam folder and I never found the two initial Skeeter number requests, and that has me a bit concerned.  If you have requested a Skeeter number and haven't gotten one - it's not because I have put you on "ignore".  It's because I haven't received your request.  I try my best to respond to all requests as quickly as possible - certainly within 24 hours.

So as a backup - here are three ways to request a number, in order of preference on my part.  If number 1 doesn't work, try number 2, and then finally number 3.  I'll get you a Skeeter number if I have to come out to your house and deliver it personally!

Number 1 - send an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net
Number 2 - send an e-mail to w2lj@verizon.net (sometimes the ARRL reports funky things about that arrl.net domain thingy)
Number 3 - Leave a comment on any blog post.  Since comments are on moderation to avoid spam, I have to manually review each one - so that should be a safe "last fallback".

Last year, we had 123 people sign up for Skeeter numbers, and as of today, number 67 was assigned.  I would like to top last year's total if at all possible.  Last year over 50 log summaries were sent in and I would like to exceed that, also. The top five scores and the high score for each state/province got a nifty certificate last year, and that will be repeated this year.  And this year, SSB has been added as a category for those of you who prefer not to pound brass.  So there's truly something for everyone - no reason not to come out, join us and have a blast!

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Interesting

Tomorrow should be interesting. I don't know if it's just TV weatherman hype, out what, but I overheard the forecast for tomorrow, and I heard the possibility of three inches (7.5 cm) of rainfall.

So I stopped at Home Depot and picked up an old fashioned cylindrical type rain gauge. I installed it on the back deck, where it will be out in the open and not shielded in any way. It will be fun to see how much rain we actually get.

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

If you get a chance

And are close to the Central New Jersey area this Saturday, please make sure to stop by the annual Raritan Valley Radio Club hamfest this Saturday morning.  We are located in the parking lot of the Piscataway High School on Behmer Road in Piscataway, NJ.

We are conveniently located, not far at all from Rte. 287, the New Jersey Turnpike, Rte. 1 or Rte. 78.

The hamfest has been "gaining steam" over the past few years, and turnout by vendors and sellers has been on the increase every year.  This year should be no exception. In addition to all the "stuff" that will be up for sale, there is usually some kind of neat demonstration of something going on, as well as VE testing. As a special treat, Alan W2AEW is usually in attendance, so if you're a fan of his oscilloscope and test equipment videos on YouTube, there's a pretty good chance you'd get the opportunity to meet and chat with him.

My main duties for the day will be to assist with parking cars and serving as a VE. But I'll probably have the KX3 in the car, so if you want, and if you twist my arm gently, I could be persuaded to demo the KX3 along with my drive on mast mount and the PAR. Or, if you'd like to just shoot the breeze about QRP for a while, I'd be more than willing to accommodate.

The weather forecast for Saturday is in a word, BEAUTIFUL!  If you'd like more info, be sure to visit www.w2qw.org/ham fest.htm.

Hope to see you there!

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Not the quickest on the uptake.

This Nexus 7 tablet is a great convenience. I can easily check e-mail, Twitter and Facebook very easily and quickly. It's also great for Echolink, looking up call signs and checking the DX Cluster. It's quite a nifty tool.

One thing that I have noticed though, is that it's not so quick on the uptake when it comes to the blog. And by that, I mean that it really takes a long time for the blog roll to update with the latest changes. I can go on my desktop and Chrome will inform me that my fellow bloggers have published new posts, but yet the Nexus 7 and Chrome don't seem to update as quickly. Sometimes it seems to lag several hours as compared to the desktop.

I am not enough of a computer whiz to know why that is, but it is a tad annoying. Still, the benefits outweigh this inconvenience, but it is curious.

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

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Trying a new template.

Not sure I like it; or will keep it, but it IS different from what I had.  Is this template easier on the eyes?  Some folks recently and privately commented to me that they didn't like a white typeface against a dark background.  Is this any better?

I joined my CERT group to aid South Plainfield with the running of the Holy Savior Academy 5K walk/run this morning. Luckily, I only had one obnoxious driver to deal with who couldn't understand that the main roads were closed so that people wouldn't be run over.  "You actually expect me to park on this side street and walk a block to my house?", I was asked.  "Yes, sir", I replied, "It's for your protection as well as theirs."  He still huffed and puffed until he started getting unreasonable and a little belligerent, so at that point, I radioed for police assistance.  They arrived and suddenly the light bulb went on over his noggin - he got the idea.

