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Sunday, December 29, 2013

88' EDZ Problems

In addition to the fall that my 88' EDZ took, there now seem to be other problems. While connecting it to the KX3 this afternoon, I noticed that depending on how I handled the coax, the antenna would either "hear" or not. I immediately suspected a fault at the PL-259, so I replaced it. Unfortunately, it didn't make a difference. That means there is most likely a fault in the coax a bit further back.

For now, I have pressed the W3EDP into service as "Antenna 2". The Butternut HF9V still remains the primary antenna of choice with the wire as the alternate. When I get more time, I will have to cut the coax back a few feet and will solder on a new PL-259 to see if that makes a difference.

It's always something! 

As an aside, I did work OA1/AL4Q on 30 Meters using the Butternut.

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

When you least expect it - expect it!

As the old joke goes .......

First, a little background.  We have put up a baby gate in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room since Harold, our Beagle, came to live with us.  Even though he has passed the one year mark, he still has a lot of puppy in him.  By that, I mean to say that he chews ..... a lot!  He has the run of the back yard, the family room and the kitchen.  The living room and the rest of the house will become available to him as he grows older and becomes less of a chewer.  In Jesse's case, that came around about his second birthday, so I am expecting that Harold will become calmer as October 2014 approaches.

Anyway, earlier this week, I was taking dinner plates from the kitchen to the dining room, and I snagged my right leg on the baby gate.  I mildly twisted it, but really didn't feel anything at the time.  The next day it was fine. Two days later? Whoa, Baby!  My knee was sore, then that got better, then my hamstring was sore and that got better, and now my calf is the sore spot.  I sure don't heal like I used to when I was younger! I gave in and bought a heating pad on Thursday on my way home from work.  That has helped a lot and today has been the first day since Christmas Eve that I have been walking without a noticeable limp.

I had planned to spend today on my fanny and not do much of anything - just rest the muscles in my right leg and apply some heat on and off throughout the day.  Then this afternoon, my little eye spied out the rec room window and I saw the wire from my 88 foot EDZ was all kinds of droopy.  What the hey?!?

I went outside to discover that the Dacron antenna rope holding up the center insulator had broken.  The antenna was still in the tree, but had dropped about 10 feet.  Not a good thing, especially as I am scheduled for 40 Meter QRP Fox duty this coming Tuesday night - New Year's Eve. It seems you can always expect trouble when you least expect it.

The weather was nice here today - sunny and in the low 50's (about 11C), so I began looking for my antenna stuff.  I found the pneumatic launcher, and the mason's twine that I use to pull up rope - but where's my Dacron antenna rope?  I searched the shack high and low for almost a half hour and couldn't locate it.  I know it's hiding somewhere here in plain sight - but I still can't find it.  All I was able to locate was some Nylon rope that I use for tying various things.  This rope is not ideal for antennas as it stretches over time, but with daylight starting to wane, it's any port in a storm.

After one or two failed attempts, I got my line through the tree.  The pneumatic launcher worked like a charm.  One time I forgot to open the bale on the fishing reel, so the projectile launched just fine, but the fishing line broke and stayed put, while the little projectile soared like an eagle.  Once I remembered all the steps, I got the line up and through how I wanted it.

At this point, I have to give big kudos to my son, Joey.  He gave me a hand with this project today, and if it weren't for him, this repair job would definitely have taken longer, and perhaps have not been accomplished at all.  Thanks, Joey - I owe you a big one!

So my 88' EDZ is now back in the air, with temporary rope support, a few feet higher than it was.  I will have to purchase some bonafide Dacron antenna rope (if I can't find what I thought I had) and re-do this some weekend in the near future. Of course, all the weekends from here on out until April with probably be sub-freezing and snowy!

I did get on the air tonight to hand out points to the Stew Perry contesters on 160 Meters. The W3EDP loads just fine on 160 Meters and with 5 Watts, I have been working up and down the East Coast and out towards Ohio and Michigan.  Not bad for 5 Watts and about what I expected from last year's contest.

But I think I'll head upstairs now and apply some more heat to this old, aching calf muscle. And to think how I used to chuckle when my Mom used to tell me, "Don't get old!"

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!


For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, 
and the government is upon His shoulder:
 and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, 
the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.  
His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: 
He shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom; 
to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, 
from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9: 6-7

My wish for today is that all of you can share the day with family and friends. May your houses be filled with warmth and your tables be heavy with all good and tasty foods. And whatever your circumstances, may your hearts be filled with the peace, wonder and awe of the Christmas season.

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve - 2013

Christmas Eve is so special to me. Growing up in a Polish family, Christmas Eve IS Christmas! So I had a hard time deciding what I should post that would be special for Christmas Eve 2013 - childhood memories of Christmas Eves past?  Then, thanks to Steve WX2S, who jarred a very, very special Christmas Eve memory from 45 years ago, I decided to post this.  It is so appropriate!



A VERY Merry and Blessed Christmas to you all, all of you on the good, good Earth!

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Back by popular demand

I have gotten a few requests to re-post last year's Christmas story. So here it is, in its entirety:

A Christmas Story



“Oh crud - Dad’s going to have a cow!”, thought Dave Bolton. It had been a long December day for the lanky 12 year old.  It was one of those days when it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. And things were going wrong even now. He’d been helping his best friend, Jim Stapleton, who had a sprained ankle and was on crutches. The two friends were headed home after a day at school.  Dave stooped to pick up a book that had slipped out of Jimmy's backpack and had dropped onto the curb. In the process, Dave’s copy of his house key fell out of his jacket pocket and fell down into the sewer grate.

“Hey Davy, don’t sweat it, dude! Your father will understand it was just an accident. Tell him that you were helping me.”, his friend replied.

“No, you don’t get it, Jimmy.  Dad just trusted me with that key just a few days ago.  It was tough enough to convince him to let me stay at home by myself after school until he got home from work.  And now I went and lost the key …….”

Jimmy offered some consolation, “Well at least the key went where no one’s going be able to get at it. It’s not like anyone is going to be able to use it to get into your house.”

“I guess”, Dave answered, but deep down inside he wasn’t quite so confident.  Dave and Jimmy were in 7th Grade together and had been best friends since the first day they had met each other in Kindergarten.  They were more like brothers than close friends, and some folks even referred to them as “twin sons from different mothers”.

Up until two weeks ago, Dave had been staying at the After Care program at Christ the King School where he and Jimmy attended.   But he had finally convinced his Dad that he was old enough and responsible enough to walk home, let himself into the house and stay by himself for a couple of hours until his Dad got home from work..

Earlier in the year, Dave’s mother had passed away after a long illness.  Ever since, Dave’s father, Jason Bolton, had insisted that Dave had to stay in After Care until he could pick him up at the end of his work day.  It was either that, or walk home and stay with the next door neighbors, the Mason’s.

Not that he minded staying at the Masons.  George and Jeannie Mason were two of the nicest people that Dave knew.  In fact, they were like having grandparents that lived right next door.  Dave Bolton had been like a grandson to George and Jeannie and they loved having him spend time at their house.

And Dave had stayed at their house a lot over the past few years. He was placed in the Mason’s care while his Dad spent so many hours at the hospital with his mother.  In fact, he and Jimmy both got introduced to their new and favorite hobby by George Mason. George was a long time Amateur Radio operator, call sign N2EBA; and he occupied a lot of the boys time by showing them the hobby.  It was a good distraction for Dave, and George loved teaching people, especially young people, about Amateur Radio.  Both boys already had a bent toward things technical, so once they were “hooked”, George eventually ended up teaching them the theory they needed to know to get their own Amateur Radio licenses.

