Friday, January 31, 2014

Double Red Letter Day!

Wow!  I received two of the best e-mails of the young year today!

The first was from Bruna Begali telling me that my Simplex Mono would be shipping within the next few days.  From the e-mail, it became apparent that they keep a stockpile of keys located somewhere in the US, in order to keep delivery times down. Also, she asked me which aluminum finger pieces I would like as she would be sending those from Italy.  I didn't even realize that I was entitled to those!  Unexpected bonus!

The second e-mail came this afternoon and it was "the" e-mail from Elecraft. My KXPA100 kit (with autotuner) is ready to ship within the next 1-5 business days.  A pdf of my order was attached to review and confirm.  I did that faster than you could say "Jack Robinson". Wow, if I can get that next week, and then build it next weekend, I just might be able to have it up and running should I have to resort to QRO power to get FT5ZM in the log.

Definitely a "Happy Dance" day! 

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Of course ........

The annual Freeze Your Butt Off contest, which is sponsored by the Arizona ScQRPions is this Saturday.  QRPers are very familiar with this Wintertime outdoor QRP operating event.  The lower the temperature at your operating position, the higher your multiplier, and hence, the higher your score. Your reward for braving the outdoors during the coldness and enduring the misery.

For the last three weeks in New Jersey, I think it has gone above the freezing mark of 32F (0C), maybe once. We have been in the deep freeze for a while now. So what's the forecast for FYBO day?  Rain and 45F (7C).  Compared to the last three weeks, it's going to feel like Springtime!  Of course, there's no multiplier given for enduring wet, sloppy conditions.  So if it's pouring, I guess I'll give it a go from indoors, and save my KX3 from making like a duck.

I guess I should keep my mouth shut and not complain, but couldn't the thaw come the day AFTER the FYBO Sprint?  I'm just a giver of points, but it would be nice to have the bigger multiplier so I could at least halfway compete with the Big Boys!  ;)

I took the plunge and ordered the Begali Simplex Mono tonight with the palladium base, and the gold contacts (30 Euros extra).  I did not get the key engraved with my callsign. I was tempted, but I wanted to keep the price down as much as I could.  I figured that going with the gold contacts was the better option for more reliable keying.  Function over form, I guess. I am really excited now and am looking forward to finally having a Begali key.  This is something I have wanted for a long time, but could never bring myself to actually purchase until now.

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tough Winter

As with most of the USA, this Winter of 2013/2014 sure has been a rough one! The cold snaps have been harsh and long lasting. And this has been causing the snow that we have gotten to stick around longer than usual for this area. Pardon the pun, but this Winter has been about 180 degrees different from last year, when we had only one minor snowfall. And for the most part, last Winter was downright balmy!

The extra cold weather has been kind of keeping me out of my basement shack. Thanks to our efficient gas furnace, all the heat goes to the upper floors, while the basement remains chilly. When the outside temperatures approach the single digits, my shack thermometer registers about 55F (13C), definitely not the most comfortable.  Even with wearing a long sleeved T-shirt, a polo, AND a sweatshirt, I get to the point where my hands get cold and sending without errors becomes a chore.

Thanks to all of you who have been sending comments and emails with regard to my quest for a single lever paddle. I am still leading towards the Begali, but looking at some other manufacturers has been fun. It seems I always hesitate before making a purchase like this, as I am not used to spending money on myself. Plus the fact that I'm concerned about the cost of all the natural gas I'm burning this heating season, I have to double and triple think purchases like this.

The QRP Fox Hunt season enters the second half tonight. With the two pelts I nabbed on 40 Meters tonight, I have 16 pelts in 22 hunts for a .727 batting average. In the 80 Meter hunts, I have snared 13 out of 16 possible pelts for a .8125 batting average. Thanks to good propagation and the excellent ears of our Foxes, I am having one of the best seasons I have had in a while.

