Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Windy!

Sunday night we had a cold front come through. We had a severe thunderstorm watch in effect until 8:45 PM but none materialized. We did get some, brief heavy rain. The major effect was gusty winds. It was windy all night and you could hear it howling past the second floor windows of our house. When I awoke in the morning, my weather station informed me that we had some gusts between 25 and 30 MPH.

Good test for new mast for the W3EDP.  It did not come down - the mast or the antenna.

BUT ......... there's always a "but", isn't there?

When I let Harold out of the house Monday morning to do what dogs do, I noticed the wire was lower than where I had left it Sunday afternoon. In anticipation of putting another mast section up next weekend, I did not attach the anchor end of the antenna rope to the fence on the opposite side of the lawn securely enough. Well, actually I did as the wire didn't come totally loose to the point of laying down on the ground. A hastily tied secondary knot intended to take up some anchor rope slack slipped and the wire is now drooping. In fact, the wind blew the wire downward onto the roof of the addition at the back of the house where it snagged on a shingle edge. Drat!

This happened once before when the antenna was up in Ol' Mapley and a limb snapped causing the wire to "free up" from a meandering route amongst twigs and branches a bit.  I will do what I did last time (quite successfully). I will use the Jackite as my extended hand and I will gently move the wire away from the shingle, up over a small vent pipe and back up into free space - all without my feet leaving good Ol' Mom Earth.

Did I ever mention how deathly phobic I am of ladders?  Great for being a Ham, huh?  I fell off the top of a 6 foot ladder back when I was in 2nd Grade. That experience left me avoiding ladders like the plague if at all possible. My palms get sweaty just thinking about them. I will climb one if it's absolutely necessary. It's not something that's near and dear to my heart, though.

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


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Back in business!

 


The rain held off! The day started off sunny in the very early morning, but by lunchtime it had become very overcast. Fortunately there was no rain. It was a bit breezy, but that didn't interfere with getting the W3EDP resurrected.

I ended up using 5 mast sections and the apex is up at about 25 feet right now. I may add another section next weekend, which would bring the apex up to about 30 feet, I haven't definitely decided on that.

As you can see, the mast is secured to a chain link fence post. I don't want my neighbors (who are really super people) getting upset as the antenna is no longer really stealthy. So I'm going to go at this slowly for now.

After hooking the W3EDP back up to the KX3, it was like old times, The KX3 was still able to match it on all bands within seconds. It is very enjoyable and very reassuring to have my wire antenna back.

I was going to give it a re-inaugural workout in the Flying Pigs Run For The Bacon tonight, but I am sitting in front of the TV which is tuned to NASA TV.  The launch of the Falcon 9 space vehicle has my full attention.  Well almost _ I am writing this as I watch.

I did have a nice rag chew with WB9ICH on 30 Meters this afternoon. It was a "Larry to Larry" QSO, which is always neat. I guess those of you out there with more common names run into that a lot more than I do.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

This is all that left of Ol' Mapley

 


Just a stump of its former self.

From what I understand, the tree was infested with ants, carpenter and other kinds. The arborist said it was only a matter of time before the tree either died, or succumbed to a wind storm. You can see the HF9V coax in the photo. It was kind of like a "belt" around the trunk. Now I'll have to coil it up and hang it from the fence.

I did not get the chance to re-install the W3EDP due to some frustrating reasons that I'd rather not go into here. Suffice it to say, a good part of my day got eaten up by doing something I hate doing - waiting in line. When I got home, I had to run some garden fencing across the gap left by the missing trunk, so Harold, our Beagle, won't be able wander into the neighbor's yard. After that, I bagged seven bags of leaves in the front yard that fell during a two day rain storm, Thursday and Friday.

Tomorrow WAS supposed to be sunny, but now the forecast has changed to rain. Maybe, just maybe I can get something done with the W3EDP before the rain starts in the afternoon. We'll see. I did attach the bottom mast piece to one of the chain link fence posts with about a bajillion cable ties. I manhandled it to see if it would move or shift around. That bottom section is going NOWHERE.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, November 06, 2020

Fox hunting

 The 2020 - 2021 QRP Fox Hunt season began this week. Tuesday evening was the 40 Meter Hunt, and I was not able to hear either Fox. I'm not sure if it was because of bad propagation; or that my noise level on 40 Meters seemed to be through the roof, for some reason.

