Monday, October 21, 2019

JOTA was kind of a bust.

This past Saturday, an intrepid few from the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club, and a few friends, set up in Putnam Park in town. Our goal was to get local Scouts from town to come and work other Scouts as part of Jamboree On The Air 2019.

As it turned out, no Scouts showed up.  I guess, once again, our second attempt at this fell short. We (actually Drew W2OU) DID speak to some Scouts up at the Watchung Reservation via the W2LI 2 Meter repeater. So in that regard we were successful, but we were really hoping to provide some Scout to Scout QSOs.  That's where the magic happens.

Drew W2OU talking with Scouts on the W2LI repeater while Bill W2AOF, Dave KD2FSI and Bill KC2PLO observe.

Bill W2AOF brought the VHF/UHF gear and I brought my KX3 and the PAR END FEDZ. Bob WB2UDC brought his K1 and that Elecraft AX1 antenna.

Bill W2AOF programming the W2LI and other JOTA frequencies into his VHF/UHF rig.

WB2UDC's K1 with the AX1 antenna attached.

I have to admit when this antenna was first introduced by Elecraft that I was very skeptical as to how it could perform. And I remained skeptical when Bob brought it and placed it on his K1.  But then I worked ON6VL with the KX3 and the PAR, which was hoisted up into a tree.

The PAR END FEZ in a nearby tree - you can see the coax going to the matchbox pretty clearly.

About five minutes later, Bob also worked him with that "thing" sticking off the back of his rig! I guess I'm too stubborn to see how that little bitty antenna is effective as an everyday QRP antenna. It goes against all those times the mantra of "Get up as much wire as high as you can" was driven into my skull. But I have to admit - it did work!  Bob even contacted a German station with it a bit later. So, OK ....... I'm still not buying one. The PAR and the KX3 got me a few more German as well as a few NY QSO Party contacts, so I was happy that everything worked the way it was supposed to.

Dave KD2FSI brought his HF/VHF/UHF rig along with his high power PAR and a VHF/UHF J-pole antenna, so we had that at our disposal, also.

Dave KD2FSI's set up.

We also had Marty WB2BEW show up with an old Swan rig. It was a friend's and he wanted to see if it still worked. He hooked it up to my PAR (I told him he had to limit power so as not to burn up the PAR's matchbox) and he was still able to make contacts - so he was pleased as punch!

 That's Marty WB2BEW to the front, right making QSOs with the Swan.

With regard to meeting up with and hanging out with friends, making a few QSOs, having some pizza for lunch and generally having a good time - the day was a HUGE success. With regard to reaching our JOTA goal of getting South Plainfield Scouts on the air and exposing them to Amateur Radio - not so much. The fact that it was a pretty chilly and at times, breezy day didn't help matters much. My hands were cold all day. I can't possibly see how Bill W2AOF and Dave KD2FSI were comfortable in just shirt sleeves. They both must have hot coffee running through their veins!

We've had great success at Camporees and at the recent JerseyJam, and I very much want to continue presenting at those kind of large scale events.  But I am tempted to bring up at our next club meeting that unless WE are invited by the local troops to give an Amateur Radio demonstration, that I think we're pretty much spinning our wheels inviting them and hoping against hope that someone will show up.

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

Sunday, October 20, 2019

FLARC Presentation

My presentation of "QRP, You and the Great Outdoors" before the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club went quite well Friday night. After a few opening technical difficulties, the presentation, which was scheduled to start at 7:00 PM, began a bit closer to 7:30 PM.

Several friends from other radio clubs showed up to attend and it was most appreciated. Alan W2AEW from the Raritan Valley Radio Club was there as well as Dave KD2FSI from SPARC and Don W2JEK from the Bergen Amateur Radio Association.  Seeing friendly and familiar faces in the audience was a great nerve calmer.

The hit of the presentation, at least in my mind, was the video by Sean KX9X and his QRP adventure at Pigeon Key, Florida for his Islands On The Air activation. A person can talk about QRP all day until he's blue in the face - but to see and hear actual QRP contacts from Florida to Alaska and Florida to France ....... well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Thank you so much, Sean, for giving me permission to include your YouTube video in my PowerPoint.  I think you may have won over more than a couple of QRP converts!

No one threw any tomatoes at the presenter and there were some thoughtful and good questions asked afterward, which I was able to answer.  There were 38 people in attendance and Ed Efchak WX2R, the Program Coordinator said that a lot of club members told him they enjoyed the presentation. So it all went well - and for that I am extremely grateful.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A challenge posted by Wayne NK6R

For the budding radio designers out there - a challenge presented by Wayne NK6R. I know this blog is read by a lot of people with tons more technical expertise than myself - and this seems like a most worthy project, so I am re-posting from QRP-L:

Hi all,

Someone recently told me that he'd benefitted throughout his life from learning Morse code as a teen. Ham radio helped him cope. He's gone on to promote Morse because it can help kids with certain cognitive or social issues. Such problems are exacerbated by social media, these days. We all know of teens who've ended up ostracized or worse.

He was wondering what the ham community may be able to do for them.

I proposed a simple ($5-$10), unlicensed CW transceiver (kit or assembled or both) that would put out maybe 1 milliwatt. It would serve as a code-practice oscillator for solo use. But with a short wire hanging from the PCB, kids could work "DX" -- like across a room, or better yet, outdoors.

This got his attention. I went on to describe a scenario that he found very plausible, based on his experience with Morse advocacy: You hand kids the little modules (just a PCB with a built-in 4x AAA battery pack, code key, antenna wire, and cheap earbuds), and ask them to try sending/receiving a few letters. The complete code would be silkscreened onto the PCB. After they try this, you say, "Now see how far apart you can get and still copy you friend's signal." This is where the magic happens, at least for those of us who have been leveraging action-at-a-distance ourselves for many years :)  It takes things a step beyond ordinary code practice. Connects kids to other kids. At best it could serve as a bridge to a world outside themselves.

I'm picturing the little rig as SA602 based, with one crystal for TX and one for RX, running so little power than licensing is a non-issue. Frequency? TBD. Something available in cheap fundamental crystals from Digikey. Each one would have its crystals offset slightly from the others, so the effect of having a number of them in one room might be a bit like being on a crowded CW band. Picking out the pitch of a signal of interest and copying it is a skill many of us have learned. I'm sure kids who are motivated would be able to do it as well.

It should not have debilitating clicks or thumps when keyed. The only control should be for volume. It should be full break-in, which at this power level is easily obtained.

This is a project I would gladly take on myself if not for my greater-than-full-time commitments to Elecraft products. I'm hoping there's a tinkerer out there with more free time who could start from a minimal description and design the little rig.  The gentleman I spoke to has been frustrated over the years in trying to get his message out, and in trying to find ways to take Morse code to a wider range of kids. He felt that this idea had a lot of merit.

If you're interested in this project, or know of something that matches this description that's already available, please contact me directly.

73,
Wayne
N6KR

How about it, guys?

72 de Larry W2LJ - A builder of other folk's designs
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Hmmmmm ....... interesting!