The last good news that I have for the night is that Jim W4QO posted on the North Georgia QRP Group email reflector that he has successfully worked Amsterdam Island FT5ZM with QRP, not once - but twice! Since Jim is a fellow Eastern Seaborder, that gives me hope. Amsterdam Island is close to 10,000 miles away from New Jersey, so that's a long haul by any standard. Right there, that puts you close to 2,000 miles per Watt. With my dinky antenna farm, I am sure that if I work them at all, it will be during the second half of their stay on the Island. I read somewhere that if all goes well, the DXpedition will remain in place until about February 20th. So that gives me some time, and I will do my best to get them in the log.

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

Sunday, January 26, 2014


I am pondering the possibility of acquiring a single lever paddle, possibly the Bengali Simplex Mono, with the palladium base.

I have always been more comfortable with single lever paddles, and have always used any iambic paddles that I have owned that way. I am not a squeeze keyer.

The Sculpture Mono would be great, but the price tag is too hefty for my wallet. Any of you readers have a recommendation for a good single lever paddle other than Begali? Maybe there's a good one out there that I am not aware of?

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

Friday, January 24, 2014


As I type this on my tablet, it is -2F (-19C) outside. The furnace is running its little heart out and I just can't wait for the next utility bill. On second thought, instead of complaining, I'll just be happy that it's warm inside! Although I do get tempted every now and then to dream of what Amateur Radio goody that I could buy with the money that is literally going up in flames.

A little bird brought to my attention that congratulations are in order, as a milestone has been reached. Charles Moizeau, W2SH is celebrating his 80th birthday. Chas, as he is affectionately known, is a fellow New Jersey QRPer. He is very active and very successful in the QRP Fox Hunts. Charles is also quite active in NAQCC activities as well as being a regular check in in many QRP CW nets. Happy birthday, Charles, with wishes for many more!

Speaking of the Fox Hunts, last night was a success as I managed to work both Foxes. The surprise of the evening was working Dale WC7S in Wyoming on 80 Meters. Dale was at ESP levels for most of the night. I could tell where he was, but that was about it. Towards the end, the band started going long and Dale's signal grew stronger. With less than 15 minutes to go, Dale actually approached 599 levels (I confess that I turned my AGC off, so that I could hear him better. I know ..... risky move!) and I was able to sneak into his log.

The QRP ARCI Fireside Sprint is this weekend. I might give it a go. I have never participated in it before, as it is an SSB sprint. But I do have a microphone for the KX3, and the weather outside is supposed to be less than stellar, so maybe I'll try something different.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Shocked and saddened

I was shocked and saddened to discover through Facebook, that fellow QRPer and Amateur Radio blogger, Ron Bowman W8VZM became a Silent Key today. From the information that appeared on his timeline, it was revealed that Ron was involved in a fatal car crash.

I had worked Ron a few times on the air and we kept in touch through Facebook, commenting on each other's posts. Ron was a QRPer, a CW and an HW-8 fan, and was an all around good person, admired by his friends and coworkers.

My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his surviving family, as they go through this time of mourning and loss.

73, Ron. It was my pleasure to have made your acquaintance and to have known you.

Eternal rest, grant unto him, Lord
And may perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.

72 de Larry W2LJ
Take time to let your family and friends know how much you love them. Our time on this Earth is way too short. And to all my Catholic friends out there - as Fr. Z. says .... go to Confession. You never know when you'll be called Home.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A little bit of operating

I was actually able took get on the air for a bit today! A Saturday that's not full of obligations and chores is a rarity for me.

And I got a new one via QRP! Paraguay, by working ZP6CW on 12 Meters. And I got a 579 report to boot, so since it wasn't the automatic 599, I will take him at his word. The antenna was the Butternut HF9V.

A little while later, I worked KH7Y in Hawaii, so the bands were open. With the NAQP SSB, going on, the CW portion of the bands was not as crowded as usual.

I worked a few QRP Polar Bears today, as well - WA8REI, VA2SG and K3Y/1 who was Pete N1ABS, who is also a Polar Bear.