I fared much better last night during the 80 Meter Hunt. I worked Jim N0UR in Minnesota only 8 minutes into the game. Steve WX2S was another matter. Being only some 20 miles from me, one might think he'd be a cinch via groundwave, right? It ended up that I didn't work him until about the "twenty minute to go" mark, when he switched from split to simplex operating. It was only then that I was able to catch his attention - most likely because the other Hounds didn't notice the change and were still calling 1 kHz up.

In all, I was pleased with the performance of the HF9V on 80 Meters. I'm still waiting for my neighbor's cousin's tree service to come and take down Ol' Mapley.  What was that commercial from the 70s? "Any day now .... any day now." I think I'll be putting my W3EDP back up in the snow.

This weekend is the SKCC Weekend Sprint. I'll try and get on and work a few more as I make my way towards Tribune status. 

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Election night 2020

 I guess just everybody around the globe knows that the US Presidential Election is today. I feel really strongly about this and want to share this - because I feel it's important.

No matter what happens today - no matter who wins this election - the sun will rise tomorrow, the earth will keep spinning. There's more to life than politics. Take time to smell the flowers, enjoy sunrises and sunsets, talk with friends, share time with family. Pet your dog or cat. Get on the radio! Live again ........ and the best part of all? NO MORE POLITICAL COMMERCIALS! (At least for now).

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, November 02, 2020

Going back to basics - and purer QRP operating.

 I noticed something Friday night during the Zombie Shuffle.

I decided to unhook the HF9V from the KXPA100 and connect it directly to the KX3. After all, it was a QRP event and anything over 5 Watts wasn't kosher - so what did I need the amp for? Signals were noticeably louder and again, there was noticeably less background  noise on 40 Meters. This, even though the KXPA100 was being totally bypassed.

I am not getting rid of the KXPA100 by any stretch of the imagination - so any of you who might be out there and are hot for one - don't start salivating. But I am going to take it out of line for the time being and will use it only if I need to work an ATNO DX entity or a special Special Event Station - where QRP just doesn't seem to be getting through. I mean, that's the only reason I got it, anyway. It's easy enough to put back in line in less than a minute, if need be. Just move both the computer cable back and antenna connections back to the amp - that's it ..... easy peasy.

Moving the USB cable from the back of the KXPA100 directly to the KX3, allows my logging program to still recognizes what frequency I am on.  Isn't that something? I guess I've gotten so lazy that I prefer the radio telling the computer what band and frequency I'm on rather than typing it in! LOL! And I remember the days when there was ONLY paper logging. How spoiled I've become!

I plan to purchase a DAIWA antenna switch so that I can still choose between the HF9V and the W3EDP (whenever I get THAT back up). I have an MFJ switch ..... but it leaves a lot to be desired. Strangely, it's the only MFJ product I've ever purchased that I was not satisfied with, 

Unfortunately, ANT1 and ANT2 function on the KX3 doesn't work without the amp, but that's a convenience I can learn to live without. I guess the extra relays and antenna jumper connections do make a difference, especially when you're dealing with receiving less than 20 over 9 signals. The purer the connection, the better.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP  - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Guest operator

I had a guest in the shack last night for the Zombie Shuffle


Bonesy and I had a good time last night. I had a bit of trepidation of having only the vertical as my antenna weapon of choice, but it turned out to be less of a hindrance than I thought. In all, I worked 11 stations, three of which were bonus stations. 

80 Meters turned out to be the money band. I had a few QSOs on 40 Meters, but most were accomplished on 80 Meters. I listened on 20 Meters for a few minutes, only to hear a few ESP signals. I quickly decided to not waste any time there. Where signals were good, QSB was BAD last night. Several signals that started out at close to 599 would disappear in seconds. It made for quite the challenging, but fun evening.