From the ARRL:


ARRL to Launch New On the Air Magazine in January
10/17/2019

ARRL is launching a new magazine, On the Air, in January 2020. To be published on a bimonthly basis, On the Air will offer new and beginner-to-intermediate-level radio amateurs a fresh approach to exploring radio communication. Each issue will include advice and insights on topics from the variety of Amateur Radio interests and activities: radio technology, operating, equipment, project building, and emergency communication. The goal of this new magazine is to be a vital resource in helping new and newer radio amateurs get active and involved in radio communications.

“On the Air responds to the brand new and not-so-brand-new radio amateur seeking ideas and answers,” said QST Managing Editor Becky Schoenfeld, W1BXY. Schoenfeld is part of the ARRL staff team that developed the new magazine. The planning included an extensive national-level study of new Amateur Radio licensees, identifying their motivations for getting licensed and their experiences of getting started. A focus group responded positively to a trial sample edition of the magazine.

“Too many new licensees never take the next step,” says Schoenfeld. “We’re excited to introduce a new Amateur Radio magazine for this audience, aimed at getting them active, getting them involved, and getting them on the air.” 

The first issue of On the Air will be published in January 2020 (January/February issue) and will be introduced as a new ARRL membership benefit. Effective November 1, when eligible US radio amateurs join ARRL or renew their memberships, they will be prompted to select the print magazine of their choice — On the Air or QST. Current members receiving the print edition of QST, upon renewal, may choose to continue receiving the monthly print edition of QST or the print edition of the bimonthly On the Air.

All ARRL members, including international members, will be able to access digital editions of both QST and On the Air. Members who already access QST on the web or from the mobile app will be able to access QST and On the Air starting in January. 
_______________________________________________________________________________

Thoughts?

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

What a night!

We had a coastal storm / Autumn Nor'Easter blow through here last night. While the rain forecast was not up to snuff, the wind forecast was everything they said it would be! We were forecast to get between 2 to 3 inches ( 5- 7 cm) of rain last night, we only got just under an inch and a quarter. We ended up with 1.24 inches ( 3 cm ) of rain. But the wind ...... the wind!



When I arrived home from work last night, one of the first things I checked was the weather station display that hangs on the kitchen wall. There was no wind speed reading!  It was still raining pretty hard, so I took my flashlight, went to the backdoor and focused the flashlight beam to as small and tight a cone of light as possible. I aimed it at the weather station to see the anemometer cups were gone! A piece of flying debris must have hit them and knocked them off! All night, you could hear the wind howling past the windows. It was unnerving at times.

When I awoke this morning, and we let Harold out to do his business, I noticed the wind had knocked the patio table over on its side. After getting dressed, I went out to correct that and to look for the anemometer cups. Luckily, they were only a few feet away in the grass and I was able to find them easily. I snapped them back onto the anemometer axle and raised the sensor back to its normal height.
So far this morning, there have been gusts in the 16 - 18 MPH range. The wind has calmed down a lot since last night, so I can only hazard a guess that we were getting wind gusts somewhere in the 30 MPH range.

Luckily, the antennas both survived the Autumn storm. I never have to worry about the Butternut. It survived Hurricane Sandy, so I know it's not going anywhere. I do worry about the W3EDP, though. A segment of the wire is routed haphazardly through the branches of the Maple in the backyard. I always worry that enough wind will cause one of the branches to sway enough to snap the wire.  Not last night, though. I always say that will happen in the dead of winter during a blizzard!

In any event, I'm glad this storm is over and that I don't need to do any antenna repair this time around!

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


Friday, October 11, 2019

Oh ..... and by the way

The QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party start tonight!

2019 QRP-ARCI(sm) Fall QSO Party

Date/Time:

0000Z to 2359Z on 12 October 2019

Mode:  HF CW only.

Exchange: 
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

Multiplier:
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
55 mW or less = x20

Suggested Frequencies:
160m1810 kHz
80m3560 kHz
40m7030 kHz (please listen at 7040 kHz for rock bound participants)
20m14060 kHz
15m 21060 kHz
10m28060 kHz

Score:
Final Score = Points (total for all bands) x SPCs (total for all bands) x Power Multiplier.

BONUS POINTS: None available for this contest.

Categories:
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.

You can work a station for credit once on each band.

Log Submission:
Submit your entry online at https://www.qrpcontest.com

Printed Contest logs are not required for entry, but may be requested by the Contest Manager if required.

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

Not sure how much I'll be able to participate as I'm going this afternoon to pick Cara up for her first visit home since starting college. We have a very busy weekend planned, chock full of stuff.  If I get an hour somewhere, i will try to do my best to be a "giver of points" LOL!

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

Zombie Shuffle ...... with a twist!

Paul Harden NA5N announced the Zombie Shuffle rules for 2019 - this year, there a tiny twist, just a little something different.


QRP Zombies,

The 22nd annual 2019 ZOMBIE SHUFFLE will be held Friday evening, NOVEMBER 1 from 1600-Midnight your local time (EDT, CDT, MDT, PDT). The mid-afternoon start time is to get a little 20M propagation before sundown, and the midnight cutoff for those die-hard night owl Zombies. You do not need to operate all 8-hours, just what you can to join the fun.

Rules are here:
http://www.zianet.com/qrp/ZOMBIE/2019/pg.htm and a link from the QRP home page: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/

Rules and scoring are unchanged. The Summary Sheet on the rules page calculates your score for you.

BONUS STATIONS:  Instead of "Elvis" stations this year, bonus stations will be sending their name as "MGY" -- the call letters of the RMS TITANIC.  It was the sinking of the Titanic that put wireless communications on the world stage and demonstrated the need for regulation and a body of licensed operators - including the creation in 1912 of a licensed non-commercial "amateur wireless service" - the hobby we enjoy today.  Thus, ham radio has its roots to the Titanic.  And for nostalgia, this year QRP Zombies will be given the opportunity to work the RMS Titanic.  Each MGY station worked will be 666 bonus points (just like Elvis stations in the past).  This also gives us an opportunity to put some morse code into the air to honor those pioneer radio ops and the sacrifices they made (for example, Titanic wireless op Jack Phillips perished on the Titanic).  Much of the morse code procedures, protocols, and Q-signals you hear on the air today are from those early maritime Marconi operators.

Our "main" MGY station will be Brian, VE7MGY.  Working him is worth even more points (see rules).

If you'd like to be an MGY Titanic operator for the Zombie Shuffle, please let me know.

So regardless of your code speed and band conditions, get on the air, have some pointless fun working fellow Zombies, and some unique nostalgia from 107 years ago.

72, Paul NA5N/MGY
Zombie #004

The Zombie Shufflle is always a fun event and I love it when Paul puts in these "twists" from year to year. It keeps it fresh and exciting. I'm also pleased with the date. If the Shuffle was a week earlier, I'd miss out as the K2ETS monthly meeting is always on the last Friday of the month. This year, I get to play!

72 de Larry W2LJ - Zombie # 858
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Should you be in the area on Oct. 18th.

The Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club, here in New Jersey has decided to scrape the bottom of the barrel. From the ARRL Hudson Division NNJ Section news e-mail:

FLARC SPEAKER
Larry Makoski W2LJ Focuses on QRP
Highlighting The FLARC October 18th
2019 Speaker Series Program

With the amateur bands near or at the bottom of the solar cycle, what better time to focus on low power operating, getting outside and just having fun with ham radio.

As part of our 2019 FLARC Speakers Series, the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club is honored to have one of the top QRP amateur radio ops (Huh?) in the nation as part of our program.

Larry Makoski  W2LJ will present the topic "You, QRP and the Great Outdoors." It covers the basics of QRP and portable QRP operations. Larry is one of the hobby’s leading QRP enthusiasts (Seriously? I can think of others way more deserving of that title other than me.) and is certain to get you out of the shack and into the field with low-power operation.

The lecture and discussion will be held on Friday, October 18th at the Fair Lawn Senior Center, 11-05 Gardiner Road in Fair Lawn beginning at 7PM. 

The program is open to all and refreshments will be served. For more information, please visit the club's website at www.fairlawnarc.org or call 201-791-3841

I'm in the process of re-tweaking the PowerPoint, as it is AMAZING how much has changed since I presented this program to another club only a few years ago! There was no KX2, there was no QCX, many of the the kits offered by The 4 States Group as well as The QRPGuys weren't around yet. The FT-818 was only a dream and the IC-705 wasn't even on the horizon yet. The Chinese rigs were just entering the market and were nowhere as sophisticated as they are now. Sometimes I think we non-chalant these QRP advances because we see them as they happen. But yet if you step back and take into account all that has blossomed in just the past few years ......... WOW!

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

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Mt. Allamuchy

Our (the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club) day at the Mount Allamuchy Scout Reserve for Jersey Jam 2019 was very successful. A good day was had by SPARC members, the Scouts, and their leaders. I hope we can do this again next year, should there be a Jersey Jam 2020.

The day started on the brisk side. Marv K2VHW, Chris N0CC, Wayne N2LRE and I caravanned  the hour ride up to the reservation, after loading up essential gear from our SPARC meeting place. When we left South Plainfield, it was probably around 44F (6C). When we arrived at our destination, it was 37F (3C), and you could tell there had been frost on the ground overnight.

Dave KD2FSI, who lives only 17 miles away, had already been there and had set up most of his equipment. He had an HF/VHF/UHF station going with his big batteries in attendance, running 100 Watts. In addition, he set up his portable man pack station, as well as his satellite station and his Alex loop for demonstration purposes. It was an impressive sight to say the least; and I saw no point in setting up a QRP station. We would have been in such close proximity that I probably would have been blanked out on receive and the day was for demonstrating Amateur Radio, not operating QRP,




The Scout Reservation has its own Ham Shack and WW2BSA was on the air, making contacts at the other end of the venue. This was a great opportunity, as we were able to put Scouts on the air, allowing them to talk to WW2BSA from the field using VHf/UHF handhelds.  Scouts visiting the Ham shack got a chance to talk to Scouts at out field and visa-versa. There was a shuttle bus that ran back and forth between sites, so we encouraged the Scouts at our set up to go and visit WW2BSA.



Dave KD2FSI's main HF antenna, a 20 Meter Buddipole type, was working its magic. We were able to demonstrate HF contesting to the Scouts as SPARC members took turns working a lot of station from the California QSO party, which ran yesterday. To demonstrate working DX, we were able to make contacts with Slovakia, Norway, and Hawaii to name a few.


Even with the sunspot total down in the dumps, it's amazing who you can work with a good antenna and some patience and determination.

But once again, the hit of the day was the Morse Code demonstration area. Marv K2VHW brought along a code practice oscillator, a bug and a paddle, and I supplied one of my straight keys. The kids were fascinated by the set up. This area of our booth seemed to be almost constantly occupied, and Marv and I took turn explaining the history of Morse Code and how it evolved over time from land line telegraphy to CW in Amateur Radio.




Another facet of the hobby which interested both the kids and the adults was Dave's satellite antenna.



Although the station was set up more for looking at, rather than trying to work an actual satellite, both the kids and adults were fascinated when they found out that with a Technician  license they could communicate with not only the many Amateur Radio satellites orbiting the Earth, but the International Space Station as well.

All in all, it was a fantastic day, getting the chance to spread the news about Amateur Radio to people who probably had no idea of what was available to them. At 5:00 PM, we tore our display down and headed home, tired and hungry, but satisfied that we had accomplished our mission for the day. Thanks go out to the Scouts, Chris WW2BSA, Bill W2AOF, Marv K2VHW, Harry KC2PGX, Wayne N2LRE, Chris N0CC and of course to our "Main Man" Dave KD2FSI for another successful venture.

Now ....... on to Jamboree on the Air in two weeks!

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

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Cool beans!

I've mentioned before that the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club is headed up to North Jersey this coming Saturday to demonstrate "The Ham Radio Experience" at the Mt. Allamuchy Scout Reservation at the 2019 Jersey Jam.


It just so happens that Tim W3ATB's "Leaf Peepers QRP Contest" is the same day. (Click on the event name for a link to the rules.) What a happy coincidence!  As long as I have to be on the radio demonstrating Morse Code, with a QRP contest in progress there may be a chance for these young people to see and hear what CW radiosport sounds like.  Hopefully, there will be a decent amount of activity, rather than me putting out long strings of CQs.

There will be enough of us there so that another SPARC member will be able to explain radio contesting in general, and maybe CW radio contesting specifically. During the lulls in the ebb and flow of Scouts coming by to visit, this will also keep me occupied - a win/win situation!

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

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Peanut Power Sprint this Sunday!

Our good friends from the North Georgia QRP Group will be running the Peanut Power Sprint again this Sunday, October 6th from 2200 to 2359 UTC.

This is one of my favorites! It's a shorty, only two hours long and anyone can play as the event is open to CW and SSB and all power levels. It's always fun, and this sprint and Tim W3ATB's Leaf Peeper Sprint are the last two big outdoor QRP events for the year. The 2020 season will open with FYBO, but that's not until February. A lot of water has to go under the bridge between now and then. So if you're like me and you love these outdoor QRP Sprints, then now's the time to get your fix in before Ol' Man Winter barges in on us.

For a complete copy of the rules, go to http://www.nogaqrp.org/PeanutPower/rules.pdf

Hope to hear you on Sunday.  Between the Jersey Jam on Saturday and the PPS on Sunday, it's looking like a busy HF weekend for W2LJ. Fortunately, the weather should be dry, both days.

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


Monday, September 23, 2019

Autumnal Equinox

A day that I always dread.

Today is the first day of Autumn in the Northern hemisphere - the Vernal Equinox in the Southern hemisphere. Happy Spring to all of you South of the Equator!

Personally, the first day of Autumn is heralded by just about everyone I know, as they look forward to cool, crisp temperatures, the pretty colors of changing trees, and the change of seasons.



