Monday, June 26, 2017

Ya gotta love Field Day !

As Howie Rose, the broadcast radio voice of the NY Mets says, after a baseball victory  .... "Put it in the books!"  Another Field Day has been relegated to the pages of history.  For better or worse, with all it's trials and tribulations, frustrations and failures and successes, you just have to love Field Day!


As Saturday dawned, the outlook was none too good.  First, a little background.  Our house is older, having been built in the 1920s, according to the inspection report we had done as part of purchasing it, back in 1998.  As such, the concept of air-conditioning was unknown back then,  Central air was installed sometime before we bought the house, but it's an older one zone unit.  The thermostat on the main floor controls the entire house.  The bedrooms are on the second floor, so in the Summer, that floor is a bit warmer than the rest of the house.  Each of the three bedroom has one of those cylindrical room fans to help keep the comfortable during the warm months.

"What's that got to do with anything?" you may be asking yourself.  As I awoke Saturday morning at 6:30 AM, I heard something just a bit louder than the hum of the fan.  It took a few minutes for my groggy brain to figure out what it was. Rain!  It was coming down in buckets - as Bob W3BBO would say, it was a real gully washer!  I only heard one or two rumbles of thunder, but the National Weather Service is currently in Howell, NJ (which is all of about 15 miles or so Southeast of me) investigating whether or not tornadoes had touched down.

This was not an auspicious start to Field Day weekend.  Before I could head out to the field, I had a few chores and the grocery shopping to do, so I got those done, first.  As fortune would have it, as I was in the check out line at the grocery store, about 90 minutes later, I happened to look out the window to see bright sunshine and blue skies!  It looked like Field Day was going to be a bit soggy, but at least dry for the balance.

Taking care of the last home and family business, I loaded up the Jeep with the things that I needed to; and I headed out for Spring Lake Park just a few minutes after 10;00 AM.  Yes, the ground was soaked, but it wasn't muddy.  It ended up being a minor inconvenience and not an impediment.  Set up went rather quickly with only a few "Murphy incidents", but as this was NJ2SP's fourth Field Day effort, all became pretty much routine.








After helping to build the beam, I got busy with other antennas as the "tower" was being loaded and raised.  It took a while to figure out the logistics, but I got Marv K2VHW's G5RV up in the trees for the CW station.  The beam was for the SSB station and our third HF station was hooked up to Dave KD2FSI's 80 Meter Inverted Vee.  I didn't get a photo of it. I will next year. The base for the 80 Meter Inverted Vee is a small cargo trailer that hitches to the back of KD2FSI's van. It supports a 30 foot (or so) collapsible mast, which in turn supports the wire. This innovation that Dave came up with is perfect for Field Day and other portable ops situations. The VHF/UHF stations and the GOTA station were hooked up to other antennas.

As it approached 1:00 PM local time, with an hour to go, Dave and I got to setting up the equipment that would be used for making the contacts.  Ron N2LCZ performed his IT magic once again, and had set up a small LAN (oxymoron - "small LAN" .... think "Jumbo shrimp" Heh.) so all our logging laptops could be connected to one desktop which served as our logging server.  This was the only thing we use commercial power for, the entire weekend.  The Field Day rules state that as long as the computers are not connected to the radios, by any means, and are not in any way, shape or fashion used for controlling the radios, then you can hook those up to commercial power and not lose your status as having operated on emergency power.  The gas station next to us once again allowed us to hook up an extension cord to one of their outlets, powering up our computer system.

At 1:45 PM we were ready to go.  The Elecraft KX3s were at the CW and 20 Meter SSB stations.  KD2FSI's radios were at the third HF station as well as the VHF/UHF station and the GOTA station. We were hoping for some good 6 Meter openings at some points throughout the weekend.  As I turned on my KX3 for the CW station, I was presented with a horrifying situation.  Marv's G5RV was giving my KX3 fits.  It would load up fine on 40 Meters with an SWR of about 1.3 to 1, but on both 20 and 80 Meters, the best match the KX3 could get was about 6: to 1.  That was simply unacceptable and I wasn't about to waste time trying to figure the situation out with only minutes to go.

My brain immediately kicked into backup mode and I decided to go with the antenna that so bravely performed at out very first Field Day back in 2014.  EARCHI to the rescue!  I shot another line into the tree that was already serving as one of the G5RV endpoints and got the EARCH endfed up, posthaste.  I didn't even bother with mason's twine and a tent stake.  We set the antenna launcher in a safe place on the ground (so it wouldn't get run over or bumped into) and it and the monofilament fishing line held the end fed up, all weekend long.  The KX3 was a happy camper, with the autotuner providing a good match on all bands. That included (more or less) 160 Meters, where I was able to make a couple CW contacts.

Oh, and by the way, the coaxial stub filters worked flawlessly!  I installed them on the CW and SSB stations and there were no interference problems all weekend long.  Dave KD2FSI and I also took more care to pay attention to antenna placement this year; so that also helped.  All the radios were able to be manned all weekend long without anyone having to stay off a band for any particular time because of hearing CW or SSB artifacts coming through from a neighboring radio.

The highlights of the weekend included the Mayor and members of the Town Council paying a visit on Saturday afternoon.  Our ARRL Section Manager, Steve Ostrove K2SO came by Saturday evening for a visit.