The thing that gets me is that not only is this an annual event; but it's also very well publicized.  Notice about it appears on the local cable channel. Sacred Heart Church, which loans out its parking lot for the epicenter of the event is by far the largest church in town.  The notices for the "Family 5K Run/Walk" appears in their bulletin for weeks ahead of time. The local town paper published the details about the run/walk and the road closures the week before the event, also.  The town puts it on their Website and their Facebook page. Don't people read?  Several of our CERT members suggested to our Director of Emergency Management that perhaps next year, on the night before the event, that we do an automated "reverse 911" call and telephone all the houses anywhere near the route that the roads will be closed. Oh, and by the way, the roads are closed for all of about an hour - 90 minutes tops!

One of my Ham buddies, Marv K2VHW, who also lives in South Plainfield was at the event with me.  He told me that his rain gauge had close to 4.5 inches (11 cm) of rain in it due to yesterday's visit from Tropical Storm Andrea.  Yesterday was definitely a soaker, and I'm willing to bet the cicadas weren't too thrilled with it.   I know that the tropical storm season does officially start  with the end of May.  I don't recall us ever getting a visit by a named storm so early in the season.  I hope it's not a portent for things to come.  Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 were enough for me for a long, long time.


Hmmmm ..... cicadas (locusts), floods ....... I think God's trying to tell us something.

Last night was a relatively quiet night on the radio.  I did turn up the power to work a new DXCC entity, however.  I heard TA3XA, Met fielding callsigns on the very low end of 20 Meters.  The pile up was pretty fierce and Met must have been running barefoot as he was only about 579 here.  To make matters worse, he was running simplex, so it was a huge jumble.  This is maybe the third time in my Ham career that I've ever heard Turkey on the air, so I just wanted to get him in the log.  He would call "QRZ?" and the veritable dam-burst of callsigns would entail.  I waited until the deluge waned and then tapped my call out.  Eventually, my strategy paid off and a 2X 579 shorty DX QSO occurred.  Another one in the books!

Tonight, there's a church carnival going on in town.  My CERT team will be out again, but I have to drop my kids off at a school dance and then pick them up, so I don't think I'll be available for parking duty.  It's going to be a mess too, because I drove by the field where they direct cars for fair parking and it looks like a huge mud wallow after yesterday.  Maybe I can use the time between dropping my kids off and picking them up for some HF time.

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

Thursday, June 06, 2013

In a word

One word to describe the bands tonight - stinky! (I could have used a more colorful and apropos term, but I've sworn off swearing.)

Oh, I had my share of success. I worked St. Barthelemy again, but on 30 Meters this time, and I worked Morocco and Ecuador. But each was akin to pulling teeth.

These were not 599 QSOs, even though that's the default DX exchange, it seems. Signals were weak, warbly, and almost hazy and indistinct, for lack of a better description.

I saw on the DX Cluster that a fellow NJ QRPer, Chris KQ2RP managed to snare an Algerian, 7T9A on 17 Meters. I tried for a while, also, but I couldn't hear him well enough to be sure that he would be coming back to me.  And if you can't hear him well enough to know that he's answering you, then why even bother? I'd probably only get in the way of people who actually stood a chance, so I gave up the chase after a few tries.

Over the next 24 to 36 hours we're supposed to get around 3 inches of rain from this first tropical storm of 2013. Maybe as our terrestrial weather deteriorates, the solar weather will improve. Here's hoping, anyway!

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

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Esteemed colleagues, if I may be so bold.

I just happened to have my tablet with me at work today. During lunch, I sat down and was looking through Google News. In the science section, I happened across an article that was posted from The Christian Science Monitor, written by Peter Spotts.

Peter Spotts?   W1PNS, Pete Spotts?  "From the Key of W1PNS" Pete Spotts - fellow blogger?

So I clicked the little hyperlink that also served as the byline, and sure enough. Besides all the very prestigious accomplishments that were listed in the brief bio, was a mention of an interest in Amateur Radio.

So it appears that our Pete is not only an accomplished Amateur Radio op and QRPer and CW fan, but also a very accomplished author and writer. Some of you might have known that, but I didn't and I thought that this was the coolest.