For me, Autumn means less daylight and the fact that Winter follows. Looking for the silver lining, at least 160 and 80 Meter band conditions will get better as the season progresses. Always have to look at the bright side, right?

I confess was remiss in my blogging duties. I failed to mention the NJ QSO Party was this past Saturday. I did not get the chance to participate as I had too many house chores to accomplish. After doing those, I was too pooped to pop.  On Saturday there was also a Scouting event in town, which would have been a good opportunity to once again "show off" Amateur Radio to the local Scout troops. My chores precluded that. too.

However, on Saturday, October 5th, the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club will be participating in "The Jersey Jam" which is a gathering of several hundred Scouts in Northern New Jersey at Waterloo Village, which is not all that far away from the Delaware Water Gap. We're supposed to be there, demonstrating the hobby from about 9:00 Am until 5:00 PM that day. Travel time is about an hour each way, so that will be a long day - no time for house chores that day!  Coincidentally, the FISTS Fall Slow Speed Sprint and the SKCC QSO Party are that day, so maybe I'll be able to log a lot of CW activity while explaining to the Scouts what's going on. Morse Code always seems to be a big draw.

Two weeks later is JOTA. Once again, we're going to be set up in a local park in town. Hopefully, we'll have some Scouts drop by this year and make some contacts. :Last year, all we ended up doing was providing contacts to other sites that had Scouts on the radio. That was fun, but not as fulfilling as having local Scouts drop by our site. We need to do a better job advertising this and getting the information out. Need to speak with our PIO about this - we need to get this into the two local news outlets.

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


Friday, September 20, 2019

Another new QRP Field Friendly radio

The Lab599 TX-500, which is supposed to be available soon - $700 price range (which ain't bad, at all).


A VERY nice looking, sleek radio.  For the details, you can visit the Website by clicking here.

And of course, the comments on the e-mail reflectors are all about how this radio will be the death of the KX3. I guess life is tough when you're Top Dog.  But think about it for a second ....... not only did Wayne and Eric usher in an excellent radio when they designed and birthed the KX3, they ushered in a veritable wave of competitors trying to knock them off the Top Shelf.

This kind of competition is a good thing.  I don't think we've ever had the realm of possible portable QRP radio to choose from like we have today, and we're the direct beneficiaries of that. In addition, I don't think that any of these competitors have brought forth anything but high quality products. I don't think there's a slouch among them; and that's the market forces in action, once again.

So not only did Wayne and Eric kickstart the industry on into a design frenzy, but those same market forces will probably also spur Elecraft on to offer a KX4 someday that may change the market, once again.

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

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sad change to the blogroll

Sadly, I got the following message from Jeff KE9V this morning:


I'm not sure what's behind this, but I hope that this is temporary and/or that Jeff reconsiders. We may not always share the same opinion on things; but he is one of the finest writers among the ranks of Amateur Radio operators that I know. His absence would be a loss for us all.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Yuck!

As seen on eBay:


I had a set of Palm paddles.  They did not look like that - AND they came from Germany, not China.

I know that Palm has since gone out of business, but seriously - using their name like this smacks of the unethical in my book. If you want to say, "Based on the Palm Design" - I suppose that's acceptable, but don't advertise this so that someone who doesn't know any better might be fooled into thinking they're buying the genuine article.

From what I hear from Bruna Begali on Facebook, there are a Chinese manufacturer or two who have "borrowed" the Begali design for their keys. If you're going to shell out bucks, make sure you're getting the real deal and not a counterfeit. Yes ....... a counterfeit.

Ugh.

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

2019 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Scoreboard is ready to view!

Congratulations to:

AB9CA - First Place Overall - Top Indiana Finish
N3AQC - Second Place Overall - Top Pennsylvania Finish
NN9K - Third Place Overall - Top Illinois Finish
NK9G - Fourth Place Overall - Top Wisconsin Finish
N0SS - Fifth Place Overall - Top Missouri Finish

To view the complete scoreboard, you can click here.


Thanks to everyone who participated and to all who sent in a log submission and soapbox comments. There were so many soapbox comments submitted, that it's going to take me a bit to get them published.  So please bear with me.

Again, the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is a success because of YOU. All you fine QRP ops have made this event what it is. Also, much gratitude to the NJQRP Club for sponsoring this event.

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Some Friday jocularity


Hope you all have a good weekend!  I hope to get the Skeeter Hunt scoreboard posted this weekend, so stay tuned!

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

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Guess I'll jump on the bandwagon

and will include a photo of ICOM's all new IC-705 QRP radio that was introduced at the JARL hamfest yesterday.


I have to admit that back in the late '80s and the '90s I was quite the ICOM guy. I had an IC-730 which I'm kind of sorry that I parted with. That radio was easily modifiable to go as low as 100 milliWatts output which made it a great QRP radio. I eventually got an IC-751A, though, because the IC-730's relays were too clunky and slow for the digital modes of AMTOR and PacTOR.

My next rigs were of course, Elecraft, which I continue to use today.  The IC-705 looks like a real winner though, being designed along the same lines as the IC-7100. There are enough of my fellow QRP bloggers out there who have posted all the details, so I won't go into them here. But it truly does look like a back pack ready QRP and QRPp machine.

Competition is good. If there weren't any, we would never see the hobby progress. There are a few out there who are claiming that ICOM has left Yaesu and Elecraft in the dust with their new technology. That may or may not be the case; but I think it will have both manufacturers looking hard, spurring them on, so that their next edition of radios will surpass what's available today.

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

Friday, August 30, 2019

It's "The Old Sock"'s Birthday

And there is a QRP bonus in the commemorative operating event that starts tonight!

For those not aware, the ARRL is having a week long celebration of Hiram Percy Maxim's 150th birthday.



Here are the details from the ARRL Webpage

Objective: This operating event is open to all amateurs, and the goal is straightforward:  Find stations operating in the event, many adding “/150” to their call signs, and contact as many as possible during the 9-day celebration on each of the event bands (using any/all of the 3 event modes on each band).

Time Period: The 9-day event begins 0000 UTC August 31 and runs until 2359 UTC September 8, 2019.

Eligibility: All amateur stations may participate.

Who is eligible to use their “callsign/150”?   W1AW and ALL ARRL members are eligible and will append /150 to their call sign during this event (this includes DX Stations who are ARRL members, who may operate as callsign/150 if permitted by the regulations of their country of license).

Exchange: All W/VE stations send RST and their ARRL/RAC Section; DX stations send RST and “DX”.

Bands: All Amateur Bands LF/HF/VHF/UHF/SHF/Microwave/Light (excluding 60, 30, 17 and 12 meters).

Modes: Three (3) mode groups will be recognized in the event:
       CW
       Phone (any/all voice modes count as “Phone”)
       Digital (any/all digital modes count as “Digital”)

Scoring:  Cabrillo log (or ADI) files must be supplied. ARRL will calculate all final scores based on the participant uploads to our event web app at http://contests.arrl.org/arrlHPM150scoressubmission.php.

Multipliers: 84 in total – contact just once each of (83) ARRL and RAC Sections (RAC sections include the Canadian “NT” Northern Territories - encompassing VE8 / VY1 / VY0) - and DX (1).   See http://www.arrl.org/contest-sections-list for ARRL/RAC Sections.