In fact, both Dave and Jimmy got their “tickets” together at the same license exam session.  Dave was KD2PGA and Jimmy had received the call letters KD2PGB. Dave had already put a small station together from kits that George and Jeannie has so generously given to “the grandson they never had”, as they liked to refer to Dave.  Jimmy, on the other hand, had to use either Dave’s or George’s gear, as he had none of his own.  His folks were currently unemployed and were struggling due to the economy.  They barely had enough extra money saved up to keep him enrolled in Catholic school. But Jimmy was doing his best to stay connected to the hobby by doing some short wave listening, monitoring the Ham Radio bands. His uncle had found an old Hammarlund receiver at a yard sale and had purchased it for Jimmy. In fact, Jimmy had sprained his ankle while taking a misstep off the bottom rung of a ladder while finishing stringing a wire antenna from his second story bedroom window to the peak of the garage.

“So what are you going to do, Stringbean?” Jimmy asked.  He liked to tease his friend about his height.

“I’ll guess after I see you home, I’ll go over to the Mason’s and call my Dad at work.  Then I’ll ask Mr. Mason if I can stay with them until Dad gets home.  I still think my Dad’s going to have a cow”.

“Mr. and Mrs. Mason will be happy to have you over for a couple of hours, Davy.  Tell Mr. Mason that I said “Hi”. And don’t worry so much, dude, your Dad’s not like that.”

“Will do, Jimmy ….. Hey, we’re right at your house now.  Let me help you get your stuff into your house, and then I’ll head on out to the Mason’s.”

Dave carried Jimmy’s backpack into his house while Jimmy dealt with the crutches and hopped up the two front steps. After saying good-bye to Mrs. Stapleton and Jimmy one last time, Dave walked the two remaining blocks home.  Instead of going to his door, he walked on over to the Mason’s house and knocked on their door.  There was no answer. “Oh that’s just great!”  Dave thought to himself, “Now what am I going to do?”

Then, just as the question entered his mind, he heard some noise come from the backyard.  When Davy walked up the driveway to investigate the noise, he saw George Mason fumbling with some tools.

“Hi, Mr. Mason, what are you doing?”

George looked up to see Davy’s smiling face.  “Why Davy!  It’s so good to see you, I’m trying to measure out some wire for a new antenna. It’s hard to manage tape measure, wire and wire cutters all at the same time.  I could use another four hands, or an octopus. Want to lend an Old Ham some help before you go in your house?”

“Oh yeah, sure. About that …………” Davy answered.

“What’s the matter Davy?  Something happen?” George asked his young Ham friend.  He could tell from the way the expression on Davy’s face fell that something wasn’t quite right.

“Well, Mr. Mason, it’s like this.  I was helping Jimmy with his books on the way home from school.  He can’t manage them well and deal with his crutches at the same time.  Anyway, he dropped one as we were crossing the street. When I bent down to pick it up for him, the house key popped out of my jacket pocket and went down the storm drain.  Dad’s going to have a fit!” the boy explained.

“Oh, Davy!  No worries! Your Dad’s not going to have a fit.  I’ll tell you what, you help me measure out and cut this wire and then I’ll go inside and phone your Dad to tell him what happened, and let him know that you’re at our house.  Your Dad is a good man and I’m sure he’ll understand that it was just an accident. And you can stay with us, of course, until your father gets home.  By the way, Mrs. Mason just baked a fresh apple pie today; and I’ll bet you it’s just about cooled down enough for a slice”.

“That’d be great, Mr. Mason. Thanks for your help!  So ……. Exactly what kind of antenna are you putting together, anyway?”  Dave had a keen interest in antennas and how they worked.

“Well, Davy ….. It’s something that I found in the ARRL’s Antenna Book.  It’s called a W3EDP antenna and it was first used way back in the 1930’s.  It’s based on the wire antennas  that used to trail from zeppelins.  I need something that will get me onto 80 and 40 Meters. My vertical is good on 20 Meters and up, but it sure doesn’t do anything for me on the lower frequencies, and now that Winter is just about here, I’d like to get on those bands at night.”

Dave helped his neighbor measure out the wire and handed Mr. Mason the wire cutters when they were needed.  When they were finished, the two Hams went inside.

"Davy, why don't you sit down and take a load off? I'll call your father like I promised. And don't worry, I seriously doubt that he is going to have a cow!"

Dave settled down at the kitchen table and engaged in some small talk with Mrs. Mason while George telephoned Jason Bolton, Dave's father. Jeannie Mason doted over Davy and she loved him as if he were her own. She was always like a grandmother to him, but after his mother died, she became even more devoted to him.

After a few minutes, George came back in the kitchen. "Good news, kiddo!  Your Dad understood completely.. He even said that it was good thing that you were here. He was actually going to have me come over to your house and have me bring you over here. Looks like he has to put in some overtime again, and he wanted you here with us. So it looks like that slice of pie I promised will end up being dessert, as you'll be eating dinner here. Do you have any homework?"

"Yes, Mr. Mason, I have some Science reading and a Math worksheet to do.", Davy responded.

"Better get cracking then. I think Mrs. Mason is planning to have supper ready in about an hour. Isn’t that right, Dear?", he asked.

She nodded affirmatively, so Davy started in on his homework. George told Davy that after dinner they would go down to George's shack and cobble together the antenna that they had cut the wire for.

A couple hours later, after school work was finished and dinner was eaten, the two radio operators found themselves in N2EBA's basement shack. Davy loved being in "a real Ham shack", as he thought of it. There were a few pieces of Heathkit gear that George had built and had lovingly maintained over the years. The jewels of the shack that Davy had envied the most were George's Elecraft rigs. A KX1, a K1, a K2 and a K3 were all on the main operating bench. George was a die-hard kit builder, QRPer and a CW man. The only thing missing was the new portable rig, the KX3. George was putting money on the side for one, and when it arrived, George had promised Davy that he could be involved in the build. That suited Davy just fine, as he long had dreams of owning his own copy of the radio, which had caused a huge buzz among members of the QRP community.

Tonight, however, they concentrated on building the new antenna. They talked as George watched while Davy soldered wire to some window line.

"Sorry that you have to be here instead of home, Davy", Mr. Morgan offered.

"I don't mind in the least, Mr. Morgan. I just wish my Dad didn't have to work so much. But the overtime is helping him pay off what’s left of Mom's medical bills. It's been real hard on him since she died."

"I know it's been tough for him, Davy. You've been a big consolation to him. He's told me several times that he doesn't know what he'd have done without you. But enough of that talk, Christmas is coming real soon. If you don't mind me asking .... are you and your Dad putting up a tree this year? I mean with your Mom passing on earlier this year and all..."

Davy nodded his head, "Yeah we are, Mr. Mason. Dad told me that Mom made him promise that we would. She’d be mad if we didn't celebrate Christmas on her account. It was her favorite holiday."

"Well then, have you given any thought to what you'd like to find under your tree?", George asked, his eyes twinkling.

"Heck, yeah!" Davy blurted out, "I'd sure like to see a KX3 under there! But I don‘t even dare think about that.  With all those medical bills, there‘s no way I would even mention that that‘s what I really, really want.  So in the meantime, I’ve been saving what I can from my allowance, birthday money I’ve received and grass cutting money that I’ve earned, but it feels like it’s going to take forever to save up that much money!"

"Whoa, pardner! That’s a big jump from what you’re using now! You've only been at this for about a year and a half", the older Ham reminded him.  Sometimes George tended to think that Ham Radio was still the way it was back in his Novice days.  Then, some if not most, Hams had to work a long time to build up their code speed  and  it generally took longer for them to work their way up the  ranks. He sometimes forgot that his two prize students were already General Class license holders, having upgraded from Technician Class.

"I know Mr. Mason, but most of that time was spent with you, so I’ve learned from the best. You’ve shown me how to build a kit the right way and you've helped me get my code speed up. I've almost got all 50 States under my belt and over 40 countries in my log .... and I'm good for about 18 words per minute in the code!" Davy was proud of his accomplishments, and he hoped Mr. Mason was too.

