Friday, December 30, 2016

Going cold turkey

"Going cold turkey" - a phrase familiar to some - unfamiliar to others. Perhaps many of my readers from outside the US have never heard of this American slang term before.  It means to break a habit ...... by stopping.  If you happen to smoke and decide to stop "cold turkey", that means stopping. Period. No gradually smoking less and less until you quit. Nope, you throw away your last pack of cigarettes into the trash can and never smoke again.

I smoked for a very brief period of time (maybe 1/2 a year) when I was in college and to this day, I'll enjoy a cigar at a wedding, if they're being offered; but I never smoked to the point where it became a habit. I can imagine though, for a hard core chain smoker, the thought of going "cold turkey" probably produces cold sweats and chills down the spine.

Thanks to the ARRL, many of us have become addicted to National Parks on the Air.  I say that in a teasing and friendly manner.  But the fact remains that for the past 12 months we have really enjoyed chasing and activating the over 400 National Park System entities.

A lot of folks went in whole hog and seemed to make it their mission to activate as many entities as possible.  Some made it a family affair, taking their spouses and children on a tour of the USA. Some seemed to take a sabbatical from work in order to satisfy their craving.  Some slept in cars, hopping from site to site, alternately activating and then hunting for a spot with WiFi so they could upload their logs to Logbook of the World.  A lot were like me, activating sites that were relatively close to home when chores and family commitments allowed some of that seemingly rare  commodity - free time.  One thing seemed certain, though, whether you were a hard core NPOTA'er or just an occasional dabbler ...... everyone who got involved had a good time.

So it is with mixed emotions that I anticipate the end of NPOTA 2016.  I will always have fond memories of my activations, and of how I incorporated NPOTA into the 2016 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, and of the many hours I spent behind the key (and microphone) as a chaser. I think I spent more time behind the microphone this year than in all my 38 years of Amateur Radio combined.

I will also fondly remember the friendships that have formed with many activators and fellow chasers on the air and through the NPOTA page on Facebook.  Call signs have become names and faces instead of just random letter/number combinations.  In a few instances, Hams that I have known for years and have only worked via Morse Code have now become familiar voices! And when was the last time a fellow Ham gave you cookies or a pizza for working them? Chalk up those innovative ideas for fellowship to NPOTA!

For many, NPOTA became an opportunity for us to rethink how we thought about Amateur Radio. A lot of us had to shed all previous notions and start thinking outside the box. For many it was the first time they ever operated outside the home Shack other than Field Day. NPOTA became a fantastic opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn't.  Many of us became more in tune with our equipment, using it in ways we never had before, expanding our capabilities and experiences. It was an opportunity for many to build and experiment with new antenna systems, new power systems, new ways of doing things that were previously taken for granted. For many of us, it also became a school for learning (real fast!) how to improvise when piece of equipment was forgotten; or how to make quick (and sometimes not so pretty) repairs when something would break or malfunction.  Through it all, we became better Amateur Radio Operators because of it; and there's no amount of money you can place on that.

It will be very hard for all NPOTA'ers when 23:59:59 UTC rolls around on December 31st and it's all gone; and we're all going "cold turkey". As far as this particular event is concerned, microphones and keys will go silent and we'll only have the sweet memories of the past 12 months to comfort us. It will seem strange not to turn on the rig and twiddle the dial looking for that new entity to work - looking for familiar call signs that we could count on to be activating some new place of historical significance.

So many thanks go out.  To Sean Kutzko KX9X and Norm Fusaro W3IZ from the League, who did a magnificent job tending and managing the NPOTA program. To the ARRL for sponsoring the event and making the resources available that  are necessary to run something of this magnitude.  Web space and server space don't grow on trees, so the next time you're ready to grouse about "What does the ARRL do for me?" ....... well, here's a good example.

Thanks to the many before mentioned activators, who provided me with so many moments of fun as well as so many moments of anticipation, and yes, even some moments of frustration.  Many thanks to the chasers who worked me (and will work me tomorrow during my two, final activations). Without all you fine folks, this NPOTA concept would have been just that - a concept.  You all breathed life into what may well go down in history as the most fondly remembered activity the ARRL ever sponsored.

Lastly, so many thanks to the National Park System and its employees. You have been the most kind and gracious hosts to all of us these past twelve months. You not only were knowledgeable and competent guides, you also became good friends.  We are in your debt for your generous hospitality.