QSO Points:

       3 points per QSO: Contacts with W1AW/150 will earn 3 points per QSO;
       2 points per QSO: Contacts with any ARRL member will earn 2 points per QSO - these stations will also identify as callsign/150:
       1 point per QSO:  Contacts with non-members (ie, those not mentioned above) will earn 1 point each, and will identify with callsign only (no additional / number will be used).

Bonus points:

       150 Bonus Points will be earned by successfully completing one or more activities as described below – these are determined by your responses when uploading your Cabrillo log (or ADI file) to our web app:

       Contacting W1AW/150 on each band and mode will earn 150 BONUS points for each band/mode contact (no band/mode dupes are permitted). Bonuses are added during web app upload.

       If you are an ARRL member, you will receive 150 BONUS points when uploading your entry via the web app.

       Social Media – If you used social media, publicizing this event and/or your participation before, during and/or after the event will earn you 150 BONUS points upon uploading your entry to the web app.

        QRP operation (using 5 watts PEP output or less throughout the entire event) will earn you 150 BONUS points when uploading your entry to the web app.

        Portable operation – if you make at least 20 or more portable QSOs you will earn 150 BONUS points when uploading your entry to the web app.

        150 QSOs – if you complete 150 or more QSOs, you earn a one-time 150 BONUS points when uploading your entry to the web app.


Submissions:

Cabrillo log (or ADI) files are required – and must be uploaded via web app at
http://contests.arrl.org/arrlHPM150scoressubmission.php. This event only accepts online web app submissions (no email or paper submissions will be accepted).

Scoring Calculations:

Calculations are made by ARRL when you submit your entry via the web app:

       Total QSO points accumulated on all band/mode combinations

                  X  Total multipliers (84 maximum)

                            = subtotal

                  +  Total bonus points earned

                            = Grand Total/Final Score


Online certificates will be awarded, and available via download (only)
at http://contests.arrl.org/certificates.php

Results will be publicized (watch the ARRL web http://www.arrl.org/hpm150-birthday-celebration for updates).

Miscellaneous: 

        This event requires online web app submissions (no email or paper submissions will be accepted).

       This event has NO power categories (there are no power multipliers as a separate competition category);

       This event has NO operator categories (there are NO Single Operator, Multioperator, etc categories);

        Participating ARRL Members who use Logbook of The World (LoTW) are encouraged to create a separate LoTW Certificate (see below) for their callsign/150 (with a callsign certificate date range begin-date of August 31, 2019, and end-date of September 8, 2019), and to be sure to upload their logs for this event using their /150 certificate.
_________________________________________________

So get on the air and make some contacts! If the sun is not going to provide propagation, maybe we can rile up the electrons in the ionosphere enough from underneath to make some decent propagation! And remember, this is not a contest per se - just an operating event to honor HPM, so need to be cut throat about it.

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Went shopping

This is going to sound so un-PC and so sexist that it may offend some. I never bought into PC and I don't consider myself to be the least bit sexist, so if you're offended by such things, I apologize ahead of time..

I took a page out of the "Ladies Playbook". I'm sure many of you've heard the saying, "Depressed? Felling low or down in the dumps? Go shopping!"

And so I did. Upon the advice of Jason NT7S from his blog post in "Ripples in the Ether" and Bob W3BBO (who also purchased one), I went onto the E of Bay and purchased one of these Nano VNA vector network analyzers.  It was only $49, so if it doesn't work out as intended, it's not like I've broken the bank.  But the idea is that this little gadget will help me trim and otherwise optimize the antennas I build/construct for portable operations.

Bob sent me an e-mail with a link to a YouTube video where it's presented on how to get this little device to display VSWR - you know, how to figure out where an antenna is resonant, in order to get help with trimming it for optimal performance.


I'm no rocket scientist, or RF Engineer, but I am hoping this little doo-dad will help take the guesswork out of some antenna tweaking, without spending beaucoup $$$ for either a YouKits or a RigExpert unit. It's shipping from the US, not China, so I should have it next week. It comes with the battery and the necessary cables. I have a SMA to BNC adapter, so I should be in good shape. If not, I'll purchase the correct adapter somewhere.

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

Feeling a bit lost

We moved our daughter, Cara, to college this past weekend. She's attending a University that's out of state. Only about two hours away, not so far.

As a lot of teens do, she kept to herself in her room a lot, always chatting with her friends over the internet. But I always knew she was home and we ate meals together and I used to drive her to high school every morning, and we did other things together. She and I are both big Marvel fans and we always enjoyed sharing the latest news over the latest movie, or whatever rumor came forth from Marvel/Disney.

I'm so very happy and excited for this new chapter in her life; but at the same time I feel a bit lost and empty, now that my baby girl is spreading her wings.

It will take a bit of time for me to get used to this.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Outstanding !!!

So far, I have received over 70 e-mails with Skeeter Hunt log summaries, soapbox comments and photos. That's close to a third of the people who asked to be assigned a Skeeter number; and is definitely a record so far. The deadline for submitting log summaries is September 1st at 11:59 PM EDT. After that, log summaries will still be accepted, but will appear as a footnote as far as official standings go..

To be honest with you all, right now I'm just concentrating on tabulating results, and am kind of glossing over soapbox comments and photos. Except for this one, which caught my eye and gave me what has probably been the biggest smile this stubbly old mug has seen in years. Since it will eventually be published in the 2019 Skeeter Hunt Soapbox Comments section of the webpage, I am going to share it early. Not only does it deserve special attention, but it also makes the effort behind the Skeeter Hunt so worthwhile.

Good evening,

Since he’s in bed and has school in the morning, I’m submitting Etienne’s logs (WI9EJR; #144) on his behalf. Since we only have one radio, we ultimately decided to run a single op station, so I won’t be submitting logs (WI9AJR; #143). Logs are attached in CSV format. I’ve never submitted contest logs before, so if another format is preferred, let me know.

I’ve attached two photos, one of Etienne helping raise Rick's (NK9G) antenna which was in the same general vicinity as our station. And another of Etienne’s station, including the logo sign we hung from the EZ-up.

Summary:
Etienne - WI9EJR - WI 
Skeeter# 144 - All SSB , Single Op 
Skeeter QSOs - 1 
Non-Skeeter QRP QSOs - 1 
Non-Skeeter QRO QSOs - 6 
S/P/Cs - 7 
Station Class Multiplier X3 
Logo Photo Bonus - 100 points

Soapbox:

This was Etienne’s first contest, other than Field Day (“it’s not a contest!”), so why not make it SSB on QRP in the worst possible propagation? We headed over to Sheridan Park in Milwaukee, overlooking Lake Michigan (in the photo background), near the popular Oak Leaf Trail pathway. Rick (NK9G), as usual, took us under his wing, loaned us a longer dipole than we usually use, and helped us get it up high up into the trees. We hooked it up to our KX3, and let Etienne go to town.