I have decided that I am going to be countercultural, and I am NOT going to try and work all 50 W1AW stations this year. A few years ago, I worked 48 states for the K6JSS anniversary event that QRP ARCI held, and besides, I have two ARRL WAS certificates already. I earned one as N2ELW, and I got another as W2LJ. The W2LJ certificate was earned by working all 50 via CW and QRP. I don't need another, even though having a special certificate for the ARRL's Centennial would be nice. I'm just not in the mood to break another 50 different pileups for another WAS certificate. Bah humbug!

I have tomorrow and Monday off, so hopefully, I will get more air time this long weekend.  Oh! I just remembered .... tomorrow is the third Sunday of the month. Join us for the Flying Pigs Run for the Bacon tomorrow night.

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Some random thoughts before turning in.

Just when you think you have a handle on this propagation thing. The 80 Meter Fox Hunt was especially and  surprisingly tough tonight. The Fox that I thought was going to be easy pickings was a lot tougher to nab than expected, Ray K9XE in Illinois.

Usually, Illinois is a cakewalk from NJ. Signals between the two states are usually decent and reliable. Not so tonight! I tried nabbing Ray for most of the first hour without success. At that point, I figured I'd better try the other Fox, John N4KV before time ran out. I didn't want to flip the big switch with no pelts in the bag. Luckily, I was able to work John in TN after only a few calls, so I was "going home" with at least one fur.

I then switched back to Ray's frequency to find that he had QSYed a bit up to try and end run some QRM, and he went simplex. After a few calls, I got a W2?J.  So I put out my call a few times more. Finally, Ray got my call and sent my exchange. And as I was sending mine ...... wouldn't you just know it? A net barged on frequency without checking to see if anyone was there. Ray eventually copied my exchange despite the net QRM, but it took us about a good two or three minutes to get it done. Usually, a two way exchange occurs in well under a minute. In spite of it all, I brought two pelts home, but the one I thought would be easy was painful, while the one I expected to be trouble was far easier. So much for expectations and conventional wisdom.

The other thing going through my mind concerns this year's Skeeter Hunt. Yes, it's still seven months away, but the wheels are already turning. I am toying with the idea of changing the exchange this year. Up until now, I have gone with the conventional RST, S/P/C, Skeeter # or power output. I am thinking of ditching the RST and using the op's first name instead. I am also thinking of seeing if I can get plaques donated for the top CW and SSB finishers.

Oh well, time to hit the sack. I am looking at a potential 12+ hour work day tomorrow. Ugh!

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

We've come full circle

Back in the day, we Hams used to get blamed for everything!

Now, it's come full circle and all these new fangled electronic devices seem to be polluting our bands with all kinds of RF noise.

It used to be that we had to prove that we weren't the "interferers", and now we have to prove that they are! Who would have thought that one day, the tables would be turned?

I remember when I lived in East Brunswick, I lived a couple of houses away from the only guy in New Jersey that didn't have cable TV. He used to gnaw on my ear all the time that I was interfering with his TV. I even had him over to the shack to show him that my station wasn't interfering with a small portable TV that I had set up there. That the TV picture didn't so much as flicker when I transmitted didn't convince him in the least.

But the funniest time (and you really just had to shake your head and laugh) was once when he confronted me as I pulled into my driveway. He was standing at the fence and was literally yelling at me how he couldn't even use his TV the past couple of days because I was "screwing it up so bad".

"Really, Bob?" I asked, "The past few days have been really bad?"

"You're darn (he didn't use "darn", but this is a family friendly blog) right. I haven't been able to watch TV the past four nights because of you and that Ham Radio of yours".

I smiled (which made him angrier, but I couldn't help myself) and answered, "Then that's a pretty good trick, Bob, because I've been out of the country for the past two weeks. I just got back from the airport." I had been in Switzerland on a training session for my old job.

Of course, the facts made no difference. I was still to blame as far as he was concerned. I can chuckle about it now, but back then it was annoying and upsetting to always be harped on for something that wasn't my fault. It got to be that I hated walking out my own back door, dreading the next needless confrontation. I think that experience is one of the factors that drove me to go QRP full time, as I never want to go through that again.