Steve Ostrove K2SO, and Marv Bronstein K2VHW, SPARC President

This year we had the most public interest that we've ever seen, with people coming by expressly to learn about what Amateur Radio is and why we were there.  Some parents brought their children to see what Amateur Radio is all about, expressly because of its special relationship to STEM.  We also had a few Scout Leaders from both the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops come by to ask us if we would come to troop meetings to give a more hands on demo of Amateur Radio.  We were happy that the Middlesex County RACES Bureau Chief, John Garmendi N2DV came by for a visit, so that he could see that the Radio Amateurs from the town of South Plainfield are ready and able to assist in any way needed, should the situation ever present itself.








The stations hummed this year, throughout. Again, thanks to KD2FSI and his antenna analyzer, he was able to tune the beam and the SSB station was able to go great guns.  The SSB QSO total came close to the CW QSO total for the first time this year we were able to come close to a 600 QSO total. It did my heart good to be able to look over to the SSB station and watch the guys make one contact after another and actually enjoy operating SSB QRP instead of being frustrated by a balky antenna.

Some of the newer Hams that we were privileged to either instruct or test, came by and actually spent some time behind the microphone. It's a good thing to watch them get on the air and actually start to enjoy their operating privileges. It's one thing to teach, it's another to test; but it's another gratifying experience to watch new Hams get their feet wet and become more comfortable with Amateur Radio. I will not be surprised in the least if they're back next year, not for only a few hours, but for the whole shebang. 

Dave Vadney W2OIL and Dan Vadney KC2YRC from our sister club, the ETS of NJ, came by and stayed with us for a large portion of the time,  Once again, they were humongous helps during set up and tear down and on Saturday evening, they supplied us with the most fantastic home made meatball sub sandwiches for supper. And this year, they both got the chance to operate, too.  It was nice to see them actually get a chance to sit behind the microphone, play radio for once, and get the chance to add to our QSO total to boot.

As usual, ever since my Piscataway Amateur Radio Club days, I stayed the whole 24+ hours with the exception of a break for Mass attendance (some things are even more important than Amateur Radio!). As it got late through the night, and into the wee hours of the morning, I took a few breaks to get away from the key for a few minutes. Never for too long, though, because the mantra that kept playing itself over and over again in my head was, "The contacts aren't going to make themselves.", and that kept me going.  Marv K2VHW who is normally the co-operator of the CW station had some issues that kept him away from the key for his normal amount of time.  I tried to take up the slack by myself as much as I could and I think we came close to hitting our normal CW total for this year.

I got all of about two hours sleep on Sunday morning, finally just crashing out on one of the camping chairs.  Last night I slept the sleep of the dead and I'm still pretty groggy and useless this morning. I'm on my second cup of coffee (in which I seldom indulge, but is a necessity today), but I'm pretty happy with the results of the weekend.  We made a record number of QSOs by far this year, with SSB station finally doing what it should have been able to do all along - and all were made with 5 Watts or less. A good time was had by all, and once again, some new friendships were made and a lot of older ones were solidified.

Thank you God, SPARC, ETS of NJ and friends for a fantastic Field Day weekend!  

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

(My apologies for any typos and for any disjointedness in the writing of this post. Even after getting a bit of sleep, Monday morning is a "rough go".)

As the day goes by and I am returning to somewhat normal, I am horrified by all the spelling and grammatical errors that I see that I have made and am correcting them. However, I'm still glad that I posted while all of this is still in the "Very Fresh" memory bank.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Field Day 2017

Oh, brother!


Looking at the weather, Field Day in and of itself may not be too bad, but set up is looking to be a soggy affair.  Rain tonight, ending tomorrow somewhere around 8:00 AM, as presently forecast. I wouldn't mind it clearing out a little earlier so it drys out a bit more for our scheduled 10:00 AM set up time.

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club will once again put NJ2SP on the air as "NNJ 3A".  We'll be operating QRP / Battery. We'll have a GOTA station on the air and we'll do our best to get as many bonus points as we can.

If you're in the Central New Jersey area, please feel free to stop by. We'd be glad to have you! Look for us in Spring Lake Park on Lakeview Avenue in South Plainfield. We'll be in the big, white tent.

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Great quote!

Kudos to Bill Vokac K9BV, who offered this on Facebook today, when the subject of Elmering and licensing came up:

"Passing on the respectful culture of ham radio is at least as important as "getting them licensed"."

Bravo! That sums up my opinion of Ham Crams.  I know they are the rage today, but to be honest with all of you, I detest them!

A one or two day session may be enough to pass on the bare bones - but why do you want to pass on only the bare bones?  Amateur Radio is more than the sum of its parts.  Besides the technical and operational aspects, there's a rich history to pass on.  There's also so much that the teachers can pass on of their own experience, so that the students don't make the same mistakes the teachers made when they were "wet behind the ears".

You can't do any of that in one or two eight hour sessions. That's NOT Elmering and it's not responsible teaching.  Then we wonder why so many newly licensed Techs are losing interest?  Why would they stay licensed when no one has taken the time to impress upon them the "magic" of our service/hobby?