I had planned to stay on longer than I did, but around 8:30 PM local time, somebody in the neighborhood turned something "on" and my noise level rose to over S9. So I shut it down for the night and headed upstairs to catch a bit of TV before bed.

Not my best outing by any means, but as hideous as band conditions have been for the longest while, I was pleasantly surprised. Kudos and thanks to Paul NA5N and his wife Jan N0QT for another SPOOKtacular event - it was a ton of fun and is one of the hallmarks of the QRP year.

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

Friday, October 30, 2020

Zombie Shuffle is tonight!

 


And here are some updates from Paul, NA5N:

The 2020 23rd annual QRP Zombie Shuffle is almost upon us.

Friday, October 30, 2020, 1600-midnight your local time

Rules: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/ZOMBIE/pg.htm


The Zombie Shuffle past 3 years has been met with awful bands, solar flux  only 62-65 and Kp 3-4 noise.  Yuck.

GOOD NEWS

The sun is slowly waking up for our next solar cycle with some improvements seen on the bands.  Today, and tomorrow for the Shuffle, the solar flux will be 88 and the Kp index only 1-2 for hopefully better bands and propagation than the past few years.  So, get on the air.

BONUS STATIONS

Quite a few stations volunteered to be Bonus Stations, and a few were invited.  Thanks to all.  I tried to distribute the Bonus Stations in different areas across the country, including "out west," for better variety and to help improve your SPC count.  A bonus station will send "2020" for their Zombie number, which in itself is like bonus points, plus their bonus station multiplier.  Most Bonus stations will also send some goofy or scary name of their choice for an extra measure of Zombie fun.   Some of the names chosen are quite interesting and unique, so copy the OP name carefully.

Below is a list of the Bonus stations and the SPC to help you find them:

AR      WA5BDU

CA      KE1B

GA      K4BAI

IA      WØPWE

ID      KU7Y

ID      K7TQ

IN      AB9CA

MA      KE1L

MD      W3KC

NE      N5SEZ

NM      NA5N

NM      K8TE   (Note 1)

ONT     VE3MGY (Note 2)

PA      K3SWZ

PA      W3BQC  (Note 3)

TN      AC6ZM

TX      WB6BKL

WA      WU7H

WA      NB5M


Note 1: K8TE is the New Mexico ARRL Section Manager, who requested a Zombie number to participate.  He will be QRP.

Note 2: Last year's top scorer and official "MGY" (Titanic) station

Note 3: Club station, WA3WSJ OP, Boschveldt, PA QRP Club

If you've been QRT during the solar minimum, or a bit rusty or new to CW, the QRP Zombie Shuffle is for you.  Code speeds are modest around 18wpm, but Zombies will slow to your speed (QRS) if needed.  Very informal to make some QSOs regardless of your operating skills and to have some on-the-air fun.  Notice the scoring, the sum of all the Zombie numbers you work, is based more on serendipity than skill.

Hope to work many of you. Don't forget to snap a photo or selfie to submit.

72, Paul NA5N

Socorro, NM

Zombie name: "Kilroy" as in "Kilroy was here"

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilroy_was_here

Rig: Ten Tec Argo at 5W

Ant: 5BTV vertical, 36 radials, or 130 ft. long terminated folded dipole

Key: 1938 McElroy bug, weighted to 16 wpm.

Thanks for organizing this for yet another year, Paul! I hope to hear a lot of you on the air tonight as well. I am down to just the HF9V for the evening. Ol' Mapley is still not down, it's been quite the wet week here in Central New Jersey.

72 de Larry W2LJ - Zombie # 858

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Eureka!

 While cleaning out the shack on Sunday, I found some treasure buried in a corner. I had forgotten that I still have about eight of these (just like in the photo):

The photo is from eBay, mine were purchased at the Sussex Hamfest years ago.  I still have these safely tucked away in the basement and they will provide the solution to raising the W3EDP again, once the Ol' Mapley is gone.