Etienne alternated the four hours between calling CQ and hunting around on 20m. The bands started pretty quiet, with him being able to hear a few people but not much ability to be heard. Strangely, his first contact was a QRP station in North Carolina, with both sides hearing each other really clearly. Later in the day Europe started coming in, but Etienne either wasn’t getting back them or just couldn’t break through the pile ups. Finally, by the end of the contest things opened up to the western US, but 20m was so full that it was hard for him to be heard.

All in all, it was a good day to spend some time out in the park and for him to play on the radio. QRP with phone is a tough racket, so hopefully he’ll learn Morse sooner than later. And for those wondering, he’s eleven, just started sixth grade. He got his General last summer when we started ham radio.




An outstanding effort by this young man!  QRP SSB can be a tough go; and has caused many a person much older than Etienne to throw up their hands and toss in the towel. However, he stuck with it (under particularly crummy band conditions) and made a good number of contacts.  His perseverance and determination are to be admired. These qualities will serve him well as he travels through middle school, high school and college.

Kudos to Etienne,  and kudos to his Dad, Andre WI9AJR and to Rick NK9G for being outstanding mentors.  Amateur Radio needs a lot more like these two fine men.  I don't know Andre that well; but I do know Rick as an active and particularly excellent QRP'er. Now, I also know him as a particularly fine mentor.

If stuff like this doesn't bring a smile to your face, then I don't know what will!

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Skeeter Hunt 2019 - Bittersweet?

When I woke up yesterday it was pretty dark and gloomy. As I showered and changed to get ready to head out to Church services, I was thinking that I would probably set up in the backyard, under the patio umbrella, as it looked like rain. Lo and behold, halfway through Mass, the sun poured through the stained glass windows! It was turning out to be a decent day, after all.

I came home for a light breakfast, printed out a Skeeter logo and got everything else ready. At Noon, I headed out for Cotton Street park in town, which is only about 1/4 mile or so from my house. The trees are tall and there's plenty of open space, certainly enough for this new-to-me MFJ-1982LP that I purchased.  (That goes against my grain, but I was intrigued enough by the YouTube videos on it.)

MFJ recommends installing the antenna as an Inverted Vee, with both ends tied off close to the ground, and the apex as high as you can get it. I brought my antenna launcher and got a line shot over a limb at the 40 foot or so level on the first try.  The antenna is made of that "silky" type wire which pulled through the leaves like a hot knife through butter. The thing that took me the longest was untangling the antenna out of the package. I'm not sure whether it was the way I took it apart, or the way it was coiled and inserted into the package, but I managed to untangle it in relatively short order - short enough where frustration didn't get a hold on me.


Of course, when you take a picture of your wire antenna installation, it never photographs well unless the wire is against the sky.  For illustration purposes, I provided the yellow lines to make it easier to see how the antenna was configured. The apex is out of the top frame of the photo. It was up pretty high.

I got set up with about a good 15 minutes to spare, so I decided to do a little investigating. One of the parts of the video that intrigued me was how low the SWR was across all the bands. I took the KX3's autotuner out of the loop and test transmitted at all the QRP Watering Hole frequencies on 80, 40, 20, 17 and 15 Meters. In each case, the KX3 measured an SWR of 1.4:1 or better. 80 Meters was actually 1.2:1. I was impressed - cautiously impressed. After all, a dummy load has a perfect SWR, right?  Time was fast approaching to see how well it radiated some RF energy.



The weather stayed nice for the Hunt. My little Realistic travel alarm has a built in thermometer, which read the ambient temperature as 90F (32C), but in the shade and an occasional breeze, it was comfortable enough. Mosquitoes weren't a problem for me, but the gnats were. Tiny little critters that you can barely see, flying right into your face. Ugh! But after settling down into the operating chair and cooling off after the job of setting up, they went away. They must be attracted to body heat or sweat or something. Luckily they were not a problem, or a distraction during the Sprint.

When 1700 UTC came around, the bands came alive - at least 20 Meters came alive. I was working stations at a pretty good clip and then after the first hour, activity seemed to die off some. I spent the rest of my time jumping between 40 and 20 Meters, alternately calling CQ and hunting and pouncing.

Around 4:15 PM (2015 UTC) the skies started turning that heavy lead gray color that tells you that thunder and lightning are on the way.  It was then that I pulled the plug and started to tear down. I hadn't worked anyone new in about 15 minutes anyway, so it seemed as good a time as any to head home. Tear down was a breeze and I was packed up and ready to go in minutes. 

In all, I made 24 contacts. 22 were Skeeters and the other two were 5W stations. 15 S/P/C's were logged. I was a bit disappointed with propagation.  Before the Hunt started, I had set a personal goal of working 40 stations. With 210 Skeeters signed up, I thought that was a reachable and reasonable goal. The Propagation Princess slapped me upside the head, "You silly Ham, you!", she whispered in my ear.  I didn't have the pipelines that I normally have into New England and Virginia and the Carolinas.

QSB was tough with stations being 579 or better upon the start of a contact to going down to 339 or worse by the end of the contact. I did work everybody that I was able to hear with the exception of two stations - one of them being Dave NE5DL down in Texas. I tried calling him several times, but no joy.

Drew K9CW gets the distinction of being the loudest station that I heard all day - he was 599+ from Illinois. Jerry N9AW and Rick NK9G were close seconds. When I heard them not quite as loud as I usually hear them, i knew that propagation was off. I did work two stations on both 40 and 20 Meters - Bob W3BBO and  Steve VE3LFN. Malcolm VE2DDZ was a two-fer in that I worked him as a Skeeter and also as a SOTA peak. My best DX was Blaine, K0NE in Nebraska.


Two things I should have done, but didn't - hindsight being 20/20, after all.

1)  I should have brought my lightning detector with me. I left it home on the counter that it normally sits on. I probably might have stayed longer, even with the leaden sky if I was sure there was no lightning in the area.

2) I should have also set up my PAR ENDFEDZ  for a little "A to B" comparison. That would have provided me with some valuable information. Of course, I thought of this as I was driving the short distance home. Maybe I'll do this for the Peanut Power Sprint, which comes up soon.

Again, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who participated, as well as the NJQRP organization for sponsoring this event. It would not be the success that it is without all of you out there. For that, I am eternally grateful!

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Uncharted Territory

As we come closer and closer to the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt this Sunday, I'd like to report that we are in "Uncharted Territory". And by that, I mean that I just handed out Skeeter # 186 to WB4AEG.

186 Skeeters so far! Wow, if memory serves me correctly, the highest we ever got was somewhere in the 170's.

For those of you who read this blog on a regular basis, you all know how much I love Amateur Radio, particularly QRP, CW and portable ops. The Skeeter Hunt is really nothing more than my way of saying "Thanks!" for all of that and paying forward for all the joy this hobby has given me over that past 40 years. It also allows me to share my passion with all of you.

The fact that this hobby (doesn't quite seem like the right word) has also led towards making some awesome friendships is just icing on the cake. There are a lot of you out there who I have never met face-to-face; but yet I have great admiration and fondness for.