Little did Davy know just how proud George Mason was of the two boys.  Under N2EBA’s tutelage, the two younger Hams didn’t get stuck in the VHF/UHF rut that many newcomers find themselves in.  George got them interested in HF radio operating from “Day One”, and to his delight they took to his favorite mode, CW, like fish take to water.  That they had increased their code speed in such a short amount of time  constantly amazed him.  His personal theory now was that since Morse Code was no longer an examination requirement, people who really did desire to learn the code, took to it more quickly.

Confirming his respect for Dave and Jimmy’s achievements, George stated, "You and Jimmy were top notch students, Davy. I am proud of both of you, and how far you’ve both come since you started. Amateur Radio is a lifelong hobby that can serve you well. How has Jimmy been doing?"

"OK, I guess", Davy started to explain, "But he doesn't get as much on-the-air time as I do. I have the kits that you and Mrs. Mason gave me, and that you helped me build. Jimmy doesn't have a shack at home ... his parents can't afford it right now. So I have him come over and use mine anytime he wants.  At home, he keeps an ear on the Ham bands with an old Hammarlund receiver that his uncle found for him, but it‘s not the same as having your own station set up, and actually making QSOs“, Davy responded.

"Well, you're a good friend, David Bolton. Other people aren't so generous. Helping other Hams and passing on Ham Radio traditions are part of what this hobby is all about.  Amateur Radio helped to teach me the electronics skills that I needed and used during my 40 plus year career. I like to think that now I'm doing my part to keep the hobby alive. It looks like you're setting out on the right foot in that regard, too." George Mason was indeed very proud of his young students.

And right then and there, the seed of an idea took root in Davy’s brain.  He didn’t know exactly how he was going to accomplish it, but he knew he had time before Christmas came.

The time before Christmas seemed to be speeding by in the blink of an eye.  There was school, chores to be done around the house, and of course radio time whenever he could squeeze it in.  And there was Christmas shopping to be done!  Davy used what money he had to buy Christmas presents for his Dad, the Masons and Jimmy.  Jimmy’s present was going to be a special one this year – he just had to figure out how to go about getting it.

One evening after school, while Davy and George were in George’s shack, trying to get into the log of an fellow Amateur that was on a DXpedition to a far away island in the South Pacific, the doorbell rang, and Davy’s father showed up to bring him home.

“Thanks so much, Jeannie, thanks so much George”, Jason Bolton offered to the Masons.  “Davy’s not being any trouble, is he?”

“You’re kidding us, right?”, the Masons both asked with one voice.  Jeannie said, “Jason, Davy’s as good as gold and no trouble at all. He’s a fine testament to the job that you and Abby have done bringing him up”.  George added, “Davy’s my star pupil Jason, he can spend time in my shack any day”.

“Hi Dad!”, Davy greeted his father as he bounded up from the basement.

“Ready to go, Sport?” Jason asked his son.

“Any time that you are, Dad” Davy told him.

As the two walked home, Davy asked his father if there was going to be much more overtime. “I realize the medical bills were high Dad, but I miss spending evenings with you.  Think this will be over soon?”

“Well Davy, I am seeing a light at the end of a tunnel, and I don’t think it’s a train”, he joked with his son. “I think that this last week before Christmas will be the last week that I’ll have to work late. Then things can go back to normal.  Hey, I’ve been so busy that I forgot to ask you what you wanted for Christmas this year - anything special?”

Davy wanted to just burst open about the QRP rig that he wanted so badly. But he knew the price and he knew his Dad’s financial situation. So instead, he said,”Not really, there’s some books and a video game or two I would like”.

“Hmmmmm …… no radio gear?”, his Dad asked.  “I know there always some kind of key or accessory that you have your eye on - nothing like that? There‘s still time for me to order something, just point it out to me, as I don‘t know a transmitter from just about anything else you use!”

“No Dad - not this year.”

“Have you gotten all your Christmas shopping done; or do you need me to drive you over to the mall again?”

“I’m just about all done Dad, but I need a huge favor”, Jimmy asked.

“And that would be …….?” his Dad asked.

“I need you to write out a check for me.” Davy’s entire plan seemed to tumble out of his mouth in seconds. “I want to buy Jimmy a rig of his own for Christmas. Just a small kit, nothing too big – I know his parents can’t afford it and I know that Jimmy really misses not being able to get on the air as much as he wants.  There’s a place where I can order one, that will get it here in time for Christmas, but I don’t have a credit card or a checking account, so if I give you the cash, do you think you could place the order for me?”

His father was quiet for a few seconds, and then asked,“Davy, are you sure you want to do this?  I know you’ve been saving up for something that you’ve been wanting very badly.  Isn’t this going to deplete your savings?”

Davy replied, “That doesn’t matter, Dad.  Jimmy’s the closest thing I have to a brother and he loves Ham Radio as much as I do. It kills me that he can’t spend as much time on the air as I do”.

Jason Bolton sighed, ”OK then; but only if you’re sure. But then again, you did inherit your generous streak from your mother.  So …..  you’re really set on doing this?”

“Sure am, Dad!”, Davy answered. And that night, they ordered the kit that Davy had in mind, on line.  They got the total and Jason Bolton  put the order on his credit card.  As Davy was handing him the money, he said, ”Wait a sec, Davy. How about we split this? As much as I admire your generosity, I hate to see you eat up all the rest of your savings”.

“Thanks, Dad, I appreciate the offer; but this is something I’d like to do on my own”.

“All right, we’ll do it your way this time. Your Mom sure would be proud of you, and so am I”, his dad told him, and giving him a big hug, said ”You’ll never be too old to get one of these from your Old Man.”

Christmas Eve came and Dave and his dad attended Midnight Mass together. Jason sat in one of the pews while Davy pulled duty as an Altar Server.  The next morning, they opened up their gifts to each other. Jason was very pleased with the gloves and hat and scarf that he received from Davy. Likewise, Davy loved the books and video games that his Dad had given him. He knew that money was tight this year, and he appreciated all his dad had given him.

While cleaning up the breakfast dishes together, his dad reminded him that they would be having dinner over at the Mason’s later in the afternoon. “You know that the Masons invited Jimmy and the Stapletons over for dinner too, right?”, His father asked.

“Yes, sir”, Davy answered, “It was nice of them to do that.  I have Jimmy’s kit all wrapped up and under their tree, so that when Jimmy gets there, he can open it.  He has no idea ……. this is going to be great!”

Then his mood changed and he got quiet, and after a few moments, his dad said, “I know Davy, I miss her too. Your Mom and you are the most important things in my life. I love you both so much – you’ll never know how much.  Just know that she’s looking down on us and is glad that we’re celebrating her favorite holiday together.”

Dinner at the Mason’s was a feast.  Mrs. Mason, who was by any measure a great cook, outdid herself.  There was a turkey, there was a ham, there were mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, cranberry sauce, vegetables and home made buttermilk biscuits.  For dessert there were three kinds of pie.  Nobody could outcook Mrs. Mason. Everyone enjoyed the meal and the friendship.  After they had all stuffed themselves to the gills, Mrs. Mason called everyone over to the tree.  “Santa was here last night and left some presents!” she gleefully informed her guests.

There were presents for the Stapletons, who were overwhelmed and didn’t know what to say.

“Don’t say anything”, George said.  “Jeannie and I know what you’re going through, we’ve gone through it a few times ourselves over the years; and with God’s help, we always got by.  Some day, when things are better, you do the same for someone else.”

Then Davy handed  Jimmy a gift wrapped box.  Jimmy took it eagerly, “Oh man, I wonder what this could be?”

“Well open it up, knucklehead!” Davy kidded his friend, “Unless you’re like Superman and have X-ray vision, you’re never going to know until you do.”

Jimmy unwrapped the gift and saw that it was a kit for a QRP Tri-band transceiver, a popular model by famed QRP designer Steve Weber KD1JV. “Davy, are you nuts? This must have set you back a ton!”