I have aluminum ones holding up my weather station and the VHF-UHF J-Pole as well as serving as the mast for the FAR end of the W3EDP. I have no doubt that the remaining sections that I have will also do a great job supporting a wire that weighs next to nothing. I'll strap one to one of the chain link fence posts with a gazillion cable ties and that will in turn support its brethren and the W3EDP. 

Actually, this is not so much a support as much as it is a pivot point. The wire leaves the house, goes to the mid support (which is a dog bone insulator tied in place on one end with dacron rope - the wire goes through the other hole) and routes the wire to the right roughly about  70 - 80 degrees to the end support mast. I should only lose a few feet in height from where the W3EDP was at in the tree.

Money saved ....... a good thing!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

I am officially W3EDP-less.

 The W3EDP came down this morning. It was a little more difficult than I had thought it would be. It was really up there! Unless the entire tree came down that wire wasn't coning down on its own.

I began by undoing where the balun was hanging by the house. That was easy enough. Then I loosened the anchor point at the other end. Lastly, I untied the center support that was holding the wire in the tree. I thought once I loosened that, it would just fall to the earth. 

That didn't happen.

The dacron rope must be wrapped around some limb pretty well. It came down some, but not nearly enough. I ended up pulling the wire through that dogbone insulator that was up there and got it down that way. The center insulator and rope that are still up there are disposable as far as I'm concerned

Now I'm looking at masts to take  the place of the tree once it's down. Perhaps something from DX Engineering or perhaps the MFJ-1904. It doesn't have to be super heavy duty - it just needs to hold an insulator so I can "right angle" the wire to the other side of the back yard.

After that was done,  I straightened out the shack, which is something I've been meaning to do for a while.  I got rid of the large garbage bags of "crap", and got things organized and stowed away. 

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP = When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Saying goodbye to an old friend

 


It's time to say goodbye to the maple tree in the back yard - my trusty antenna support over the last 22 years. My neighbor came by today to tell me that his cousin, who has a tree service business will be by sometime this week to take it down.

Unfortunately, it's time. The trunk has carpenter ant damage and the tree is not the most healthy. The trunk is hollow in places and were we to get another Sandy type of storm, it would most definitely go horizontal. So tomorrow, the W3EDP will come down as well as the VHF/UHF J-pole, so that will not get damaged when the crane is moved into my neighbor's driveway.

Once the tree is down, some sort of mast will go up in that corner of the back yard to take place of Ol' Mapley.  For the foreseeable future, I will have only the Butternut HF9V and perhaps the AlexLoop for the time being.

Good bye, ol' friend - thanks for holding up my wire antennas!

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

This is the stuff I dream of

 A good Amateur Radio friend, Marc W4MPS recently activated a POTA site. Here's a video he published:


Wow! What a beautiful setting! And beside the superb radio operating by Marc, how about that dronesmanship? Eh? Don't those aerial views just add to the beauty of it all?

I would love to travel out West and activate parks like this. Being able to take in the natural beauty of God's creation AND have fun on the radio at the same time - what could possibly be better than that!

This reminds me of another time and another place in a totally different circumstance. Marc helped the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club activate our local Spring Lake Park back in 2015 for Field Day. Marc was in New Jersey visiting his daughter and he stopped by to give our  CW effort some much needed assistance. The view was nowhere as spectacular and the weather left a lot to be desired.


You can see by the jackets and ponchos being worn that the weather was less than deluxe for that Field Day. Actually, after it was over, we all wondered how it was that none of us came down with pneumonia. It was chilly for late June, and very damp and wet. The funny thing was, that after Field Day weekend, that year we did not get another wet weekend until well into Autumn!

Thanks, Marc, for sharing your video. Make sure to take us along on any further adventures!

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

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Making a comeback?

 The "Run for the Bacon" Sprints, a monthly event held on the 3rd Sunday of the month, and sponsored by the Flying Pigs Amateur Radio Club Inc, have been on the contest scene for years. But like a lot of things over the years, participation has dwindled.

In an effort to correct that course, the Sprint time has changed to a little bit earlier start as a means to increase participation. For example, on the East Coast, the old time was from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM local time. For someone who has to get up early to go to work the next day, that's a big hurdle.