Let me add something...... as I don't mean to demean Ham Cram study aides.  Sites like W1UL's site are wonderful and he has a proven track record. If you want to go that way - fine, more power to you. I think Ham Cram study guides, such as Urb's are a wonderful resources for those who are genuinely dedicated to getting their license via a self study program, or a traditional class program.

But if you're going to get involved with teaching in a Ham Cram type session ..... make sure the participants do their due diligence and actually read the material and study before doing a one or two day session.  My experience has shown that if they're not really serious about getting a license, the results are just going to be disastrous.

I've had a much greater success rate with traditional style Amateur Radio licensing classes. In addition to getting across the needed exam material, you also get the opportunity to get the "flavor" of Amateur Radio across to the students and actually get them even more eager and excited about getting on the air. Additionally, in my mind, the commitment required by attending a multi session class speaks volumes about the intent and desire of the students.

Lastly - the process can't end with a newbie Ham walking away with a CSCE.  They have to be cultivated into the Amateur Radio community.  You have to get them involved in a club and activities where they can ask questions, bounce ideas off people, see equipment before they buy it, etc. Keep in touch with them before, during and after the licensing process - this way, they're no longer students, but also life long friends.

Of course, this is all my humble opinion and YMMV.

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


2017 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Roster

Is up and running, and will be updated as Skeeter Hunt number requests come in and are assigned:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13Fnw4tGBP3JnR2cuGrlYuMdkRk1HigGcNBX5lC7nKI0/edit#gid=0

Never participated in a QRP Sprint before?  Then try this one!  For me, it's more a QRP social event than a contest. I never go in with the idea in my head that I'm going to win - I just like to hear all of you on the air and like to work as many of you as possible.

Not into CW?  This QRP Sprint has a SSB category. No excuses there!

Worried your CW speed isn't the greatest?  Don't be!  Any Skeeter worth his salt will QRS for anyone,

To channel Star Trek -  always remember the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt "Prime Directive" - get outdoors, get on the radio and have fun!  Nothing more, nothing less.

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gentlemen ....... start your engines!

To all Amateur Radio ops, so inclined,

The 2016 Skeeter Hunt soapbox is up, here!

The 2016 Skeeter Hunt certificates have been printed and are in the process of being mailed.

The 2017 Skeeter Hunt rules are here.

The first day of Summer for 2017 is tomorrow - so start e-mailing your requests for Skeeter Hunt numbers to w2lj@arrl.net now!

Some notes on Skeeter Numbers:

1) It's first come, first served - everyone gets a chance at a lower number.
2) There are no "reservations" for specific numbers - no specific "requests" - that dance card was filled a long time ago.
3) Requests for Skeeter Numbers (in the order they were received) will be read starting tomorrow morning and the Roster will be updated as my time permits.
4) You can request a Skeeter Number right up until the day before the event - that means August 19th is the last day that number requests will be answered.
5) Each request will be answered via a return e-mail, If you do not get an e-mail back from W2LJ, or do not see your name and call on the roster within a reasonable amount of time, try again.
6) Please, please, PLEASE include your name and either the state or POTA entity that you will hunting from in your e-mail.

The Official 2017 Skeeter Hunt Roster can be found here.

Have at it guys and gals - hope you have as much fun with this as I do!

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Thank You !!!

A big shout out and "Thank You" to the fantastic folks at DX Engineering !


You guys are the best!

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Stickers are in!


The package with the stickers came in today's mail! Woot!

K2WO, W3BBO, KA9EAK, KK6RUH, and NX1K - your envelopes are being mailed in the morning.

If anyone else wants one, these puppies are $2 each, which covers the cost of the sticker, envelope and postage with a few pennies to spare.  You can send a snail mail to my QRZ address or send funds via Paypal to w2lj@arrl.net.  If you send an order through Paypal, if you don't send your address - please note your call sign at the very least so I can look you up on QRZ.

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

Skeeter Hunt News

They say Memorial Day is the "unofficial" 1st Day of Summer.  That may be true; but in Skeeterland, we wait until the "official" Official 1st Day of Summer to start issuing NJQRP Skeeter Hunt numbers. That day is coming up fast - next Wednesday, June 21st is when Skeeter numbers for 2017 will start being dispensed.

All you have to do to get one is to send an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net and one will be sent back to you in a confirming e-mail.  Be sure to include your name, call sign and either the state you'll be operating from or the POTA #.

POTA # ?????  Yes - because this year, the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt will be featuring the Parks On The Air program. For all the details, please visit http://www.qsl.net/w2lj/


Last year, it was NPOTA and this year it will be POTA. 100 Bonus points will be added to your score if you activate a POTA entity, and there are PLENTY of them available!  To find one near you, please visit the interactive map at: http://wwff.co/directory/map/

Now I know some of you faithful Skeeters are probably reading this and are thinking, "Wait a darn sec, there, LJ!  Where's the Soapbox page from 2016 and where are our certificates? Huh? What do you have to say about that? Huh?"

Mea culpa, friends!  I'll readily admit that I was tardy on both counts.  However, the 2016 Soapbox page is now up at http://www.qsl.net/w2lj/index%20page%209 and your richly deserved certificates are in the process of being printed. I hope to have them in the mail, no later than this weekend. And hey, the timing isn't so bad, is it?  You can read the soapbox and make plans for this year, while reminiscing over last year!