“Hey buddy-boy, don’t yell at me, yell at Santa, he’s the one who brought it here”, Davy glibly replied.

“Yeah, well, “Santa” is the greatest friend a guy can have – tell him I said so the next time you see him”. Jimmy looked at his friend with a stunned look of disbelief still on his face.  Mrs. Stapleton had a few tears welling up in her eyes, overwhelmed by the generosity of their friends.

Davy told his friend, “Santa wasn’t able to dig up an antenna tuner or a paddle, though. I’m afraid you’re going to have to come up with those on your own”.

That’s when Mr. Mason chimed in ”I’m sure that there’s enough stuff in the N2EBA parts box, that we can come up with a QRP antenna tuner. And if I’m not mistaken, Jimmy, I think Santa left you another box under the tree”.

This time, George handed a small box to Jimmy.  When Davy told George what he was up to, their Amateur Radio mentor decided to buy Jimmy a Bencher paddle to go with the rig.

Jimmy looked at them, “The both of you are the best. Thanks so much!  This has been a great Christmas!”

Then Mrs. Mason came over to Davy and whispered something in his ear.  With a quizzical look on his face, he moved over to the Christmas tree when he heard her say, “Go on, Santa left one for you, too.”

Davy found the box with his name on it.  Caught totally off guard, he sat down on the floor next to it and began to remove the brightly colored wrapping paper.  He caught his breath for a second when he saw what it was – the Elecraft KX3 kit that he had wanted so badly!  He immediately looked at his dad, who simply nodded and said, “There’s a note attached to the box, Davy.  I think you might want to read it”.

He opened the envelope – inside was a plain sheet of paper with handwriting on it – his mother’s handwriting.  She had written the note shortly before she died.

“Dear Davy,

With all that has been going on, your Dad and I decided that we wanted to buy you a very special Christmas present this year.  We both know that this is something that you’ve really wanted and that you were trying to save up for on your own.  We also know that you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from this for years to come.  So no matter what happens, or wherever life takes you, please know in your heart how much your Dad and I love you.

My love always and Merry Christmas!

Mom”

This time, Davy was the one caught speechless. With tears glistening in both their eyes, he looked at his Dad, and his Dad looked back at him.  Both had smiles on their faces. As much as he had wanted the radio, that small piece of note paper with his Mom’s handwriting  that he had just received, and what it represented, meant more to him than anything in the world. Dave Bolton still missed his Mom terribly, but now he knew that she would always be with him.

“You’re right Jimmy”, he said, “This IS a great Christmas”.

THE END

Note: The names and call signs that appear in this story are purely fictitious with two exceptions. Steve Weber KD1JV continues to design kits that are sold primarily through Hendricks QRP Kits. N2EBA was originally issued to Mark Rosenwald, a good friend of mine who is now a Silent Key.  Thanks Mark, and a Happy Hannakuh to you, in the Big Shack in the Sky!

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I am a fan of Elecraft

As you all know, I am a big Elecraft fan. I’ve built and used a K1, a K2, and a K3.  I now own two KX3s. That said, I don't consider myself to be an Elecraft sycophant.  Heck, I'll be the first to admit that I did my share of public grousing and fuming back when I was waiting for my beloved KX3 to arrive!  And I am anxiously, but patiently awaiting the arrival of my KXPA100 – this time minus the grousing and fuming. No company is perfect, including the one owned by Eric and Wayne.  They've made their share of missteps regarding announced shipping dates of new product. The fact that we Hams are a tough audience at times, also makes things difficult.  They want to satisfy us, and one could be generous and posit that they've been guilty of being overly optimistic at times.

However, when it comes to customer service, Elecraft stands head and shoulders among the pack.  Get a load of this sequence of e-mails that appeared on the Elecraft e-mail reflector yesterday. This floored me when I first saw it:

First, from Mitch KD5EYN:

Hi All, 

Love the KX3, and I did not think I had a problem before, but now realize that I do. I increased the height of my dipole and lengthened the feedline to locate the KX3 into my shack. Now the AM broadcast station KOMA 1520 5 miles from my QTH comes through on virtually all bands. I have tried most settings, it is minimal with the preamps all off, but that renders some of the functionality much reduced. A friend has loaned me his IC-756 and it works flawlessly. I realize two different intended radio uses; however the KX3 is my only rig. Therefore I am considering selling it so I can purchase a non-QRP rig to function better for the bulk of my use. 

I have the ATU & battery charger as well as very nice Samsung NiMh cells in the radio. It would come with the PC cable kit and the headphone/mic that was purchased off ebay. I have worked stations all over the world and received great reports. It is just not going to work as my only radio given the RF situation. So if anyone is interested, let me know. Contact me direct through KD5EYN@gmail, I love the SDR and the features as well as the small size. I am not willing on taking a big hit on the sale, but if you want a great radio at a reasonable price, lets talk. 


Mitch 
KD5EYN 

Here is Wayne's response - one of the owners of the company, mind you!  An owner who actually keeps an eye on, and reads messages posted in just one of the various Elecraft e-mail reflectors.

Mitch,

Sorry to hear about the AM station so close to home. Ouch. 

Two things you may not have tried: (1) RX SHFT = 8.0, and (2) a broadcast-band filter external to the radio. We could easily design a notch filter for you that would take it out. If you're interested, let me know. (No charge.)

73,
Wayne
N6KR

Now in turn, a little bit more detail from Mitch:

Hi Wayne, 


I have tried the shift and it helps a bit, but the signals are still present; with the preamp at 30db the audio is as if I am tuned to the station. On lower preamp settings it sounds a lot like loud static crashes. I finally realized the problem to its fullest extent when I set an AM radio at low volume where I could hear the programming relative to the noise on the KX3 audio - and BINGO. I have considered a filter, and have not completely ruled it out. But without trying one, I don't know how much it might effect the receive capability. So sure, I'd love to have one to try and will gladly return it if it does not work. Also, I have really enjoyed the dual receive in split operations, and as I understand the shift negates that function at the moment. But I'm sure open to the filter. What more info do you need? Should I submit a support request? 


Thanks, 
Mitch 
KD5EYN 

Answer from Wayne:

Hi Mitch,

We'll have the filter designed by tomorrow and enroute by Christmas. It'll actually be a high-pass with a cutoff of 1750 kHz, built into a W2 sensor box.

73,
Wayne
N6KR

Oh my!  And for those of you in this hobby long enough, do you remember Heathkit's famous tag line? "We will not let you fail."? THIS is that philosophy brought to new heights.  You have to consider that sometimes, when a company makes a mistake, it can be due to unforeseen problems with suppliers, unforeseen problems with other 3rd party vendors, and sometimes problems of their own making. But when an owner of a company can and does make a difference for one of their customers?

Wow, Elecraft, wow!

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another Christmas Story - Part V

Christmas Eve dawned, bright and sunny. George and Davy took the money that the club had donated, and went out to buy gifts for the adults that would be attending the Christmas Eve dinner at the soup kitchen. They bought nothing extravagant. But they did come back with plenty of toiletries, warm socks, hats and pairs of gloves, some cosmetics for the women. All basic necessities that a lot of these people could not afford to buy for themselves.

Donna started her day by visiting the Church. She knelt down and prayed before the manger scene that had been set up, "Lord, today is Christmas Eve, and tonight we're going to try and take care of some of the least of your people.  You know what I had planned and You also know what happened to those plans.  I'm really worried about tonight, Lord.  I know that Jason, Davy and his radio friends have promised to help, but I am worried that not having done anything like this before, that they're in way over their heads. I am worried there will not be enough, and that these folks will come and be disappointed.  But I am going to lay this before you, Lord.  I trust that You will bring it all to a good end, but I could sure use a Christmas miracle"

The day flew by quickly, and Davy, Jason and Jimmy met Donna and Maria at the soup kitchen at 2:00 PM sharp. They began warming up the food that was to be served that evening.  On the menu was a traditional Christmas dinner of roasted turkey (donated by a local restaurant - the owner was a close friend of Chuck  WB2MSV)  along with sweet potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, peas and carrots, pumpkin and apple pies and ice cream.