The time has been changed - to a start a couple hours earlier. In my case, it's now from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, much more appealing. In fact, the RFTB is occurring tonight and I just may jump into the fray. It's getting darker earlier so contacts on 80 Meters should be a real possibility.

For the details, please visit - http://qrpcontest.com/pigrun/

Hope to hear you on the air tonight!

73 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A good friend - now an SK.

I found out from my good friend Bob W3BBO that a mutual friend of ours, Rich Alderiso AA2KS had become a Silent Key this past July.


I first met Rich when I became a member of the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club. His call sign was AA2KS, he lived in North Edison and he ran (with his brother) a wholesale produce business out of Newark.

The love of his life was his wife Patty. When our group of friends decided to make the trip to Dayton in 1994, we concocted our plans over an amazing Italian dinner at Richie's house. Patty was an awesome cook and we enjoyed our planning sessions as much as we enjoyed the trip to Dayton itself.

Through PARC, we embarked on several special events together. Rich was a participant in trips to the Edison Memorial, the Twin Lighthouses at the Atlantic Highlands and to Long Valley, NJ to activate a special Halloween event for "The Ghost of Long Valley".

Our trip to Dayton in 1994 was taken in Richie's brand new Cadillac; and we'll never forget how he made us wipe our shoes off with a towel before we were allowed to get in.

Field Days were not complete without Richie' presence. He always arrived early with something from his business in his trunk. Whether it was a load of fresh peaches, or fresh watermelons, he always helped to make PARC Field Days extra special.

Richie was multi-talented and Amateur Radio was not his only hobby. He was also a builder of musical instruments (cellos) and he was also into clock making. Eventually, Richie and Pat moved from Edison down to the Jersey Shore to be closer to his daughters - and that's where we lost touch.

It saddens me that another Ham Radio acquaintance has passed on. I'll always remember Richie for his quick smile, the way he could crack a joke, for his friendship and his hospitality.

God bless you, Richard - may you have nothing but good propagation up there in the Big Ham Shack in the sky. You will be missed - it was a pleasure and honor to have known you.

72 de Larry W2LLJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Propagation is a fickle thing.

Yesterday, and again this morning, I have been trying to work my friend Bob W3BBO in the Pennsylvania QSO Party. You would think that between Erie, PA and Central NJ, either 40 Meters or 80 Meters would be a sure thing, right?

Nope.

I keep Bob's call listed in HamAlert so I know that when he's on. He was spotted multiple times on 40 Meters yesterday and 80 Meters AND 40 Meters this morning. Every time I run downstairs when I get notice of a spot, I tune on or close to the frequency that he's been spotted on - nothing. Can't hear a peep. I'll betcha a dollar to a donut that were he to switch to 20 Meters, somehow I'd be able to hear him - which goes against all logic as far as I'm concerned.

While listening for Bob, I was hearing a lot of SKCC stations on the air. I am guessing that this week is the SKCC Weekend Sprint. I'll have to dust off the ol' bug and practice with it, off the air, and maybe join in and work a few next month. I would try today, but straight key sending is holy terror on my wrist and my bug sending would send folks running for the hills swearing to "Never work that W2LJ guy again!"

Speaking of upcoming events, this made it to QRP-L this past week. Notice of the 2020 Zombie Shuffle:

Zombies and Zombettes:

That time of the year again.  The 23rd Annual Zombie Shuffle QRP whatever-it-is will be held Friday, October 30, 2020 from 1600 to midnight YOUR LOCAL TIME.  This should allow for a little 20M at the beginning before forced to 40 or 80M.

Rules are here: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/ZOMBIE/pg.htm

Pretty much the same ole malarky QRP fun that is senseless and pointless with ridiculous scoring for getting on the air and working a few fellow QRP Zombies.

Bonus stations this year will be sending "2020" as their Zombie Number for an even bigger score and additional multipliers.  We'd like to see Bonus Stations in the East, Midwest, West and VE.  So, if you're planning on operating for an hour or two and want to be one of the coveted Bonus Stations, please let me know (na5n@zianet.com).