There's also a new Fabook group devoted to the Skeeter Hunt - https://www.facebook.com/groups/175763746290252/, if you're so inclined to join.


So to answer one last question - why new Skeeter numbers every year?  Why aren't they good for life?  The reason for that is that I like to give everyone the opportunity to get a low number. Those seem to be the most coveted.  For various reasons, not everyone is able to participate from year to year - family commitments come up, business trips happen, vacations happen.  It's not fair to lock up a low number because of that - so they get issued to folks who really want them and have every intention of using them.

That being said, if you're not certain that you'll be able to participate - DON'T LET THAT STOP YOU FROM GETTING A NUMBER !!!!  I'd rather numbers go un-used than not issued at all. Sometimes things come up, but then there are times that potential conflicts get resolved and it's better that you have a Skeeter number than not!

Lastly, I kinda fibbed on that statement about Skeeter numbers not being good for life - at least in one instance.  Let it be known, throughout the kingdom of Skeeterland, that from henceforth, W2LJ will always be lucky Skeeter #13. There are some superstitious folks out there, who have specifically asked me to make sure they are not issued #13 - so I've solved that little predicament by assigning it to myself in perpetuity.

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

Dit - dit

Many thanks to Chris KQ2RP for posting the heck out of this on his blog and Facebook - the new DitDit.fm podcast.  I finally got around to listening, and this is great!


Produced and hosted by Bruce Pea N9WKE, the podcast is dedicated solely to all thing about Morse Code and Morse Code related subjects.

This is perfect for those of us who are dedicated CW geeks.  I'm not usually big into listening to podcasts (that's why it took me a while to start listening); but "DitDit.fm" and "The QRPian" will be on my listening list for as long as these guys keep the podcast fires burning.

Bruce? You had me in Episode One when you said, "I don't even own a microphone!"

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Good cookies!


Yesterday was the inaugural Cookie Crumble QRP contest and even though I got to spend only a limited time behind the key, it was great fun!

The contest lasted from 1:00 - 6:00 PM, but I was not able to sit down behind the KX3 until nearly 4:45 PM.  Yesterday was my Sunday to volunteer at the soup kitchen.  So I had it all planned - or so I thought!  Early in the morning, I set up my antenna and portable station out at the backyard picnic table so that everything (except the radio, which I left inside the house) would be ready when I got home at 4:00 PM.

The problem was I didn't get home at 4:00 PM.  The meal yesterday was meatball sandwiches along with potato salad, chips and a dessert. Everything was going fine until we discovered that the marinara sauce at the bottom of the two big cooking pots had burnt.  Have you ever had the honor of being the one chosen to clean burnt marinara sauce from the bottom of two big cooking pots?

To say that a sandblaster would have come in handy is an understatement.  Since I didn't want to be there all evening,and miss the contest entirely, I let the bottoms of the pots soak in super hot water and liquid dish detergent for about 10 minutes.  Then I used a metal serving spoon to literally scrape off as much of the burnt sauce and gook as I could manage.  Then I followed that up with Brillo and some good ol' fashioned elbow grease until the posts were clean.  No mirror finish; but you'd never be able to tell what bad shape these pots were in unless you use an electron microscope.

I hurried home, grabbed the KX3, paddle and earbuds and hooked everything up to the antenna and battery that were already positioned and waiting for me.  I started out on 20 Meters and heard a lot of SKCC Weekend Sprinters, but no Cookie Crumblers.  I did work Jimmy K4YFH in North Carolina who must have been confused when I relayed that I was "NR 173" as he came back to me "49C" which is my SKCC number.

I decided that 40 Meters might be the better band on which to find Cookies and that proved to be true. I worked Dan KA3D, Ralph KW8G, Bob W3BBO (who was on his newly acquired HW8. It sounded great, Bob!), Ken N3CU (Cookie Monster), Emily KB3VVE, the Cookie Queen herself, Dave K2FI and finally K3SVA Gene (Cookie Monster).

So in a total of an hour and 15 minutes I made 8 contacts. Nothing to set the contest world on fire about; but I had fun and that was the main point!  It was in the 90s (30s C) yesterday, and after the long Winter and extended damp and chilly Spring that we have had, sitting in the sun with a warm breeze blowing felt just oh, so good! That I was playing radio at the same time was just icing on the cake, or perhaps, sprinkles on the cookies - if you prefer!

The setup was my usual. The antenna was the PAR End Fedz 40/20/10 held aloft by my 31 foot Jackite pole.  The battery was not my normal portable ops lithium battery, as I opted to use my Field Day PowerWerx SLA. The paddle was the Palm Pico.

Thanks to Emily KB3VVE and Tim W3ATB for coming up with another gem of a QRP Sprint. Tim has already posted on Facebook this morning that Emily has decreed that the 2nd Cookie Crumble will be on Sunday, June 10th, 2018.  If you didn't participate this year, you deprived yourself of a very, very good time. Make sure not to miss it next year!