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

Monday, January 13, 2014

Just checking!

I got curious and sent an e-mail to Elecraft asking them when I might expect my KXPA100 kit, that I ordered in October.

Good news! Only about another month or so!

To be honest with you, I wasn't expecting such a quick response. I got my e-mail answer in less than 24 hours. Kudos to Dean and the Elecraft Sales Team.

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

QRP Kit News

As announced by the Four States QRP Group today:

The Four State QRP Group is very pleased to announce that Dave Benson's, Freq-Mite kit has been added to the lineup of Four State kits. Upon retirement, Dave, K1SWL, graciously offered the kit to us to continue production. Along with his SW+ transceiver series, the Freq-Mite is one of his signature designs. The Freq-Mite provides audio frequency annunciation, and is intended to be installed as a frequency counter inside a rig. Thus providing an inexpensive alternative to an LCD display. It is easily installed in new or existing rigs and easy to understand installation notes for many rigs are included on the web site.

The kit sells for only $22 US, which includes shipping, and may be ordered from it's home page All of the Four State kit offerings may be found on this page Additional kits are in the pipeline and will be made available as soon as possible.

As always, thank you for supporting Four State. All proceeds go to funding OzarkCon, the largest and best QRP conference in the Central Time Zone. Hope to cu in Branson on April 4t and 5th.

de Terry WAØITP

Between the Four States Group and QRPMe, it's good to see Dave Benson's designs not being lost to oblivion.  On a side note, K1SWL posted on QRP-L that he participated in the North American QSO Party this weekend - first time he's been on the air in about 10 years. Good for him!  Personally, I am glad to see Dave enjoying Amateur Radio and QRPing again - he deserves as much for all his dedicated service to the QRP community over the years.

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Sometimes I wonder if that's truly my problem, or if I just have too many irons in the fire.  I don't LIKE to put things off - it's just that sometimes I am forced to because something else comes up that has to be dealt with NOW. Then I lose my place and that's how things go by the wayside for me. Maybe I need to take courses in multi-tasking - do they offer those?  ;-)

Another thing that I did today (besides finish printing the Skeeter certificates) was to finally do something with my Christmas present.  That's right - I haven't written about my Christmas present, have I?

Marianne had no idea what to get me, so I made it simple for her. I made it super simple for her!  I ordered a set of SideKX cover plates for my "portable" KX3, the one I take to work with me everyday, and I had them sent here to the house to her attention. I installed them today (super easy!) and instead of sticking my KX3 inside a ziploc bag inside my LowePro bag, it is now protected by the SideKX.

The KX3 before surgery:

And the KX3 after surgery - now fully protected:

The silkscreening on the SideKX plates is virtually identical to the silkscreening on the original Elecraft side plates.  It would take an expert with a lot keener eye than mine to be able to see any differences.  The price was very reasonale for the extra protection that you get. Of course, I had to put the radio on the air after its operation, just to make sure I didn't screw anything up.  A couple of quick NAQP contacts on 20 Meters confirmed that I hadn't!

Oh, one other thing that I got to see today.  At this morning's VE session that I attended and helped at, fellow Volunteer Examiner Bob KB2VMG brought along his KXPA100 that had just arrived yesterday.  He ordered his as a pre-built unit in June.  I ordered mine as a kit in October.  I was hoping to have mine by the end of January, but if Bob just got his, which he ordered four months earlier than I did, I am now hoping to see mine by Easter.  Anyway, I got to see one live and up close and personal and got to drool for a little while!

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

Oh my Heavens - mea culpa!

I received a gentle nudge from one of the 2013 Skeeter Hunt participants this week via an e-mail, "Did you ever get the certificates out?".

Oh my gosh!  No, I hadn't and for that, I deeply and sincerely apologize to all of you!  I had about half of them printed out and then got busy with life and other things, and they got pushed to the side, on the backburner. But no excuses, this was totally a lack of focus and concentration on my part.  For that, I beg your indulgence and thank you all for your patience and understanding.