"So Jason, where are all these helpers you promised?" Donna asked.

Davy answered for his father. "Don't worry Mrs. Pescarelli, they'll all be here."

Then as if on cue, a caravan of car after car after car pulled into the parking lot. Hams, their wives and their children came, bearing cookies, desserts, toys for the kids, and coats - warm winter coats. Another one of Chuck's friends from a local thrift shop had provided donated coats for kids, coats for adults...coats for anyone who needed one. Some of the coats were never used and still had their store tags on them.  Donna was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity. By the time everything was collected to be handed out, she realized that she now had two or three times the amount that was stolen.


True to fashion, the Radio Amateurs jumped in and took over. Not only did they help to finish setting up,  but they rolled up their sleeves and stayed to help to with preparing the food. They welcomed the guests and served dinner. Afterwards, yet another TCARC club member, Charlie N2LHD, came dressed as Santa, and handed out the toys to the kids. There were enough presents so that each child got not just one, but two or three things that were on their lists. In addition, the Ham's wives, or XYLs, as they were affectionately known, went to each adult and handed out bags containing home made cookies, socks, toiletries, and other personal items. Anyone who needed or wanted a new coat, hat, or gloves was welcomed to a side room where they could pick out their size from the donated items.

For several hours, there was merriment and joy in the air as food was eaten, gifts were opened, fellowship was enjoyed and Christmas Carols were sung. As the St. Nicholas Soup Kitchen Christmas party was winding down, Donna went up to Santa to thank him.

"Don't thank me, Ma'am" Charlie explained. "If anyone deserves thanks, it's George, Davy and Jimmy, and our Club President, Chuck Phillips.  They are the ones who pulled this off."

Chuck WB2MSV started talking with Donna, "You see Ma'am, we Hams have a favorite saying that we're ready for "When all else fails." George, Davy and Jimmy explained your situation to us at our last club meeting, and it sure looked to us like you had a real emergency on your hands. Well, we Hams seem to do our best when the chips are down, and we weren't about to stand by when you needed help the most. We might not have been responding to a blackout or a storm, but the chance to save Christmas for a bunch of good folks was more than we could pass up. And besides, isn't this the time of year for giving?”

Donna answered by giving Chuck, Charlie, Jason, George, Davy and Jimmy a great big hug. "You are all wonderful in my book. When we were robbed, it really threw me.  I just about lost all my faith that people would still do good things these days. But I took Jason's advice and said a prayer to ask God for a Christmas miracle. It looks like He gave me one, along with a bunch of Christmas radio angels,  And believe me, both I and these people sorely needed you. God bless you all .. and Merry Christmas!”


As they were leaving the building and heading for home, a light snow began to fall.  As they were walking to their car, Jason looked at Davy and said, “C'mon over here, Bud”.

“What's up, Dad?” Davy asked.

His father gave him a big hug. “You're not too old for one of these from your Old Man, are you?”

“Never, Dad” Davy replied, grinning.

“Davy, I just want you to know how proud of you I am. You're turning into quite the young man.”

“Thanks, Dad. Merry Christmas. Let's go home”.

“Sounds good to me. Merry Christmas, Davy”

The End

Author's Note – some of the names and some of the call signs used in this story are actual names and calls of some of the finest Hams I have had the privilege to know, and who are now Silent Keys. One or two of the calls may have been re-issued through the Vanity Call Sign Program, but being remembered here in a special way are the original holders:

Chuck Phillips WB2MSV
Charlie Laterra N2LHD
Mark Rosenwald N2EBA
Julius Kardos WV2O
George Miller K2FD
Norm Bendel KB2SBB

These gentlemen listed above were selfless to a fault and would give you the shirt off  their backs, if they saw the need. Had the circumstances of this story been real, these gentlemen would have been first in line to lend a helping hand.



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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Another Christmas Story - Part IV

The following evening, the meeting of the Twin Counties Amateur Radio Club promptly started on time. Chuck Phillips WB2MSV, the TCARC President, called the meeting to order,  The club members were antsy and eager to get the business portion of the meeting done with, so that the festivities could begin.

"OK, before we adjourn and go to the party matters at hand, is there any new business to discuss?" Chuck asked.

George Mason raised his hand, and immediately you could hear a few groans.  "What is it now, George?" Julius WV2O yelled from the back of the crowded room.

"You just hold your horses, Jules" Chuck admonished. "George has the floor.  We'll get to the pizza soon enough. They're not even here yet, anyways!"  Everybody had a good laugh at that one.


George got up before the assembly, and with Davy and Jimmy's help, explained what had happened over at the soup kitchen.

Someone from the back spoke up,"Well George, Davy, Jimmy, that sure is a stroke of tough luck,  I feel bad and all, but what can we do about it?"

That's when George spelled out his plan.  "Look guys, I know it's close to Christmas, and that a lot of you are tapped out.  But these folks have it a lot worse than we do. We all have warm houses, plenty of food and warm clothes on our backs. We all have shacks filled with radio gear, some of it pretty darned expensive! Most of the folks who go to this soup kitchen have very little or next to nothing.  We're fortunate enough to have family and friends to rely on.  These folks have no one.

C'mon fellas - we're supposed to be known for serving the public, right?  A hurricane, a blizzard, a search and rescue or some other crisis comes up and we're all there with our radios, waiting and ready to help out. This is really no different, when you think about it.  This is a man made disaster instead of a natural one, that's all.  You guys have come through in the clutch so many times before, that I can't even count them all. I can't believe that you'd just let this one pass us by".

The room went silent.  Then Norm KB2SBB chimed in from the right side of the room, "I've had my share of tough times.  When I lost my job after we were first married, Martha and I really struggled. It looked pretty bleak for a long time, so I know what these people are going through. I move that we donate $200 from the Club Treasury AND donate tonight's proceeds from the 50/50 to the soup kitchen. Anybody want to second that?"

George K2FD stuck his hand up. "I'll second that in a heartbeat.  And on top of that, here's 25 bucks of my own".  He handed N2EBA the cash.  Then he said, "C'mon guys, there weren't all that many kids on the list that George and Davy and Jimmy mentioned.  I think there were like twenty or so?  How about if we each get one of those kids a gift and bring them to that Christmas Eve party?" By the time the Club Christmas party refreshments had arrived, all the children's gift purchases were accounted for. In addition, someone actually passed a hat around and about $500 had been donated if you included the official club donations. Davy gave all the members of the Club the details about the Soup Kitchen Christmas Eve party. All the guys insisted on being there and agreed to assemble at the appointed time.  As they were leaving, Chuck pulled George over on the side and  the two were discussing something in a low voice. George's eyes lit up and a smile about a mile wide appeared on his face.


Later that night, when George Mason dropped Jimmy off at home, they both excitedly told Jason what had happened.  Jason couldn't believe his ears. He immediately called Donna Pescarelli, and without giving too many details, told her not to worry, that all was being taken care of.

"Jason are you sure about all of this?” Donna asked, just a bit skeptically.  She wasn't exactly filled with her usual Christmas spirit ever since the burglary.

"Donna, if there's one thing I've learned in the past year, it's not to doubt Davy, Jimmy, George or any of their Amateur Radio buddies. Look Donna, you were Abby's best friend. You always trusted her. You can trust me and Davy, too. Oh, and by the way, tell all your regular volunteers to take Christmas Eve off, and spend it with their families. They deserve it. Davy's Amateur Radio Club promised to cover the whole shebang."

Donna was incredulous. "I don't know what to say!"