If you've never participated in the Zombie Shuffle, give it a try.  Just some silly Halloween fun to work some fellow QRP stations.  Not a high speed QRQ contest; stations will match your speed if you're a bit rusty or new to CW.

We'll never have a more Zombie year than 2020!!! :-(

72, Paul NA5N

Grand Zombie #004/2020

AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH !!!!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Two biggies this weekend

 that mark the end of the outdoor QRP Sprint season for 2020.

Leaf Peepers Sprint - this Saturday, October 3rd

This is a relatively new one. hosted by Tim Carter W3ATB - click on the link for the details.If you don't have a Leaf Peeper number, there's still time to get one.

Peanut Power Sprint - this Sunday, October 4th

This is also relatively new, maybe a year or two older than the Leaf Peeper Sprint - this one hosted by my friends in the NoGA QRP group - one of the finest bunch of guys on this good ol' Earth. You can also click on the name for the details on this one. Same as with the Leaf Peepers, if you don't have a Peanut number, there's still time!

The Peanut Power Sprint is a tad different than other QRP Sprints as there is actually a QRO category, so ALL are welcome to participate in this one.

I have enjoyed operating in both of these fine Sprints in the past - and they are both tons of fun and are both a credit to the QRP Outdoor Operating Event Season. However, this weekend is my wedding anniversary weekend - so if I hope to continue to operate in Sprints in the future, I will most likely take a pass on these, this year. LOL!

I sincerely hope that wherever you find yourself this weekend, the weather will be good and that you'll get the chance to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine behind a key or mic before the cold weather comes around to hang with us for a while.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, September 21, 2020

So ..... what's next?

 Now that the Skeeter Hunt Soapbox is done - what's next?

Fortunately, lots of things!

Two more outdoor QRP events are on the horizon, Tim W3ATB's Leaf Peeper Sprint and NoGa QRP's Peanut Power sprint. Those two events will round out the 2020 "organized" QRP outdoor operating event season. Of course, if the weather is nice, there's nothing to stop just about anyone from organizing their own "Parkpedition" (terminology originated by K3WWP).

For W2LJ, the Skeeter Hunt certificates remain a chore to be dealt with. I think those will have to wait until the last lawn mow is done for the season. With "Darkness, my old friend" (sorry, Simon and Garfunkle) arriving earlier and earlier each day, I have to do the yardwork on weekend days now. That means the certificate printing, envelope stuffing and mailing will probably be done towards late October.

Also my QCX+ 20 Meter rig is sitting in the box waiting to be opened, inventoried and built. I am DETERMINED not to screw this one up! My confidence was shaken a bit with my failure on the QCX 40; but a little self pep talk seems to have taken care of that. Advancing age may be beginning to take its toll; but I do have 40+ years of experience as a Ham and 20+ years of experience of doing component level circuit board repairs under my belt. I can't let one SNAFU deter me.

Speaking of late October, the annual Zombie Shuffle is probably only a month or so away. That's always a popular event; and now that I'm no longer secretary of the ETS of NJ club, I will participate this year. Even though our meetings are now being held on the repeater due to social distancing requirements, they always seem to occur on the same Friday as the Shuffle.

I missed participating in QRP Afield this year and that was a personal bummer. I went for my annual physical on Saturday and at the same time received my annual flu shot. For some reason, the flu shot really kicked my butt this year - for the very first time, I might add. The arm in which I received the shot was sore all day, and it was almost like I was given a sedative. I ended up napping most of the afternoon away. That was really a shame as the weather was absolutely splendid and operating "portable" from the back yard would have been a real treat.

I also found out on Saturday that it was the day of the NJ QSO Party. Our ARRL Section Manager sent out an e-mail reminding us all, that day. IMHO, that needs to change. Better publicity and reminders, sent multiple times before the event will encourage and increase participation. The life of the average Ham is a busy one, with chores and family and other obligations to be considered. I have found that, not only for myself but also from others, that planning to be available for events like these needs to be taken care of well in advance of the event day.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

2020 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Soapbox has been published!

 You can see all the comments of your fellow Skeeter Hunters!