Certficate Numero Uno for the top 2013 Finisher - Sean Kutzko KX9X. Who will finish on top this year?

There are approximately 50 certificates that will be in the mail over the next series of days.  The top five overall finishers, as well as the top finishers of each state, province or country that entered as well as some other categories, have all been printed. Now comes the envelope stuffing, addressing, and going to the Post Office.

News about the 2014 Skeeter Hunt - yes, there will be one this year!  It's tentatively scheduled for Sunday August 10th - the second Sunday in August, just like the previous two years.  The only big contests on the air that weekend are the Worked All Europe Contest and the Maryland-DC QSO Party, so no big competition from anywhere else to keep you from participating.  :-)

There will be a new logo this year, as I had one drawn by a professional cartoonist.  There will be T-shirts and other apparel available if you're so inclined, through Cafe Press.  Keep your eye on the look out for that - that will appear in the Spring.

Sign ups for Skeeter numbers will commence on the First Day of Summer, in keeping with the season.  So again, keep your eyes open for that as we come closer to June 21st.  Plenty of annuncements will appear on the various e-mail reflectors.

So ....... here comes the big question.  Any changes to the Skeeter Hunt that you would like to see for 2014? Do any of you have an idea for a theme for this year?  I have a neat one in mind that I am still fleshing out, but if someone thinks that they might have a cool idea - I'll be glad to consider it.  Send me an e-mail or make use of the comment box!

Oh, and for 2014, I promise to have the certificates out on a more timely basis - you have my word of honor!

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

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Good article in the January 2014 edition of WorldRadio Online

If you're a subscriber to WorldRadio Online, be sure to check out the article on Page 16 in the January 2014 edition. There's an article by Cory GB Sickles, WA3UUV, which is entitled ""Elmering" in the Age of the Internet", and it deserves your attention.

Prominently featured are several folks who should be easily recognized by just about any serious QRPer, and they are Rem Donnelly K6BBQ (whose videos are often posted here), Steve Galchutt WG0AT (ditto), and Chuck Carpenter W5USJ.  Also mentioned is Randy Hall K7AGE. Rem, Steve and Randy are noted for their informative, fun and educational videos that appear on YouTube (and here).  Chuck is noted for his great website and all the informative and helpful topics that he covers there. And the help and advice he offers in the Rockmite and other e-mail reflectors is worth its weight in gold.

These guys deserve the title "Elmer" which is so sorely needed this day and age.  When I attended an Amateur Radio licensing course back in the late 1970's, I had a course teacher, but no true "Elmer".  After I got my ticket, most of what I learned was by trial and error, often proverbially hitting my thumb with that hammer.  Things would have gone infinitely smoother (but not necessarily better!) had there be someone I could go to, to ask for advice and encouragement.

These days, however, it seems that when people seek new knowledge, the first place they head to is Google, Bing or some other search engine.  The service that the above mentioned Hams provide is so invaluable - and by no means are they the only ones.  There are so many great resources of Amateur Radio information out there, like we've never had before.  The Internet is ripe for the picking of this treasure trove of information.

That being said, what are you doing to help this effort along?  Don't think you don't have anything valuable to add, because you do.  Your help is constantly needed not only to encourage those who are thinking of getting licensed, but also those who are recently licensed and are unsure of themselves.  There are so many things you can do, I'll list just a few here:

1) Become a Volunteer Examiner.  Not only will you meet people who are just entering the hobby, but you can befriend them and explain to them about the whole new world that is opening up to them.  Tell them about local clubs and Ham Radio activities, invite them to come out to a local Hamfest or club meeting, or even the occasional Saturday breakfast "with the guys" - remember, for the bit of time that they are taking "The Exam", they are a captive audience. Strike while the iron is hot.