The weather for Sunday for Central Jersey is partly cloudy with a high of 90F (32C). I hope to get a lot of you in the log. I never go into any of these Sprints with the intent on winning. Maybe that's the wrong attitude, but that's just the way I am. I'm perfectly happy with getting to make contacts with friends, even if it's just for a few seconds at a time.

So I hope to hear all of you this coming Sunday. Hopefully, propagation will be decent for that short amount of time and we'll all get to fatten up our logbooks - and have a blast in the process - as well as make a few more happy memories. And speaking of memories ...... this year the Skeeter Hunt is being dedicated to the memories of three stalwart Skeeters who are no longer with us - Hank N8XX , Ken WA8REI, and Joe N2CX. Their keys may be silent, but their memories live on in those of us with whom they shared the airwaves.

BTW, Skeeter numbers are still being handed out until Sunday morning. Just e-mail w2lj@arrl.net with your name, call, and state/province.  Come join us and see what the BZZZZZ is all about! If you're iffy because you feel your CW skills are not up to snuff, we'll slow down for you! And bring along your microphone, because SSB is also welcome in the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

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


Thursday, August 08, 2019

Extemporania

Unfortunately, there's not a lot going on for me in the "on the air" world right now. The last big event for me was FOBB. Since then, I have been bogged down with yard work and now my left calf and hamstring muscles have decided to remind me of my age. I guess I overworked them when the tendinitis in my right ankle and knee flared up.

But in the meantime, I keep eyes and ears open for neat stuff. I've come up with two things. This first was spotted on the DVRA Facebook page.  The DVRA is the Delaware Valley Radio Association, which is more or less based out of the Princeton/Trenton area of New Jersey.  They've been around for a long, long time and posted this Hamfest notice back in 1939.


Wow! Can you believe this? This ain't your normal Hamfest - this is your Grandpa's Hamfest! And from the looks of it. buying and selling radio gear seems to be the last thing on everyone's mind. This was a downright picnic on steroids!

Two live orchestras for music, a Jitterbug contest, a baseball game, lots of food (with a variety of tasty sandwiches - dollars to donuts some of them were ......ham!), plenty of prizes and gifts and it was scheduled to run from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM. This was probably the social event of the year for this club. I can just picture in my mind's eye the washtubs that were filled with ice holding bottled beer, soda and probably watermelons. Big cubes of block ice from the local ice house that you had to use an ice pick in order to make what we would now call "ice cubes", or crushed ice.

Notice there's nothing in the announcement about buying and selling stuff. And it kind of figures as back in 1939 you built your own gear. Yaesu, Kenwood and Icom didn't probably even exist back then - at least not here in the States. If Hams got together at that time to buy and sell stuff, it was most likely parts that you might need for whatever your next project happened to be. Boy, to be able to go back in time!

The other thing I picked up on was this YouTube video that Marv K2VHW had posted to the SPARC Facebook page. It's for an MFJ antenna.



It looked very intriguing to me, so I bit the bullet and ordered one. What the heck, right? It should be delivered to my door tomorrow from the tracking number that MFJ provided, and I hope to use it for the Skeeter Hunt.  Cotton Street park in town has more than enough real estate required to deploy this.

I know, I know, I don't normally buy antennas, other than my Butternut or the GAP when I had that many moons ago. I'm the big advocate for building your own antennas - so what's going on? Not sure, I was just intrigued by the video and decided to plunk down the coin, almost as a whim. If it works as advertised, then this will be my antenna for Field Day next year for the CW station. The W3EDP works well, but the results as seen in the video seem to indicate a much better match than the W3EDP.

Besides, a Ham can never have too many arrows in his antenna quiver, right? The more the merrier and too many antennas to pick from is way better than not having enough. Should the antenna end up being a dud, I'll post about that here, too. 
 
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very best!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Sunday, July 28, 2019

These are the times that try men's souls.

If you let them. If you keep you ears attentively tuned to the Amateur Radio sages who say, "Why, there are NO sunspots. QRP can't possibly work! You are wasting your time!", then you will find yourself downcast and downtrodden.

If on the other hand, you say, "Nay, doomsayers! I will not listen to your pronouncements of doom and gloom!", and keep an upbeat and positive attitude, and practice the virtues of patience and perseverance, you will prove the soothsayers to be full of nothing more than hot air.

Take today for instance - the Flight of the Bubmblebees.  From the crack of the starting gun, it looked like it was going to be "one of those days." There was NOTHING on 40 Meters, and while there were a few stations heard on 20 Meters, they were all pretty weak and in the noise. Except for NK9G. I don't know what magic Rick has going for him, but I would swear that I don't think there's ever been a time that I've heard him worse than 559. Most times he's near the upper end of the RST scale. He must have an "in" with the propagation gods.

But this is when you can't pack it in. Patience and perseverance .......patience and perseverance will get you through.  In a bit, propagation improved, more stations got on the air and jumped into the fray and before I knew it, call signs were starting to fill up my notebook page.

When 20 Meters fizzled out, I jumped down to 40 Meters. Nothing heard, so I decided to call CQ and the floodgates opened! It was like I was the DXpedition and I was running a pileup. Of course, that lasted for all of about five minutes, but you get the idea.

When 40 Meters got quiet, I jumped back to 20 Meters and whom should I hear but John K3WWP calling CQ as N3AQC at about 579/589 ............ on 20 Meters! Holy cow, short skip! I don't think I've ever heard Pennsylvania that loud on 20 Meters - after all, it is the next state over. After John, I worked Joe W2KJ down in Carolina and then Bob W3BBO, who is also in PA. And Bob sounded like he was in the room with me! Color me astounded at the instance of short skip. So even when there's no sunspots, there can always be pleasant surprises in store.

In the end, I made 32 FOBB contacts and one SOTA QSO with a peak in South Dakota. Not bad for an afternoon when the ionosphere is supposedly dead, eh?

It's always good to hear the familiar calls of friends such as Bob W3BBO and Jim W1PID, Dave K1SWL, Tim W3ATB, Greg N4KGL, Joe W2KJ, Kelly K4UPG, John K4BAI, Gene N5GW among a host of others. It was great to work Mike KC2EGL as N3AQC on 40 Meters and John K3WWP as N3AQC on 20 Meters.

It was a good day on the radio - a very good day. So you QRP Newbs out there ...... don't be discouraged by the lack of sunspots.  Use the best antenna you have at your disposal and remember "patience and perseverance".  Those two words are for us QRPers, are like what "location, location, location" means to Realtors - they mean everything.

For the Skeeter Hunt in three weeks (yes, ONLY three weeks) I am thinking of changing tactics a bit. I may forgo using the PAR ENDFEDZ this year in favor of a W3EDP. I can get that sucker up close to the 50 foot level at Cotton Street park here in town if I plan it right and the EDP has always been a good player for me here at home and at Field Day.  Maybe I can break the 40 or 50 QSO mark that day, if I'm lucky. Or better yet, if I'm just patient and persevere.

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

Friday, July 26, 2019

FOBB this Sunday

Don't forget that the Flight of the Bumblebees is this Sunday!  I believe you still have time to sign up for a Bee number if you intend to operate from the field, so if that appeals to you, go for it!