You can go to the Official NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Webpage and scroll to the bottom for the links. Or ...

Soapbox Page 1 is here https://www.qsl.net/w2lj/index%20page%2016

Soapbox Page 2 is here https://www.qsl.net/w2lj/index%20page%2017

Soapbox Page 3 is here https://www.qsl.net/w2lj/index%20page%2018

Once again, thanks to all of you out there who participated and continue to participate from year to year. YOU make the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt the success that it is. Without you, it would be four hours of dead air.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Don't get discouraged!

 When it comes to head copying CW.

This post is directed at the relatively new to CW folks out there. I HOPE there are some relatively new to CW people out there, reading this right now. And for those of you who are new to CW or maybe new to faster CW, I know how easy it is to become discouraged with copying CW in your head. I've been there myself ...... I know.

I started out in my Novice days copying EVERYTHING down on paper, word for word. Looking back on it, that was a ridiculously easy thing to do at 5 WPM. But when you are new and wet behind the ears, that was a Herculean task.  Eventually, over time as my speed increased and I upgraded to General, I changed to just writing down just the "important stuff" - you know ... Name, QTH, RST, age ..... that kind of thing. 

When I became an Extra after mastering 20 WPM, I still kept at that practice. But as I tried to ever increase my speed, I realized that I had to leave writing behind if I wanted to continue to make progress. I had to break the habit of writing stuff down and get into the habit of just copying stuff n my head, because writing stuff down does two things:

1) It takes time

2) It is distracting.

I have no idea how the military and professional radio guys used a typewriter to copy! I have a hard time chewing gum and walking at the same time. Copying AND typing - no way, that's not for me! It's all I can do to just keep things right in my head.

I think the biggest fear of relying solely on head copy is missing something and getting all bolluxed up. Personally, that caused me to freeze up from time to time and start missing a whole bunch of stuff. You miss one word, then two, then three, then whole sentences and the next thing you know is you feel like Charlie Brown from "Peanuts"!


The key ...... and I think is the hardest part to master,  is to just relax and copy the best you can. Miss a word? Don't panic! Miss two words? Again - don't panic. Forget about what you missed and get yourself concentrating on what's coming at you in the moment. Panicking only makes you miss more and more.

As an example - last night I saw my friend Bob W3BBO spotted calling CQ on RBN. I ran down to the shack in an attempt to start up a QSO with him, only to find I had been beaten to the punch. By the time, I got downstairs, got the radio tuned to 3.560 MHZ and the earbuds in my ears, Bob was already in QSO with Ernie AA2YK. Instead of shutting down, I decided to "copy the mail" and I did it all without writing a single thing down! 

Did I miss a few words here and there? You betcha! But I didn't let that bother me. In very quick order I had to mentally force myself to stop and re-start copying again. I had to break the cycle of worrying about what I had missed, ignore it and just go on from where I had left off. And once you can do that, you'll find that it works, every time! I listened in on their almost 30 minute rag chew and enjoyed listening to two good Morse Code fists.

If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have started relying on head copy a lot sooner than I actually did.  I still write the necessary details down for logging - time, name, call - but that's about it. The rest I just copy in my head and now it seems as natural as falling off a log. It makes the entire CW experience a lot more enjoyable.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

QRP Afield this Saturday

 Courtesy of KE1L on QRP-L:

September 19, 1500Z-2100Z (11am-5pm EDT) 
Bands: 160 through 10, no WARC bands or 60 meters 
Modes: CW, voice, digital 
Exchange: RST, S/P/C, NEQRP number or power level Full rules follow 

More info at https://www.newenglandqrp.org/qrp-afield-2018/ (that link is current despite the 2018; it was already on the ARRL contest corral before I took over as administrator so we're sticking with it for this year) 

QRP Afield, sponsored by the New England QRP Club, is the original QRP contest for field operation. It was first held in 1994. The next oldest, QRP To The Field, was first held in 1995; it was originally sponsored by the NorCal QRP Club and is now run by the administrators of QRP-L. This year Shirley Dulcey KE1L has taken over as the contest administrator of QRP Afield. 