Jason answered, "Then don't say anything, just be at the kitchen early on Christmas Eve. We'll all meet you there."

To be concluded tomorrow .......

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Another Christmas Story - Part III

And so they went, down the line of children.  After they were done, everyone left, but not before Donna had made sure that all the people who were there knew when to return on Christmas Eve for dinner.  There would be not only food, but also a huge Christmas tree complete with presents for all the kids.  Then the crew of volunteers tore everything down and cleaned everything up.  They all bid each other a good night and all agreed that they would be back for the big Christmas Eve party.

The next few weeks went by and they were busy ones.  Christmas shopping, decorating, school and work kept everyone at that all too familiar, hectic December pace.  Time seemed to evaporate. It was the week before Christmas, on a Monday evening when Jason Bolton received a frantic phone call from Donna Pescarelli.

"Donna... calm down!", Jason said. "What's the matter?  You're so frantic that I can't make out what you're trying to say".

"Oh Jason, I don't know what to do!" Donna was half talking, half sobbing.  "I'm at the soup kitchen right now.  I bought a big tree for the Christmas Eve party, and was going to decorate it. When I got here, I found that someone has broken into the place. All the toys we had bought for those children...gone!  All the gifts for the parents... gone!  What am I going to do?"


"Did you call the police?" Jason asked her.

"No, not yet." Donna told him.

"I'll be right there. Get back to your car immediately and lock yourself in. Whoever broke in might still be close by.  I'll call the police. Don't get out of your car until I get there or the police do".

Jason yelled for Davy to come downstairs. "Geez, what happened Dad? You sound pretty upset. Not anything I did, I hope?" Davy asked.  Jason quickly explained to his son what happened. he told him that he was headed over to the soup kitchen to meet Mrs. Pescarelli and that he would be back later. Davy was shocked, "Aww man! Who would do something so nasty, so close to Christmas?"

Jason answered, "I don't know son, somebody desperate, I guess. But this really puts us in a bind. All those gifts were bought with money donated by our Church.  I don't think there's enough left to buy replacements. Anyway, I'll be back in a while. I have my keys and I'll let myself in. Go to bed your normal time, tomorrow is a school day. I don't want to come home and find you still up, trying to work some Ham somewhere on the other side of the world!".

"I won't Dad, I promise.  Give my best to Mrs Pescarelli".

By the time Jason got there, the police had arrived.  Unfortunately, the burglar had plied his trade all too well. He got in and out quickly, and without leaving a clue.  Even though it was a forced entry, the police were able to tell that whoever it was knew exactly what he was doing.


"Probably someone looking for money for drugs, Ma'am." the police officer had told Donna. "Unfortunately, there's too much of that kind of thing going on around the neighborhood here.  Even with all the patrolling we do, it's hard to stop it all.  There are some "usual suspects" that we can question, but I'm afraid your stuff has probably already been fenced for drug money by now".

After the police left, Donna sat there in disbelief. "Jason, what am I going to do now? Those kids were counting on me. I don't want to add another disappointment to their lives."

Jason was a shocked as Donna was. "I don't know Donna.  I'll start looking around to see if we can get some local businesses to donate replacements.  It's going to be tough, though. Time is tight and so are people's budgets.  But you know what?  Say a prayer and trust in God.  Something good will come out of this...yet".

Jason got home earlier than expected.  Davy was still up, and they talked the situation over in the kitchen over some mugs of hot cocoa.  "I don't know what we're going to do, Davy.  Christmas is next week and time is running out.  I seriously doubt the church is going to have enough left over to replace what we lost."

The two sat there, trying to work the problem out,  Then suddenly, Davy got an inspiration.  "Dad,  I think I might have the answer. The Twin Counties Amateur Radio Club is meeting tomorrow night. After dinner, I'm going to the meeting with Mr. Mason. Let's see if him and I can't get a bunch of the guys to do something about this."

"I don't know Davy ....." Jason began to say.

"Dad, it's the annual club Christmas party tomorrow night.  This is a great bunch of Hams, even if they are all older than me and Jimmy.  A lot of the guys like to come off as grumpy old men, but you know what? Underneath their gruff exteriors, they're the best! And besides, Christmas is the time for miracles, right?  I've got to call Mr. Mason, right now before I go to bed and let him know what's happened."

Davy called George and let him know what had happened down at the soup kitchen.  At first, George was as shocked as Donna, Davy and Jason.  But then, some of that ol' Ham "can do" spirit surfaced and George ended the call by telling Davy not to worry about a thing.

To be continued .......

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another Christmas Story - Part II

"Hi Mr. Bolton, Hi Davy!" "Mr. Bolton, thanks for bringing me along!" offered Jimmy.

"Anytime, Jim, always glad to have you along." Davy's dad replied.  "How's your Dad doing?"

"He's doing fine, Mr. Bolton.  His new job has him traveling a lot, but he's doing so well that Mom is able to stay home and take care of the house and all.  So thanks for giving me a lift to the soup kitchen while he's away."

"No problem, Jim. You know you're part of our family, too.  You're welcome to hitch a ride with us anytime".

Soon the three of them were there.  They were warmly greeted by Donna Pescarelli and her daughter Maria.  Donna, who oversaw the running of the soup kitchen, had been a good friend of Davy's Mom, Abby.  She new Jason and Davy well, and was glad to see them and Jimmy.  In fact, Davy, Jimmy and Maria were all classmates at Christ the King School.

After signing in on the Volunteer Roster, they immediately went to work.  After securing their coats and radios in a locked closet, Jimmy and Davy began setting up tables in the church basement that served as the soup kitchen.  While they were busy doing that, Jason got busy transferring trays of food from the refrigerators in the kitchen to the oven to warm up.  Today the volunteers would be serving chicken, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables to all the incoming customers.  There would be coffee for the adults and lemonade for the children. Also, there would be hot chocolate and dessert to anyone who wanted it. It would be a very good and warm meal on a cold and blustery December Sunday for some folks who had to deal with not having much of anything. Donna had thought to provide enough food so that the people could take home containers full of "seconds" if they wanted to.



The dinner went smoothly. People filed in, signed in, and were seated. After receiving a fresh fruit cup, they were treated to a roasted chicken dinner. Afterward,  they were given dessert.  Normally the people would begin to leave after that, but at 4:00 PM, Davy and Jimmy announced for everyone to sit back and relax.  The duo got out their hand held radios and "explained" how they were going to use their Ham radios to contact Santa at the North Pole.  The little kids in the crowd were excited, scared and awed all at the same time. The chance to talk to Santa one-on-one was something they didn't want to miss.  Most of the parents were leery, knowing they didn't have enough to fulfill their children's wishes. But Donna Pescarelli had quietly assured them all, that come the special dinner being held on Christmas Eve, each child would receive a very nice and special gift from their list.  Jimmy turned on his HT and started things off, while Davy got the kids who wanted to talk to Santa, in an orderly line.  There were about a couple dozen in all.

"Santa N2EBA, Santa N2EBA, this is Jim Stapleton KD2PGB calling from Springdale. Do you copy? Over".

George and Davy and Jimmy had this all worked out.  In addition to turning off the courtesy beep of the repeater, George has a recording of a shortwave heterodyne playing softly in the background, so it would sound more "realistic" like when a shortwave radio was being tuned in an old time movie.



"KD2PGB, KD2PGB, this is Santa N2EBA calling you from the North Pole!  Hello Jimmy and Ho, Ho, Ho!  Is everybody getting ready for Christmas in Springdale?"

When the little ones heard Santa, their eyes went wide as saucers.  One of the little boys in the line was heard to say that since this was radio, this just had to be the real Santa, and "not like those fake ones at the mall!".

The first girl in line was named Karen. So Jimmy started with her. "Karen, do you want to talk to Santa?" he asked.  She appeared a little frightened by it all, but nodded her head "yes", so Jimmy really got into it.