2) Make a YouTube video and share it with the world.  Got a new idea, process or invention?  Have a unique or new way of doing something in Amateur radio that's never been done before?  Make a video and post it!  They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that's true, then a good video is worth about ten million!  To this day, I owe as great deal of thanks to TJ W0EA, for posting a video about the LowePro Traveler 150 camera bag and how he uses it to carry his QRP gear.  It convinced me to go out and buy mine, and as of now, I wouldn't think of using anything else for that purpose.  I had been struggling to find a good solution for quite some time when I happened upon his video, it was just what I needed to see, at just the right time.

3) Start a Website or a blog.  A fine example is Chuck's website, and for a fine example of Amateur Radio blogs - just look down the right edge of this site.  You think I list a lot?  Maybe, but even more are needed.  Do you have a new or unique idea that no one's covered before, that's just waiting to be shared?  You say that you don't want to start a blog, but have something you'd like to cover and are not sure how to do it?  Contact me.  I'll gladly lend you space here. (or see #5 below). I'll even help you put your idea into words if you like, and YOU'LL receive all the credit that you'll so richly deserve!  And your story needn't be technically minded.  Just sharing a story of how you accomplished hanging your antenna or putting together your station or how you configured your computer and radio for WSPR or PSK31 may be all the encouragement that is needed by someone who is attempting to do the same thing - but has no one to ask, or may be too shy to ask, or maybe has been reading articles, but just doesn't "get it".

4) Get on your local repeater, ESPECIALLY when you hear a "new" call.  Nothing is more special that being welcomed and acknowledged on the air.  Don't be afraid to talk to new and any younger voices that you hear on the air.  The welcome that you extend today will exist long into the future, and will be an inspiration as to how new Hams years down the road will be treated.

5) Write an article, as mentioned above in bullet point #3.  Have a unique idea or maybe a new perspective on something that's tried and true?  Write something about it!  While it would be nice to see your name in QST or CQ, there are other "niche" publications out there - literally begging for contributions.  For the CW and QRP crowd, right off the top of my head, I can think of The Keynote (FISTS), SPRAT (GQRP),  QRP Quarterly (QRP ARCI), and the K9YA Telegraph e-zine (CW enthusiasts).  For other facets of the hobby, I am sure there are just as many outlets available.

6) Always keep the kids in mind.  If you get the opportunity to demonstrate this hobby to kids, especially younger ones - don't let the chance slip through your fingers.  You may think that kids look upon this hobby as "dull", "uninteresting", or "ancient".  Maybe some do, but even more don't.  Some of the best times I've had have been explaining Amateur Radio to school kids, Boy Scouts, etc.  The looks on the their faces, and their enthusiasm will warm your heart and will in turn, encourage you and keep you young.

7) Teach a license class.  This is maybe one of the best ways to pass along your love of this hobby to the next generation of Hams.  Don't know where to begin?  Get in touch with the ARRL, they have a whole department that is willing to help you get started.  And it doesn't have to be just kids that you aim your teaching sights on.  Most high schools give opportunities for free or low cost continuing education courses for adults. often held on weekday evenings.  Offer to teach a radio license course for them.  They'll do a lot of the groundwork and advertising for you - you just need to supply the teaching part.  You'd be very surprised how many retired folks there are out there, looking for a new hobby.

The main idea here is to share, to help not only those thinking about becoming Hams, but also to put out the helping hand to those who are recently licensed. And you'll also find that you'll be helping yourself by keeping your enthusiasm for this wonderful hobby vibrant in your own life.

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

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Too important to wait for tonight

As seen on QRP-L this morning, by Paul NA5N:

Solar flares and a heads up

Ole Sol has awoken with three large flares in the past 18 hours, an M3, M6 and an X1.  There may be more to come.  The active solar region is in the center of the sun, looking right at us, meaning any CMEs (and future flares/CMEs) will most likely deliver a shock wave to planet Earth on Friday and/or Saturday with some geomagnetic storming.