I had originally intended to operate from Washington Rock State Park in Greenbrook, NJ for the event. It's one of my favorite portable ops sites. The trees are TALL and there are plenty of picnic tables. However, since last Monday, I've been battling a flare up of tendinitis in my right knee. I've actually been hobbling around with the help of a cane the last three days. Talk about "Ol' Man W2LJ"!

This morning, I awoke to marked improvement. It's gone from downright painful to almost "only annoying". With the pain so fresh in my memory, I don't think I want to risk my progress towards recovery. With that in mind, I'll probably just set up in the backyard, using my Jackite as a support for my PAR antenna.  So if you work W2LJ, I'll be sending '5W" instead of  "NR 13".  It's not quite in the spirit of the rules of FOBB to use a Bee number from your backyard.

So remember, when FOBB comes around - that means only three weeks until the Skeeter Hunt!

Hope to hear a lot of you on the air this Sunday!

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

Monday, July 22, 2019

Hot, hot, hot!

Like many places around the country, this past weekend in Central New Jersey was pretty brutal. The high on Saturday (according to my weather station) was 98F (37C) and with the humidity factored in, the "real feel" was around 112F (44C). Sunday it reached 99F with a real feel of about 118F (48C) as it was a bit more humid.

Due to the excessive heat and the associated demands on the power grid, there were a couple of instances where we lost power, but for only a few seconds. Those are unnerving, because when the power goes out, you have no idea how long it will last. Public Service Electricity and Gas quickly re-routed electricity to our part of the grid, so the disruptions ended up being minor.

Earlier in the day, Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU and I were on hand at the South Plainfield CERT building for a HamCram.  I really don't like HamCrams very much, as my experience is that a fully structured class yields much more positive results. HamCrams are only successful if the participants studied faithfully on their own and use the Cram as a review session and as an opportunity to clear up any remaining quandaries that they may have.

I have to admit, this one was successful. It was held by Eric KD2ONY and SPARC's responsibility was to provide the meeting space and to conduct the VE exams. There were 11 participants and 8 walked away with their Technician class licenses, including a 7 year old girl who is the daughter of one of our members.

Eric put on a good review session and it became obvious to us right away that most of the people in the group had dome some serious study on their own. The answers to the review questions, for the most part, were answered correctly with no hesitation. As always, the toughest parts seemed to be the sections on decibels, metric numeric conversion (kilo, mega, micro, pico) and the frequency privilege boundaries.  Despite that, the new Techs did well on their exams with no "close shaves". Those who passed, passed with few errors.  Only one of the three that didn't earn a license came so close, missing by only one question. We assured that person on how close he was and assured him with just a little more study, that he will be a Tech in no time. Just so you know, we did offer him the chance to take another version of Element 2, but he declined.

Shortly after I got home, after preparing and eating dinner, my cell phone started going crazy with alerts that our area was under a severe thunderstorm alert until 10:30 PM. I went down the basement to disconnect the antennas and around 7:30 PM, we had a brief but strong storm pass through. We must have had another at around 10:30 PM, as my weather station indicated that we got about a 1/2 inch of rain around that time. By then, I was out like a light and dead to the world. If there was lightning and thunder, I sure didn't see or hear any of it.

Looking at the long range forecast this morning, next Sunday looks (at this point in time) to be sunny with a high of 87F (37C). I hope so, as next Sunday is the Flight of the Bumblebees. The plan is to go up to Washington Rock State Park in Greenbrook and operate from one of the picnic tables that is shaded by one of the tall antenna supports (trees) that are located there. I am looking forward to a fun and relaxing afternoon of outdoor QRP fun. There haven't been enough of those, lately.

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


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Happy 50th Anniversary!


It's so hard to believe that it was 50 years ago today that men landed and walked on the Moon. I was 12 years old and was definitely a "space age kid". Alan Shepard made his sub-orbital flight four days after my 4th birthday, and I can remember watching that on TV.  All the subsequent Mercury and Gemini missions kept me spellbound.

July 20, 1969 was no different. From the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16th to Sunday the 20th I was glued to the TV and Walter Cronkite, in particular. I'll never forget the landing and the moonwalk, Those were heady days, like we felt we could accomplish anything.

Here are photos of the newspapers from that day - I still have these safely tucked away.





Today I was able to work four of the Special Event Stations. W4A, N0M, K2M and N1A. I almost worked K9MOT, the Motorola Amateur Radio station, but that was a busted QSO. He had me as W2LO before he gave up, saying there was too much QRM and QSB.

I must say, the HamAlert app works quite well. I programmed the SE station call signs in to trigger alerts and it kept me advised, all day. If it weren't for HamAlert, I would have spent more time twiddling the dial than I had to. I would heartily recommend using HamAlert to anyone who desires to be kept abreast of the activity of particular stations.

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

Friday, July 19, 2019

Bucket list

If any of you have kept up with the news; or are active in social media, then you've heard about the new app for cell phones that will allow you to see what you'll look like 30 to 40 years from now. It takes a "selfie" (I hate that word!) and will age your features so that you'll know what you'll look like when you're 70 or 80.  I guess Millennials get a big kick out of that.  I don't, and I definitely don't need the app.. I turned 62 this year, so I know where I'll most likely be 30 to 40 years from now.

So what's this post all about?  It's not about being maudlin, or morose, or being a "Gloomy Gus". No, this post is about the things I want to do in Amateur Radio before leaving for that big DX Contest in the Sky.

The good Lord willing, I may actually get to retire somewhere within the next 5-8 years. After that, I'm hoping He will allow me to live long enough to do some of the things that I just don't have the time and opportunity for right now; work and keeping up the house being the necessary evils that they are. But when I do get some time, here are some Amateur Radio things (in no particular order) that I want to accomplish before I leave this rock that we call Earth.

1) Do an honest-to-goodness SOTA operation
2) Attend FDIM and Hamvention (I'm hoping to do that in 2020 - fingers crossed, we'll see)
3) Get back on the satellites.
4) Do more POTA activations - particularly ones that require a bit of travel.
5) In general, just get on the air more than I have been able to.
6) Build stuff - oh, how I miss building stuff!

So why is it so hard to do these things now? Most of you probably know. Between work, house chores, doing things for the family, community and church obligations, there really isn't a lot of time for projects, or self indulgence. The fact that I manage to lock away enough time for events such as FOBB and the Skeeter Hunt amazes me enough, in and of itself. Even those rare times are dicey. It seems whenever I have some event for myself penciled in, something comes out of left field to spoil the best laid plans of mice and men.

And that 'work" thing ..... it seems that by the time I get home around 6:00 PM everyday, I'm just too tired to even think about doing much of anything with the rest of the day. I remember when I was in my 20s and 30s, how I could come home from work and stay up until 1:00 or 2:00 AM doing things and wake up the next morning and feel ready and raring to go. I got a lot of stuff accomplished when I was younger. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. So I dream the dream of some day, being able to accomplish things that I want to do - again.

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