"Santa, the first little girl that wants to talk to you is Karen" Jimmy then told Karen that he would hold the radio and would push the button and indicated to her where to speak.

"Ho, Ho, Ho" bellowed out George, in his best Santa imitation. "So Karen, have you been a good little girl this year?  What would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?"

Karen had no problems with her answer,"Yes, Santa, I've been a very good girl this year. I listen to my Mommy and I try not to argue too much with my big sister. I would like a Barbie doll and a telescope for Christmas this year, pretty please?"

Santa answered, "Well Karen, I'm glad that you've been a good girl. I'll do my best to get those to you under the tree for Christmas".

Little Karen couldn't contain herself, but her Mom was obviously worried.  She went up to Donna and told her that things were so tight, that she doubted they would have a Christmas tree at home this year, let alone presents.  Donna put her at ease.  "You just make sure to come back here for dinner on Christmas Eve, OK?  Do you see that man over there?" Donna had pointed at Jason.  "He's taking note of what all the kids tell Santa that they want. We're going to do our best to make sure that at least one thing that they ask for will be here waiting for them".  Karen's Mom turned to leave with tears in her eyes. "God bless you folks" she said, 'Maybe we'll have a nice Christmas after all".

To be continued .......

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Another Christmas Story - Part I



"Davy, are you ready? We're going to be late!"

Jason Bolton had to resort to hollering up to his son, who was up in his room.

"In a sec, Dad!  Just trying to work this 9L in Sierra Leone. The pileup is way humongous!"

His Dad answered, "Turn the radio off for now, son. We have to get going, now!  We promised we'd be at the soup kitchen in twenty minutes."

One Sunday each month, Jason and Davy had been volunteering at a community soup kitchen at St. Nicholas parish in Springdale, which was the next town over from them.  Davy was going to receive his Confirmation the following Spring, and part of his preparation was community service.  Twenty hours of service between the end of October and the beginning of next May were mandatory.  Jason didn't mind, he actually enjoyed it and he felt it was good for his son to help tend to the needs of those who were less fortunate than they were.  Davy didn't mind either, except that it did eat into the time he spent on his radio.

Amateur Radio was David Bolton's hobby - no, it was more like his passion. Ever since their neighbor, George Mason N2EBA had tutored Davy in the ways of Amateur Radio, he had taken to the art of radio like a fish takes to water.  And it turned out that Davy, call sign KD2PGA, was a natural.  Not only was he a superb operator at the tender age of 13, but he had also developed a keen sense of the electronics and the technology behind his hobby.  He and his best buddy, Jim Stapleton KD2PGB had been George Mason's prized students, and their learning did not stop when they earned their "tickets".  They both showed signs of having "The Knack" and both looked forward to possible future careers related to electronics and technology.

Davy came bounding down the stairs, "All ready to go, Dad!", he exclaimed.

"I don't think so, Bud. Aren't you forgetting something?"

He looked at his father with a confused look on his face. "Forgetting something?  I don't think so, I have my 2 meter handheld and the food we're serving is already there, no?"

"Look down, Davy - look down", his father chided.

"Oh my gosh, my sneakers!", Davy gasped.

"Yes son, it's a bit too cold to be heading out on a December Sunday in your stocking feet.  Sometimes, I think you leave a little bit of your head inside that bedroom shack of yours!", his father responded.

Davy's shack was his pride and joy. He had been gifted with an Elecraft KX3 by his Dad and Mom last year at Christmas.  Davy's Mom had passed away earlier that year, after a long fight with cancer, but she knew how much Davy had wanted that radio. And even though she knew how grave her condition was, and that she wouldn't be with her son for Christmas, she had insisted that Jason purchase the radio early.  She had wanted her "last gift" to him to be as memorable as she could make it.  In addition to the commercial gear he owned, Davy had built up, or homebrewed, quite the set of station accessories, all with the help of George Mason, of course.  George and Jeannie Mason, the Bolton's next door neighbors had become Davy's adopted grandparents.  George and Jeannie looked after Jason, too.  They knew that raising a teenaged son alone wasn't the easiest job in the world.

It seemed that when Davy wasn't in school, he was on the radio.  He had completed his DXCC and Worked All States awards, and was going on to higher ground.  Even though he was strictly a QRP operator, low power didn't seem to be a barrier to Davy.  Other Hams might consider KD2PGA to be just a little fish in the ocean of Amateur Radio operators, but he began chasing DX countries with the appetite and attitude of a shark.  His goal was to some day make DXCC Honor Roll using QRP power levels.  The fact that there were only one or two individuals to have done this before him did not deter him in the least.

All this was being done on the understanding that grades didn't suffer.  Jason Bolton made it clear to his son that schoolwork came first and that there would be no exceptions.  As it turned out, he needn't have worried. If anything, the discipline of learning a technical hobby was only helping school matters. Davy was proving himself to be a capable student and was keeping his grades at a high level.  He seemed to be as at home behind a history or math text as he was behind his radio gear.

Davy ran and put his shoes on, locked the front door and followed his Dad out to the car.  They were going to pick up Jimmy and then proceed on to the soup kitchen.

"You've worked out everything with Mr. Mason, right?" his father asked?

"Yeah, Dad.   Mr. Mason knows to be on the club repeater at 4:00 PM sharp.  That's when I'll put out a CQ to the North Pole".

Davy and George had gotten permission from their local radio/repeater club, the Twin County Amateur Radio Club, to occupy the machine that afternoon.  All the club members agreed to let Davy and George allow the soup kitchen kids to talk with Santa at the North Pole that afternoon.  Davy and Jimmy were bringing their handhelds and George would be operating from home.  Jeannie Mason, George's wife, even agreed to take on the role of Mrs. Claus for the afternoon, just in case there were kids that were too shy to talk to Santa.  She has a warm and friendly voice and a way about her that had succeeded in pulling children out of their shells in years past.

A few minutes later, Jimmy bounded into the Bolton's Jeep and the threesome was headed to the soup kitchen.

To be continued .......

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

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A couple of things from the mail bag.

A new video (quite well done) that you may want to keep on hand for showing to those who have or are expressing a deisre to become an Radio Amateur.

First, here's the link to the full version (which is a bit longer than what is embedded here):  http://youtu.be/ivUMIADFSDw


Next, from Jim W4QO considering the current "Buddies in the Caribbean" DXpedition to St. Lucia:

In order to step up the pace here in St. Lucia, if you (running QRP @5 cw/dig or 10 PEP SSB) work 3 of the 7 ops on the Buddies in the Caribbean DXpediton this week, you can earn the coveted BIC QRP certificate.  It's not the Buddies who have to be running QRP - it's YOU!  Many of us are running QRP
but some are not.

http://dx-world.net/2013/st-lucia-buddies-in-the-caribbean-dxpedition/

Sadly, Joe didn't make it so you only have to work 3 of the other 7 using QRP to earn this valuable certificate.

We have worked many of you QRPers already so how hard can it be?  Find 3 of us on any band, any mode.

To find us, go to this easy link:

http://www.dxwatch.com/dxsd1/dxsd1.php?f=3647

The Buddies are the ones with a J6/ in front of their calls. There are still 3.5 more days to do this, so come on, work us!

Send a #10 envelope with SASE to W4QO at qrparci.org with a list of the 3 (or more) you worked.  If you work 5 or more, well, just wait and see what you get!!  :)

If you worked J6/W4QO, then include your QSL card and get one in return.