But more exciting is how these flares have gushed waves of ionizing radiation into our ionosphere. The average solar flux for the past 90 days has been a count of 150.  Today's flares increased the solar flux to *237*, though short lived as local sunset occurred not long after in North America with EU already in the dark.

However, the prediction for the next two days is a solar flux of 195.  This is about the highest it has been this solar cycle and sufficient for 10M openings in local daylight hours.  So for those of you snow bound, freezing your coax off and otherwise bored Wednesday in the Eastern U.S., turn on that rig during daylight hours and enjoy some very likely good conditions from 20-10M.  Daytime conditions should be very favorable until late Friday, when the shock wave from the X1 flare is expected to arrive.  The CME left the sun at about 1,100 km/sec - a pretty decent shock wave.  NOAA is predicting a moderate geomagnetic storm, but it could get worse, though short lived.

These favorable conditions apply to all areas, Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, etc. during daylight hours.  The proton count is also fairly high, meaning signals may be very attenuated in the polar latitudes and causing some fading (QSB) in the middle latitudes.  If the proton count remains high and the CMEs hit Friday night, it could mean some impressive northern lights, perhaps extending into the northern tier of U.S. states or northern EU (depending on when it hits).

If you're new to ham radio or QRP, check out 15M and 10M next couple of days.  If those bands are open and the solar flux indeed comes in around 190-200, you should be able to easily work some nice DX with your 5 watts.  This is the first such opportunity I have seen in a long time.  Unfortunately, I will be at work tomorrow, installing some experimental 74 and 300 MHz receivers onto some VLA antennas.  Maybe I can sneak my 817 into one of the tool bags?

Let us know if you snag any good catches, or how conditions sound at your QTH. The way I figure it for right now ... turning on your 100W coffee pot and 500W shack heater to get your 5W on the air will be worth it -hi.

GL to all.
72, Paul

Current solar and geophysical conditions are always here:
or ...

Alerts and warning here:

And, current solar flux values here:
-1 means no data or the station is currently "in the dark"

Good news! Too bad I am stuck here at work!

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

Monday, January 06, 2014

Roller Coaster

Like a lot of you in other places, we've been on a bit of a temperature roller coaster lately.  Last weekend, after Christmas, it was up in the mid 50s (12C) here in New Jersey. This weekend, after New Year, we went as low as -3F (-19C) and our high for the day on Saturday was about 20F (-6C). That was just two days ago.

This morning, when I drove into work, it was 54F (12C).  Now, after lunch, it is 38F (3C) and the temperature continues to free fall.  By the time I leave to go home, I am sure that the temperature will be somewhere around the mid-20s (-4C).  And over the next 24 hours, we're supposed to get some of the coldest weather we've had here in over 20 years.  The temperatures are expected to go below 0F (-17C) at night again, but this time with wind chills way lower than that. Tomorrow's high is supposed to be only somewhere around 11F (-11C).  But then, later towards the upcoming weekend, it's supposed to warm up again to more like springtime temperatures.

Stop the roller coaster, I want to get off!  I am NOT a big fan of the cold, but I sure wish that it would already stay one way or the other for a while.  It's winter time, so even though I don't like it, I can deal with the cold for a bit.  This teasing of Spring, and then the plunge back into the deep freeze is just cruel.

On a radio note, I was looking at the solar conditions yesterday and I was licking my lips.  High SFI, a goodly number of sun spots and low A and K values. Having some free time for a change,  I got on the air, expecting to hear a lot, and for a while I thought ALL my antennas were on the fritz!  Nothing much heard yesterday, and nothing much worked.  What a let down.  At first I thought maybe everyone was working the ARRL RTTY Roundup, but even RTTY signals seemed sparse to me.  In a major RTTY contest, we often get interlopers all the way down to the lowest of the low part of the bands. Yesterday, all the RTTY stations that I heard seemed to be staying way above the .060, QRP Watering Hole areas.

Maybe all the RF is freezing from the cold air and is just dropping out of the sky.

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

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Antenna repair work

always seems to be conducted when weather is less than optimal for such things.