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

Friday, June 09, 2017

Sticker craze

I see stickers on cars everywhere, telling folks where you've been, like Long Beach Island, in NJ for example:


Or what you like to do (Want to run half a marathon, anybody?):

These will be coming in, soon:


If you're a QRPer and would like one, you can send $2 to my QRZ address - that will cover the cost of the sticker, an enverlope and postage. This is being offered as a service, and to make our presence as QRPers known - this is not a moneymaker, nor any kind of donation request/fundraiser. If you'd rather avoid sending for one via snail mail, you can send $2 via paypal to w2lj@arrl.net.  I should have them in a week or so.

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

Thursday, June 08, 2017

My memory is shot

Regarding yesterday's post about the weather and a possible POTA activation on Sunday.

1) It's the second Sunday of the month and that's the Sunday that I volunteer at the soup kitchen.

2) This Sunday is the inaugural "Cookie Crumble Contest" - a new QRP Sprint, which was the inspiration of Emily Saldana KB3VVE and Tim Carter W3ATB. It runs from 1700 to 2200 UTC - or from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM EDT.  I get home from the soup kitchen around 4:00 PM, so I can participate for the last couple of hours.

This promises to be an exciting Sprint with a couple of "twists" including contacting "Cookie Monsters' for extra bonus points and "Burnt Cookies" which will actually lose you points!  That's a new concept that I've never heard of - but this is meant to be "a fun, low-stress contest that builds friendship and improves operating skills." So, IMHO, that's a unique twist that won't bother me in the least, if I happen to stumble upon a "Burnt Cookie".

For all the details - you can find them here: http://w3atb.com/cookie-crumble/



Make sure to sign up for a Cookie Number - W2LJ is Cookie # 173.

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


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

New Jersey Weather

Mark Twain once said, "If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

Mr. Twain, with apologies, I'd like to paraphrase your quote:

"If you don't like the weather in New Jersey now, just wait a few days."


Today may be damp, chilly and raw - but wait until the weekend.  Sunny and hot!  It looks like we'll be traversing from April to July in the space of about 4 or 5 days.

The bright side is that Sunday just might end up being an ideal day to do a POTA activation. If I get enough yardwork done on Saturday, that is.  I have to finish weeding and mulching the front yard landscaping before I can go out and play.

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

Monday, June 05, 2017

Somewhat disappointed

Saturday was a bit of a disappointment.  I was planning on going to the OMARC hamfest - which is held by the Ocean and Monmouth Counties Amateur Radio Club.  I thought I was free and clear to go; but then I was informed that there was a CERT call out for a 5K race and a 1 mile fum walk for a charity in town.  Fun or duty?  I mulled it over for about 1/2 a second, and pulled out my CERT gear and headed towards the race marshaling point.

We deployed to our positions about 1/2 an hour ahead of time in order to position the barricades needed to block off the streets 15 minutes ahead of the starting gun.  And it started to rain. Thankfully, my CERT poncho was in my CERT backpack, which is always in the car.

To be honest with you, I will never figure out some people. I was positioned one on of the side streets (Joan Street) off the main course, which was South Plainfield Avenue.  It was my duty to prevent cars travelling down Joan Street from entering onto South Plainfield Ave.  I had two barricades blocking access, as well as my car pulled sideways in the street.

People were still driving up to me, sticking their heads out their windows, and asking "Is the street closed? Can I get through?"

I was so tempted to say that I was just standing in the rain, with my car blocking the street "for my health"; but instead just smiled and explained that there was a 5K foot race going on and that the roads would be open again in an hour.

Thankfully, the rain abated for the race itself, and about an hour later, I was able to secure my post and go home.  The hamfest was scheduled to only last until Noon; so it was too late to make the trip to go down towards the shore. There were too many chores to do anyway, so it was probably better that I didn't go.

On another note, I've been getting a couple e-mails asking about the 2017 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.  Yes, it will be held again this year on Sunday, August 20th.  Look for an announcement to be made here within a week or two and for the NJQRP Website to be updated with the photos and soapbox comments from last year's contest, soon.  I'll also let you know when it's time to send your e-mails requesting Skeeter numbers; and what the theme is, for this year.

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


Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017


From Lexington and Concord to the hills and valleys of Afghanistan, today we remember, honor and pray for those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.


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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Rain

Has it been raining a lot lately!  Rain, rain, and more rain. Last night, it was pouring "cats and dogs" when I went to bed. After a few minutes, I heard some rumbles of thunder (the first of the season) in the distance and I decided to head down to the basement to unhook the antennas.  A few moments after I had climbed back into bed there was a very bright flash, and the house shook from the vibrations of the thunder clap!  One of those times that I'm certain I prevented static damage.

Earlier in the day, I was able to work Sean KX9X/7 while he was operating from Devil's Tower, KFF-0920 in Wyoming.



I had gotten home from work and sat down with the tablet for a few minutes after I had put dinner in the oven. I saw his Facebook postings and that he was QRV on 14.064 MHz, so I ran down the basement and tuned in.  His signal was about 449 with some QSB, but by turning off the KX3's pre-amp, I was able to tone down the background noise and hear Sean's signal more clearly.  It was enough that I was able to work him and get him in the log.