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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Doesn't anyone build ANYTHING for themselves anymore?

An honest question.  I was parsing through some of the Amateur Radio posts on Facebook and there were several posts for 9:1 UNUNs available through eBay.

Now, I'll the first to profess that I'm no EE. And most of my home brew projects come out looking like those baking failures you find on Instagram. And I'm certainly not on par with the home brewing skills of my good friend W3BBO who builds transmitters and receivers that are so good looking, that you'd WANT one in your shack. Nothing "ugly" about his construction techniques.

But a 9:1 UNUN?  Really?

Even "Mr. Two Thumbs" W2LJ can handle one of those!

And I have! And, gosh darn, it actually even works!

So if I can do it, you can do it, too. The parts are easy to find and the step by step instructions are easily found on the Web. Just search for "EARCHI".  You can "roll your own" for half the price you'd pay on the online auction site.  And maybe, just maybe, you can buy parts in bulk and have yourself a club project. Now THAT'S an idea!

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The weather

The weather outlook for an NPOTA activation or two on Saturday is looking good.  While a lot of the Northeast is bracing for a major hit of snow tomorrow, we're supposed to get only rain in Central NJ.  It's supposed to clear out Thursday night into Friday and Saturday is forecast to be sunny and clear with a high of about 38F (3C).  Chilly, to be sure - but warmer than my first activation of TR23 last January.

I have a commitment at 5:00 PM, so if I'm going to do two activations, both HP28 and TR23, I am going to have to get an early start.  If all goes according to plan (and when does THAT ever happen?), I hope to be out of the house by 9:00 AM and up at Morristown National Historical Park by 10:00 Am or thereabouts.  I am planning on bringing the magloop and giving it a full blown workout.  Of course, the Buddistick, Hmastick and my normal arsenal of end fed wires will come along for the trip, too.  No sense in leaving home the antennas that you brought to the dance with you before.

TR23 and HP28 come together for a 2-fer from one small part of the park. You can see the trail in the following screen shot - it's represented by the red line.

It's hard to be IN the park and still within 100 feet of the trail. As you can see from the map, there are no roads which lead to easy access of TR23 from within HP28 by car.  All the service roads in the park are more that 100 feet away from the trail; and to be honest with you, I don't have the luxury of time for going for a hike.  So in keeping with being on the up and up, I will probably do them separately.  

Now here's something I just learned today which is fascinating.  I always knew there were two parts to the trail, where the two Generals split up for a bit before rejoining up.  Trail One is the one that General Washington took and is the one that runs close to my house that I've activated twice already.

Trail Two is the one that General Rochambeau used. This one runs right through Washington Valley Park which is also the site of the Middlebrook Encampment, where Continental Army troops wintered and where the first United States flag ever flew.  In fact, the Middlebrook Encampment is the only place in the United States, where by an Act of Congress, that the original 13 star "Betsy Ross" flag is officially allowed to fly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It's not all that far from Washington Rock State Park (and home), so maybe I will set up there for a couple hours after returning from HP28.  If I can activate HP28 from about 10:00 AM to Noon (1500 - 1700 UTC) and then TR23 from about 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM (1800 - 2000 UTC) that will still get me home in time to make my commitment and still finish up before NPOTA ends at 2359 UTC.

Ambitious plans usually get messed up for me. We'll see what happens.

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

New Year's Day Sprint

From the QRP-ARCI folks:


1500Z to 1800Z on 1 January 2017.

HF CW only.

Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, ARCI member number Non-Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, Power Out

QSO Points:
Member = 5 points Non-Member, Different Continent = 4 points Non-Member, Same Continent = 2 points

SPC (State/Province/Country) total for all bands. The same station may be worked on multiple bands for QSO points and SPC credit.

Power Multiplier:
>5 Watts = x1
>1 - 5 Watts = x7
>250 mW - 1 Watt = x10
>55 mW - 250 mW = x15

Suggested Frequencies:
80m 3560 kHz 40m 7030 kHz 20m 14060 kHz 15m 21060 kHz 10m 28060 kHz

Bonus Points:
If you are operating PORTABLE using battery power AND a temporary antenna, add 5000 points to your final score. (You can NOT be at your shack operating from battery power using your home station antenna to qualify for this bonus.) This is to help level the playing field for contesters who work from the field against contest stations with 5 element yagis at 70 ft.