You may remember me telling how I had to temporarily re-hang my 88' EDZ wire last Saturday. Just a week ago, we were enjoying weather in the low 50s (11C), it was a good day to perform that task.  But then during the week, I noticed it wasn't working right and seemed to be deaf.  I thought initially that there was a short in the PL-259 connector.  I changed that out and it made no difference.  I suspected a fault maybe a bit farther back in the coax, as feedlines always seem to be a probem, but then I thought - what if the problem is with the window line and not the coax?

So today, I headed outside and this weekend, the weather is quite a bit colder than last. In fact, it's quite the opposite of last weekend. Last night we had a low of -3F (-20C) and today's high was about 20F (-6C), so where did I find myself?  Of course, in the back yard, freezing in the new fallen snow, inspecting my antenna to see where the fault might lay. And since I work better without gloves, that just added to the pleasure!

Fortunately, the fault was found quickly and it was an easy fix.  When I was re-hoisting the antenna, the window line must have flexed and stressed badly at the BALUN terminals, and on one side, the wire had snapped.  It proved to be a simple matter of loosening the screw, removing the old tiny bit of wire, stripping back a bit more of the insulation on that side of the window line and re-screwing the bare wire back down in place.  I needed tools no more sophisticated than the Swiss Army Knife that I always carry.  (You can't work for a Swiss firm for 22 years of your life and NOT carry a Swiss Army Knife with you wherever you go.)

I went to my basement shack, where it's a balmy 58F (15C) and was delighted to see the KX3 deliver a match in literally, just a couple of seconds.  My preferred wire is now back in action and I am quite a happy camper.  Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that my temporary support line will hold for the rest of the winter!

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

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

My best wishes for a very Happy and Healthy New Year to all of you out there!  May 2014 bring plenty of rare DX, ragchews, contest QSOs and all nice things to your logs.

I started the year out on a good note by working VK2DX on 12 Meters this afternoon, just as the gray line was approaching both of us.  Nick was a good 579/599 here in New Jersey, but I daresay that I was 339 or worse on his end.  Lots of repeats to get him to pull me out, but thanks to Nick's more than excellent ears, I am now able to add Australia to the "worked via QRP" list.  That's almost 2,000 miles per Watt, as Australia is just about as "on the other side of the world" as you can get from New Jersey.

Not looking forward to the next couple of days, as we're looking at some significant snow here tomorrow night into Friday. A possible 6-12 inches is forecast.  New York City and Long Island are supposed to get the worst of this storm with possible blizzard conditions for them.  This storm seems to be tracking a bit off the coast, so the farther inland you are from the Atlantic, the less snow you will see.

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

QRP Fox Hunt & Straight Key Night

Not so perfect together.

I hate to end 2013 / begin 2014 on a negative note, but it was not the best idea to hold a QRP Fox Hunt tonight. And I speak from the perspective of being one of the two Foxes.

Yes, SKN is a wonderful thing. Yes, it brings out so many to the bands. Yes, SKN has become a tradition and an institution. But let me tell you from the eyes of a QRP Fox, it wasn't the most fun thing I've ever had to deal with.

I must have had to QSY at least half a dozen times. Every time I would find a relatively clear frequency and run it, inevitably, within five or ten minutes, some 20 over 9 station would come on and start calling "CQ SKN" without so much as a "?", let alone a "QRL?".

There were a few who asked if the frequency was occupied, but they were in the minority. And I know that SKN has become an opportunity to bust out and operate the vintage gear, but there were quite a few signals out there that sounded really bad.

In all, I think I worked about 30 stations. I was feeling badly about such a stinky total, and then I traded e-mails with Don NK6A, who was the other Fox. Not only did he have to QSY more than I did, but he only worked about 38 stations. NK6A is a top notch caliber QRPer. For me to get only about 8 or so fewer QSOs than him is a major feat. That definitely takes some of the sting away.

But a note to the Fox Hunt Committee? Avoid having a Hunt on Straight Key Night like the plague!

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