73,

Budd, J68FF #6260
Chris, J6/W6HFP #15226
Rick, J6/AA4W #4046
Craig, J6/NM4T #8137
Jim, J6/W4QO #6515
John, J6/W5EXJ #15219
Jerry, J6/N9AW #6694

Lastly, I thought this announcement from the League regarding the Communications Act of 1934 was of interest:

SB QST @ ARL $ARLB033
ARLB033 Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934

ZCZC AG33
QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 33  ARLB033
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  December 5, 2013
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB033
ARLB033 Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934

The US House Communications and Technology Subcommittee has announced plans for a multi-year effort to examine and update the Communications Act of 1934, the overarching law under which the FCC functions. The subcommittee, part of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, is chaired by Oregon Republican Greg Walden, W7EQI. Walden and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton of Michigan made the announcement December 3.

"Today we are launching a multi-year effort to examine our nation's communications laws and update them for the Internet era," Upton said in a news release. "The United States has been the global leader in innovation and growth of the Internet, but unfortunately, our communications laws have failed to keep pace."

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, noted that the most recent significant update of the Communications Act was in 1996. "Under the leadership of Greg Walden, the subcommittee and its staff are well equipped to take up the challenge," Sumner said. "The ARRL will be monitoring the work closely as it goes forward next year and beyond."

The plan was made public via Google Hangout, where the committee leaders were joined by former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who said he was "delighted" to learn of the update plans. Upton explained that the process, to start in 2014, will involve a series of white papers and hearings focusing on what might be done "to improve the laws surrounding the communications marketplace as well as a robust conversation utilizing all platforms of digital media." He suggested a bill would be ready by 2015.

Walden said, "A lot has happened since the last update" and that the Communications Act is "now painfully out of date." He pointed out that the Act, drafted during the Great Depression, was last updated "when 56 kilobits per second via dial-up modem was state of the art."

Upton said, "We must ensure that our laws make sense for today but are also ready for the innovations of tomorrow."

Walden said he wants to open the discussion to input from everyone. Interested parties may follow the plan's progress via Twitter. "It's important for people to have an opportunity to weigh in," he said. "This is really a public process to get better public policy."

Call me a pessimist, but I hope we're not opening Pandora's Box here.

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

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

I am addicted

Hello .... my name is Larry and I am a pileup addict.

Or at least that's the way it seems lately!  For the past few days, everytime I have gotten on the air and worked a station, I had to bust a pileup in order to do it.  Of course, the Fox hunts are nothing but a big QRP pileup and I snared both Lee AA4GA and Johnny ACØBQ on 40 Meters last night.  OK, there really wasn't much of a pileup on Lee, I have to confess - but there was for a while. By the time I was able to hear him well enough to work him, his pileup had dwindled.

But after the Fox hunts, I swung down to the low end of 40 Meters and busted the pileup to work Jim J6/W4QO, one of the QRP guys who is on DXpedition to St. Lucia.  Then, I beat two pileups at lunchtime today. The first was to work another good QRP friend on St. Lucia. This time it was Jerry J6/N9AW on 17 Meters.  That was a full blown pileup and Jerry was working them fast and fierce, in a manner that would make any grizzly hardened DXpedition veteran proud. And lest I slight him, Jim's performance last evening was every bit as good as Jerry's.  Two top notch QRPers and all-around ops in Jim and Jerry.

See, participating in those Fox hunts DOES help!  We actually learn a thing or two - not only how to navigate pileups, but also how to manage them.

Later at lunchtime, I busted a pileup to work ZD8UW on 12 Meters - Ascension Island.  At 5 Watts out from my end, that came out to just a smidge more than 1000 Miles per Watt.

Working a pileup can sometimes make you want to bang your head against the wall.  You're in there, sending out your call in what seems like a hopeless battle, ala` Don Quixote.  But then, you hear your call coming back to you and you complete the exchange for another rare one in the books, and all thoughts of bloodying yourself disappear in the breeze!

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

PS: I am working on the finishing touches to a new Christmas story.  Look for it here as we get closer to the Holiday.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Stuff

I hope you all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend. True to form, it was busy here. Guests came over on Thursday, leaf raking occupied all of Friday, Saturday was spent putting up outdoor Christmas decorations (Yes, it's early,  But more importantly, the temperatures were well above freezing).  There was not a lot of time for radio, but I did get some operating in.  I did not work anyplace "exotic" or any new DXCC entities (as you can tell, I have been spoiled rotten by recent band conditions).  It sure does seem like the upper bands have settled down and are now very quiet compared to the bustle of activity that led up to the CQ WWDX contest.  I don't know if it's that the contest is over, or that solar conditions have changed so much, or perhaps a combination of the two - but the amount of activity that was so delightful to see and hear has definitely waned. Maybe we can blame this lull on Ison - affecting the sun during its graze. (Just joking, don't get all up in arms and think me an idiot!)

I did get on the bands during lunch today and I was sad to see pickings are still slim.  Nothing of note was heard on either 10 or 12 Meters.  There was a pileup near the 20 Meter QRP Watering Hole at 14.060 MHz.  I was not able to hear who the quarry was, but I was suspecting perhaps it was some of the QRP guys who are currently on DXpedition to St. Lucia.  Not being able to hear who was being pursued, it was pointless to throw out my call, only to become an unwanted QRM generator.

I went back up to 15 Meters and right at that Watering Hole of 21.060 MHz, I was able to hear a faint but audible CQ.  There was a lot of QSB, but I made out the call sign KB6FPW, so I answered.  The station came back, and it turns out that it was a Ham by the name of Mitch who was operating portable while camping at the Henry Coe State Park near San Jose, California.  Mitch was 559 and 569 on peaks when the QSB was at a minimum.  Even with the QSB, I never completely lost Mitch and was able to copy everything.  This turned out to be another 2X QRP QSO, which are my favorite kind.  Mitch was using his K1 at 5 Watts to a 1/4 wave vertical with some radials that he had somehow mounted to his vehicle. He was picnic table portable, one of my favorite modes!

We ended up chatting for about 15 minutes.  I didn't want to totally occupy his time in case others were standing by to work him.  I love working other portable QRP stations and will go out of my way to work them if I hear them on the bands. Please forgive me for always going on and on about this - but this really is something special when you take the time to think about it.  Mitch and I were situated some 2.500 miles away from each other.  If one of us hopped on an airliner and decided to visit the other, the flight would take 5 - 6 hours. Yet our 5 Watt signals were able to bridge that gap like it was nothing and he was able to speak with me while he was camping, and I was on my lunch break. Maybe I just get overly fascinated by simple things, but I never fail to marvel at this kind of stuff.

In addition to getting on the air for a tiny bit over the weekend, I was taking another look at DX Labs, as a result of an article that Steve Ford wrote which appeared in this month's QST. It's a nice logging program suite, but does seem to be more involved that Ham Radio Deluxe. Maybe a bit more involved than I want to get.  Perhaps, if I am really serious about it,  I will just have to stick with it until I climb the summit of the learning curve. The version of HRD that I use was the last "free" version, and as such, is no longer supported.  It has all the bells and whistles that I could ever use - more than I could ever use, in fact.  I really like the look and feel of it as it is very intuitive to use. However, it's always in the back of my mind that it's no longer supported and some day, I am going to have to knuckle down and pay for a license subscription for the new version. I have nothing against paying for a service as in the past I donated to Simon when he was the owner of HRD. But in Ham Radio, it always seems like there's another needed widget to acquire, and so little funds to do that with. So in my case I have to choose wisely, and if "free" is available, I usually try to go that route.

Other stuff.  I saw this on eHam this morning.  I thought it to be one of the best articles that I have ever seen posted there. I think you will all enjoy it as much as I did - here is the link: http://www.eham.net/articles/31292 

Lastly, a link to a video by Alan W2AEW. Alan, who is a fellow QRPer and fellow member of the Raritan Valley Radio Club is one of the most technically gifted Hams of which I have the privilege to know.  He has posted so many excellent videos on YouTube concerning oscilloscopes and other test equipment.  Here's his latest effort, regarding the proper installation of Anderson Powerpole connectors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzLvdR6X81k&feature=em-uploademail

Sorry, for some reason I was not able to get the video to embed.

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