Final Score = Points (total for all bands) x SPCs (total for all bands) x Power Multiplier + Bonus Points

Entry may be All-Band, Single Band, High Bands (10m-15m-20m) or Low Bands (40m-80m)

How to Participate:
Get on any of the HF bands except the WARC bands and hang out near the QRP frequencies. Work as many stations calling CQ QRP or CQ TEST as possible, or call CQ QRP or CQ TEST yourself! You can work a station for credit once on each band.

Log Submission:
Submit your entry online at
Log sheets are not required for entry, but may be requested by the Contest Manager if required.


Entries must be postmarked on or before 15 January 2017.

Will be published in QRP Quarterly and shown on the QRP-ARCI website.

Will be awarded to the top five scoring entrants.

New Year's Day is pretty much a non-event for me. It's a holiday that I just can't get excited about, other than having the day off. Another trip around the Sun. Big deal. But this may provide a few hours worth of fun if same said Sun cooperates.

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

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

A day late and a dollar short - my Christmas post for 2016.  This year has been hectic with work, NPOTA and a host of other things.  Blog postings are coming in at almost an all time low for W2LJ. For that I apologize and will do may best to make up for it in 2017.

Did you get any Ham goodies left under your Tree by Santa?  None here at the W2LJ house.  I guess Santa didn't get my letter about that PX3, or the KX2, or the Begali paddle, or the..........

Just joking, actually, as W2LJ didn't ask for any Ham goodies this year.  Maybe I have to turn in my Amateur Radio Membership Card, but there was nothing Ham related that I really wanted this year. And that's not a sign of apathy or losing interest - just a sign of contentment with what I have.

Christmas was spent with family; so it was a wonderful day. Today was wonderful, too, as I managed to work 3 or 4 new NPOTA entities.  I should wind up 2016 with close to 220 confirmed. On Saturday, I am thinking about possibly going up to Jockey Hollow once again to activate HP28 again for a couple of hours; and then maybe TR23 for another coupe of hours on the way home.

But getting down to business - W2LJ's Christmas wish for you ........

May the Joy, Hope and Peace that the Christ Child came to bring, live in your hearts now and forever!  May your friends and families know them as well. May your houses be filled with Happiness and Contentment and Love.  And just remember, for the secular world Christmas has ended - but for those who believe ......... the Season has only just begun !!!

A very Blessed and Merry Christmas to you all!

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

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bah, Humbug!

You can't believe everything you read on the Internet these days, but I would sincerely hate to think this story is true:

I used to be an HRD user, and even went so far as to purchase a license a couple of years ago, which has since expired for continued support.  For my needs, the software became a bit overblown and I really didn't want to keep renewing that license for continued support.

I have since returned to using Log4OM, which I had previously tried and have no intentions of ever turning back!  This is my logging program for now and for the foreseeable future.

Log4OM was developed by Daniele Pistollato – IW3HMH. It is free and is actually very intuitive and very user friendly, in addition to being aesthetically appealing, as well.  Daniele and his team keep providing upgrades and support and even offer an excellent User Manual which is easily downloadable.  And if you should ever run into a problem that's not answered in the manual, there's also an on-line forum on which the developers keep a close eye. They usually answer questions in a day if not with in hours, and the team is very friendly and gracious.

If you happen to be one of those people who is a "visual learner", meaning that it works better for you if you can actually see the program in use, there are plenty of videos on YouTube which will show you how the program works.  There are also additional videos that go into deeper explanation as how to use the additional features, such as linking to eQSL and Logbook of the World.

If you want a free Windows based logging program that is easy on the eyes, pretty simple to use with a relatively small learning curve - look no further. Log4OM may be the solution for you!

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

QRPGuys new kit

TheQRPGuys are offering a new kit, a 40 Meters Direct Conversion Receiver - for $35 (without the optional digital dial, which is extra).

It looks like a fun kit and is all through-hole, which is a big plus for the neophyte kit builder.

QRPGuys offers a whole bunch of inexpensive kits. Be sure to check them out - with Christmas coming and all - maybe you'll find a neat stocking stuffer for that favorite QRPer of yours. OR maybe you can discreetly leave a few hints with the XYL.

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