Just goes to show, there's a lot of really talented writers authoring some of these Amateur Radio blogs. I don't count myself among their number, but there's a lot of quality reading to be found in the links on the right side of this blog. Don't deprive yourself of their wordsmithing.

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

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Struggle for a new one

I worked a new DXCC entity via QRP tonight, and it was a workout.  The funny thing is, the actual distance? Not so much.  This one was a Caribbean Island. And from the East Coast, the islands of the Caribbean are usually not very hard at all.

But conditions on 17 Meters tonight were soupy.  The QSB was rolling in and out.  My quarry was 599 one second and about 569 the next.  But I finally got FJ/K5WE in the log, and worked Saint Barhtelemy for the first time, using QRP power to boot.


If you look at the map, your first reaction is probably the same as mine. No big deal, right? I mean I've worked just about every single island down that way, many of them lots of times over.  We're talking just a couple of thousand miles - really no big deal even for QRP.  But the pileup was busy and the QSX frequency kept moving.  Once I was able to establish the pattern, it didn't take long.  But because of the QSB, I couldn't hear a lot of the stations that FJ/K5WE was working, so it made establishing that pattern just a little bit tougher.


Like I said before, once I was actually able to hear a few of the stations and was able to figure out where FJ/K5WE was listening, I just tweaked my transmit frequency a touch higher and just kept calling until he worked his way up and just kind of fell into my lap.

Conditions are probably just "meh" - definitely not the greatest.  The sunspot number is down to under 100 and the A index is up there.  Not as bad as it was a few days ago, but still not great.  The few Russian stations that I was able to hear were all warbly as if the signals were experiencing polar flutter.  CO8LY was louder than all get out as was H70ORO.  I was surprised that FJ/K5WE wasn't stronger, considering that Eduardo CO8LY was so strong.  Could be an antenna situation, not sure what K5WE is using down there on his tropical get away.

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

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Cyclone

no ....... not the roller coaster at Coney Island - but a new kit from the Four States QRP Group, designed by Dave Cripes NM0S.


"The Four State QRP Group is pleased to announce the availability of the Cyclone 40 Transceiver.

This innovative and simple transceiver by NMØS is an enhanced version of Dave's QRP ARCI's 72 Part Challenge Design Contest entry in 2010. This is a complete kit, including the enclosure. The price is a buck a part plus shipping, $104 total, for domestic sales. Purchasing info and more details are on the kit's home page here  http://www.4sqrp.com/cyclone.php  Here are some of the design features:

.  All through hole parts and easy assembly. NO SMD parts
.  Less than 100 components
.  Superhet receiver with very good sensitivity and selectivity
.  "Perfect" QSK very high speed and absolutely seamless operation.
.  VFO tunes the entire 125 kHZ CW segment of the 40M band at a comfortable
tuning rate.
.  Transmitter output is nominally 4W.  Those built so far are running ~ 4.6W
.  Frequency readout is included so you know where you are at all times.
.  A very attractive PCB enclosure is included, asy to assemble, looks great.
.  All parts are included, jacks, knobs, enclosure, transformers, everything.
This is a complete kit, including a black enclosure with white silkscreened
labels.

We hope you enjoy this high performance transceiver."

Looks like the Four States Group have come up with another winner. And at the rate these guys are coming out with kits, we're going to have to change that famous advertising slogan to: "Like a good neighbor .... Four States is there!"

On a side note, this weekend turned out to be even busier than I had first imagined.  Other than my accomplishments of Friday evening, and an 8 minute QSO with Bob W3BBO on 40 Meters on Saturday afternoon to give a listen to his new HF2V antenna, I was not able to squeeze in any on air time at all.  And that QSO with Bob was a bit disappointing as QSB was so deep that it made our QSO more of an adventure than either of us would have liked. Of course, now that I do have time this Sunday evening, we have thunderstorms off the horizon. So for safety's sake, instead of getting on the air, I have disconnected the antennas.  The past four days have seen 90F (32C) plus temperatures, for the first real bonafide heatwave of 2013.  According to the weather folks, the coming storms will break the heatwave, but will also have the potential for a lot of lightning, heavy downpours and gusty winds.

Ahh summer, you gotta love it!

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