This weekend is a long weekend in the US, as on Monday, we honor the lives of our military men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation - Memorial Day.  The weather outlook for the weekend is pretty gloomy, with a chance for rain every day except tomorrow.  On Sunday, I was hoping to go and activate one of NJ's many parks for Parks On The Air. I would prefer to do that from a picnic table instead of from inside my car.  Rain is forecast for the morning and evening, with perhaps a break in the afternoon. I'll have to see how it plays out. Monday looks to be a washout.

On an encouraging side note, I found a place here at work where I think I can set up during lunchtime and resume my daily QRP sessions (once the weather dries out).  I got in really early this morning and decided to investigate the various parking lots around the buildings on campus.  The main parking area is underground, which doesn't do me a lot of good. However, I found that the lot also extends "up" and that if I park up there, it would be pretty much like operating at our old location. Not scenic, by any means, but in the open without many obstructions.  I can just imagine it now, as building Security patrols the parking lots ..... the first time they see the magloop, should I decide to bring and deploy it. LOL!

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Saving up!

As Hamvention weekend was coming to a close, I have decided that I am going to make my best effort to attend FDIM and Hamvention in 2018. If I put a little $$$ aside each week, I should have ample funds come the beginning of the year.

Now that my two kids are older, I really want to attend FDIM to meet as many of you as I can; as well as all the great folks I've worked over the years in the various Sprints, etc.

So, to you FDIM veterans out there - I take it that the event is still taking place at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn?  When's the best time to reserve a room?

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Them QRP'ers ..... they show up EVERYWHERE!


Thanks to Tom Medlin W5KUB for keeping me informed and entertained today!

Speaking of which ...... Tom is providing a great service, keeping those of us who can't make it out to Xenia informed and feeling like we're still in the mix.  Traveling out there and setting up an operation like his is a labor of love ...... but it ain't cheap!  If you go over to his Website and click on his "Live Video" link, you'll get a pop-up which will allow you to enter into a raffle to help defray his production costs. The prize is a really neat antenna analyzer, which I sure as heck wouldn't mind winning - so I threw a few bucks his way ..... and I hope you might consider doing the same.

By the way .......... if there are any of my regular readers at Dayton and you happen to have a picture of you, or someone you love (or even a total stranger for that matter) wearing either a Skeeter Hunt shirt, or a "QRP, when you care to send the very least!" shirt - please send me a copy!

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

Saw this little guy on W5KUB

While trying to keep an eye on Hamvention via the W5KUB live video, I saw this little guy out of the corner of my eye, which made me sit up and take notice.  In all the talk about all the QRP radios out there; and all the kits, I never seen this one widely discussed before:


A QRP transceiver designed and produced by Chris, M0NKA in Great Britian.  It's official name is the mcHF Radio, which stands for "Mega cheap HF Radio". Cool!  That's Carl, WD8VXS who is walking around with it and is being interviewed by W5KUB.

It's an all band, all mode radio that will do up to 10 Watts out up to 30 Meters and then about 6-7 Watts on the bands higher than that. It has the sound card built in, has a USB port for easy firmware updates, or for hooking up to your computer and has a touch screen.


It can be purchased several ways:

1) Just the boards - you supply the parts - about $35
2) All the boards and all the parts - about $270
3) All the boards and all the parts, BUT with the SMD components already pre-installed, (No price mentioned during the interview)

The case can be gotten from a source in China.  About $80

For a lot more detail - you can go to the Website, here - http://www.m0nka.co.uk/  There's also an M0NKA Facebook page.

I don't know why this little fella hasn't garnered more press within the QRP community, especially within the kit building community.  Maybe it has and I'm just woefully uninformed?

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


Spreading the word

Hoping we can get this to spread like wildfire!  I saw the link on Chris KQ2RP's blog and am embedding the video here - QRP Night ... the night before Field Day.

Let's make this happen!



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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lessons learned the hard way


You'd have thunk that after being an Amateur Radio op for some 39 years now, and a dedicated QRP'er for about 14 years now that the "slogan" shown immediately above would be like second nature to me. But no, I still fall prey to the occasional troll, especially the species that insists that "The guy on the other end of the QRP QSO is the "hero" who does all the heavy lifting". While I agree that the receiving station is an invaluable part of the QSO - isn't that true for EVERY contact, not just the QRP ones?

Calmly explaining that signal strength is a combination of power, antenna and propagation falls on deaf ears with these folks. It's power, power, power and more power, and that's it.  When you counter with the addition of  the word"skill", that usually gets even more laughs from these folks. "How much skill does it take", they ask, "to shoot out 5 Watts out of a piece of wire?"

Thanks to Steve Yates AA5TB for answering that question in a recent discussion I became involved with on a social media site.  Steve put into words, what we all know; but sometimes fail to enunciate. Steve countered with (and I'm paraphrasing) that the skill comes in in knowing your equipment, understanding propagation and understanding antenna theory enough to put all three of those elements together in order to get the communication through is a reliable and efficient manner.

Eloquent and to the point!  So the next time you're baited - feel free to use the words you've read here and "Keep calm and move away from the troll".

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wish I was going to Dayton ....... err, Xenia

Maybe the better terminology would be, "Wish I was going to Hamvention" and leave it at that.

PREDICTION: Attendance will be up significantly this year as the new venue is a big draw.

New venue or old, I wish I was going.  It's been 20 some years now since I last made a trek to Dayton.  Various things have taken precedence - work, marriage, offspring, etc.  I think the last time I was to Dayton was the final year before the switch over to May. I do miss it.

Not that I'm looking to buy anything, because I'm not. Well, at least nothing major, anyway. What I do miss is the trip out and back with local friends and meeting up with far away friends for a few days.

I'm ashamed to admit this - I've been writing this QRP and CW blog for 12 years now and I've never been to Four Days in May! How lame is that? And watch, by the time I'm able to make it, FDIM will become a thing of the past.

That's what happened with Atlanticon.  The several years it was held, both Joey and Cara were in their toddler years.  I could have taken time off; but my wife also works full time. With no one to watch the kids, attending Atlanticon was not a possibility.  When my kids became old enough were I could have left them alone until Mom got home from work, Atlanticon had gone the way of the Dodo.

Sorry to be such a "Debbie-Downer", but I see Facebook posts of good friends making their way out to Ohio and my gray matter takes me back to Memory Land and the good times I had in days of yore. I would dearly love to meet my many QRP friends, Skeeter Hunt friends, QRP Fox hunt friends, and NPOTA friends who I have come to know, oh so well, but have never met face-to-face.

Wait a sec ...... come to think of it, I have a commitment on Saturday morning that would have precluded my going this year, even if I could.

But I still wish I could.

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Solving the final loop problem

One of the major issues that I've had with my home brewed magloop antenna is the base.


The first iteration was a totally home brewed base made out of PVC. It ended up being unusable as the antenna would pivot sideways at the two points indicated by the yellow arrows.  An accidental tug on the coax or a good stiff breeze would create havoc.

The second edition involved removing the PVC base and using the mini tripod that came with my Buddistick Deluxe package.


I took the center column out of the tripod and slipped the 1/2" PVC of the loop frame into the hole. It worked well, but as its name implies, it's a mini tripod. Even with the legs extended all the way (as shown in the photo above at Morristown National Historical Park), it was still very short and it occupied a very small foot print.  This solution was better, but not ideal as the whole affair was still entirely too top heavy and if I wasn't careful, or if it was too breezy ......... havoc ensued, again.

Wanting a better solution, I went to the Magnetic Loop Antennas page on Facebook and asked for opinions. Ido Roseman 4X6UB suggested going to the hardware store and purchasing a construction light.  These are halogen lamps that usually come with a stand.


I went to Home Depot this morning and asked to be directed to the construction lights. Much to my delight, in addition to the lights mounted on stands, they also sold just the tripods.  I bought one of the Husky brand tripods for $19.00 and brought it home.  What you can't see on the photo above is a little box at the top of the stand that allows for quick mounting of the lights.  The quick mount is held on by four screws. Removing the screws and the quick mount box leaves a hollow tube that is just wide enough to slip 1/2"PVC into with no trouble.


So what I have now is a very sturdy base that still collapses down compactly enough to fit into the stuff sack that I keep the un-assembled loop in. A little bit heavier package than I used to have; but still totally and conveniently portable.

Kudos to 4X6UB for the wonderful tip!

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

HW-8


It was fun hooking up the HW-8 (courtesy of Dave KD2FSI) to the 4 States QRP Group antenna tuner and playing around on 40 Meters last night.  I only made a couple of contacts; but they were solid and easy.

I was surprised by two things:

1) How little I have forgotten since I had the HW-8 I had originally purchased and built.  Knowing where the controls, the settings, the peculiarities were like second nature (not that it's a complex piece of equipment. It's not) - like riding a bike, you never forget.

2) The bandspread and selectivity. Yikes!  Compare to the KX3 and other, more modern rigs the bandspread on the HW-8 is very tight. Meaning a little twitch of the VFO knob goes a long way. Maybe 40 Meters was very crowded last night with the NAQCC Sprint going on, but it sounded so crowded,  kind of like my old Novice days on the bands.  I guess with the KX3 you get more "twiddle room" between signals - and I've gotten used to that.

In all, it was a joy to use again; and I am going to be using it more and more as time goes on.  This will definitely be my SKN rig from here on out; and maybe, just maybe, I'll take "The KB9BVN Challenge" and will see if I can get WAS with this 'lil pup.

Thanks again, to good friend Dave Hackett KD2FSI for graciously re-uniting me with a relic from my Amateur Radio halcyon days. With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, "Sometimes you CAN go home again."

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

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Worse than trying to bust a pileup to North Korea

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine when someday, North Korea joins the rest of the world and finally allows its citizens to have access to Amateur Radio? Can you imagine what that pileup will be like?  All the Honor Roll guys who will finally have the chance to "have 'em all"? Can you imagine that headache?

I can.

Last night I attended a workshop for "Financial Aid for College" put on for the parents of Juniors at my son's high school. I came home with a headache about the same that I imagine I would have gotten from trying to bust a P5 pileup.  Deadlines, forms, EFCs, FAFSA, merit scholarships, etc, etc, etc,  Oy! It's enough to make my head spin!

When I finally got home around 9:00 PM, I was in no mood to head down the basement to tackle the completion of my 4 States QRP Group antenna tuner.  Hopefully, I'll get to that tonight after dinner and mowing the lawn. Once that's done, I'll put my HW8 on the air for a bit to give the new tuner a workout.  The HW8 takes a 1/4" mono headphone jack for the key input, so I'll have to make up a cable so that I can use my AA0ZZ EZKeyer with it. Maybe I can use that combo for the NAQCC Sprint, which is tomorrow (Wednesday) night. Oh yes, I forgot, the NAQCC Sprint requires a straight key for a better multiplier.  OK, one less cable to make.

At a time when folks are leaping into SDRs and panadapters and other hi-tech goodies, I seem to be going "retro".  Hey, whatever floats your boat, right?

That's another thing - I have to get out the "publicity e-mail" for the Sprint tonight, as well. Sometimes I feel like I have too many irons in the fire, or that I'm burning the candle at both ends AND the middle.

On the "feeling good" side of the coin ....... a few months ago, I lost a 32 GB USB Flash Drive.  I had blog photos, Web site HTML files, Tech class material, Skeeter Hunt stuff - just about everything that was near and dear to me regarding Amateur Radio on it, in one convenient place.  It had fallen out of my pocket and I thought it was lost forever.  Nothing was irreplaceable, as all the content exists on various other computer hard drives at home.  It was a pain in the you-know-where to try and re-assemble all of that, though.

Last night, while getting out of the car, I stooped down to pick up my work backpack, which had fallen off the rear seat and onto the rear floor during the drive home.  As I was looking down, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the Flash Drive in that little space on the floor betwixt the driver's seat and the driver's door. Hallelujah!  What a great feeling to have all that information back. Tonight I am going to copy the contents of this USB stick onto my wife's 3 TB external hard drive for insurance sake.

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


Monday, May 08, 2017

Doctor, my eyes !

It was good to melt some solder yesterday.  Other than building the magloop and soldering some PL259s, it's been way too long since I've done any serious kit building.

But I have to tell you .......... my eyes!


My eyes are not what they used to be. The last "seriously big" kit that I built was probably my K2, back in 2004, 2005?  Not exactly sure which year it was - and it appears my memory is fading as well as my eyes! LOL!  I mean, I've built other kits since then, but nothing as intense as the K2 experience.

Anyway, back then I wasn't wearing bifocals yet.  My eyes have definitely gone downhill since then. Bifocals are great for reading, but suck seriously when it comes to kit building. The "close" part of the bifocal lens is useless for the kind of closeup vision needed for soldering and for reading component values. For reading component values I used a magnifying glass, but for soldering? It was easier to just take off my glasses and rely on my own myopia.

So it was a hilarious routine.  Glasses on to read the manual, then pick up the magnifying glass to read the component value.  Put down the magnifying glass to re-check the manual.  Glasses off for the installation and soldering of the component. And so forth, and so forth, and so forth .........

I think I spent more time taking my glasses on and off than soldering! It made for an interesting afternoon of juggling.

Sadly, I think SMD would be pretty much out of the question for me, now. Not that I would be incapable of it; but I think the frustration factor would make the experience joyless, and that's part of the reason we build things, right?  Not only to end up with a functioning piece of equipment; but also to have some fun in the process.

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

Sunday, May 07, 2017

This is May?

For the 7th of May, I would be expecting warmer temperatures. The last week has been on the chilly side and rainy, not very May-like at all! This time of year normally fills my head with ideas of heading out to a park and setting up the station in the nice, warm sunshine.  Today, I was happy to stay indoors, where it was nice and warm.

I purchased one of those 4 States Crickets and am looking forward to building it and getting it on the air. However, I need to do something about a transmatch first.  The KX3 has the built in autotuner, and while I have an Emtech ZM-2 tuner, that stays in my portable ops backpack.

A while back I had purchased, also from the 4 States Group, one of their 4-S Tuners.


I realized I needed a good QRP antenna tuner for my various QRP transmitters and transceivers; and this seemed to be a very good little unit that would fit my needs, nicely. Today was a good day to sit down at the bench and do some building.

It's not a difficult kit to assemble, but at the same time it might surprise you.  This is a kit that's a hybrid between "standard" kit building and homebrew.  I say that, because while the kit comes with a printed circuit board/top cover, it's a bit different from what you might be used to.


There are no through-holes, just pads that are reminiscent of Manhattan style construction.  But since the pads are not hard wired together, but are connected by circuit board traces, the 4 States Group refers to this as "Pittsburgh Construction".

The first step was building the main inductor. It looked more complicated than it turned out to be.


The rest of the components went on easily enough. It kind of reminded me of my old days at Sinar Bron when the first SMD circuit boards came out in the studio strobes that we sold. At the time, we had no SMD devices to repair them with, so we took regular discrete components and just soldered them to the SMD pads. You do what you have to, right?



In just a couple of hours, most of the work was done. 


This photo doesn't show it, but I got the two polyvaricon capacitors mounted and all that's left for me to do is construct the rest of the enclosure, which are pieces of circuit board material which will solder together. The final steps shouldn't take too long and then it will be on to the Cricket.

This little unit will get a workout. Besides the Cricket, I have various other monoband QRP transceivers and transmitters that will now be able to be hooked up to the W3EDP.  The plan is that this unit will stay in the shack and the Emtech will stay in the backpack.

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