QRP Afield is always held on the third Saturday of September. Most years, that makes it the last QRP contest of the summer. In years when that Sunday falls on September 21 it can instead be the first QRP contest of the fall. In many years it is concurrent with the Chowdercon informal social gathering of NEQRP; the organizer of that event has not yet announced whether it will happen this year. 

In the recent past we haven't posted a clear definition of a field station. That's a question that is certain to arise because of the COVID crisis. I found this from 2014: 

Permanent Location: Any location using commercial power AND/OR permanently installed antennas Field Location: Any location using battery/solar/natural power AND temporary antennas. That means that your backyard, front porch, patio, or other similar location qualify as a field station IF you use temporary antennas and portable power. Further rule starting this year: 

QRP field stations must follow the ARRL Field Day definition for qualifying for the battery powered classes. In other words,no fossil fuel generators. QRO field stations can use generators, though they rarely enter QRP Afield. This is mostly meant to cover POTA or IOTA activations or stations participating in state QSO parties that might make some contacts in QRP Afield. 

Recommended frequencies: CW near 1810, 3560, 7030 7040 and 7122, 14060, 21060, 28060 SSB near 1910, 3985, 7285, 14285, 21385, 28885 Digital modes on their customary frequencies 7030 is now the primary QRP spot on 40, but some older crystal-controlled radios may be operating on 7040. 7122 is a gathering spot for slow-speed CW. 

Exchange: NEQRP members: RST, S/P/C, NEQRP number Non-members: RST, S/P/C, power 

If you would like to become a member, see https://www.newenglandqrp.org/membership/. NEQRP membership is free and open to all radio amateurs with an interest in QRP. There are no location restrictions, though all of our in-person gatherings are in New England. 

Scoring: One contact per station per mode per band 
New clarification for 2020: all voice modes count as one mode 
New clarification for 2020: all digital modes count as one mode 
QRO at a permanent location: 1 point per contact 
QRO at a field location: 2 points per contact 
QRP at a permanent location: 5 points per contact 
QRP at a field location: 10 points per contact 

Multiplier: S/P/C, once per BAND (not per mode) 
All three modes (CW, voice, digital) count the same for scoring 
No bonus stations 

Logs: Email to mark@buttery.org; send Cabrillo files (preferred) or text Include the summary sheet from https://www.newenglandqrp.org/qrp-afield-2018/ If you must, mail logs to the address on the site. Email is preferred Logs must be received by October 20.

The weather forecast for my QTH for Saturday is mostly sunny, with a high temp of 65F (18C) for the day. I have my annual physical scheduled for the morning. Hopefully, after that's over I can quickly complete my normal weekend chores and get on the air from the backyard for a bit.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

This looks interesting!

 

Tracking Our Next Solar Cycle
The Sun goes through regular cycles of activity approximately every 11 years, and tracking these cycles is a key part of better understanding the Sun and mitigating its impacts on human technology and astronauts in space.

Join scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a special episode of NASA Science Live on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 3 p.m. EDT as they discuss predictions for the upcoming solar cycle. The public can send questions during the event using #AskNASA on Twitter or by leaving a comment in the chat section on Facebook.

If you have the time and are available, this looks like it may be well worth it. I will even try to listen in the background from work.

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

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Been a while

 Since my last post. A lot has been going on.

First off, I totally FUBARed my QCX 40 circuit board while attempting to remove T1 in order to rewind it. I obliterated some traces and solder through holes. It may not be so, but I'm writing it off (for now) as a loss due to my impatience and for working on it while I was too fatigued to be doing so. I'm not getting rid of it, or tossing it out - just putting it on the shelf for now.  I learned some valuable lessons, so it was not a total loss and I will carry those forward when I begin building the QCX+ 20. One lesson is to ditch the Weller soldering station that has been my standby for the last umpteen years; and going with the one I purchased from Circuit Specialists. This soldering station will allow me to control the temperature more precisely, so that if I do have to perform some re-work, I won't burn things up..

That's going to be a while, though. I published the 2020 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Scoreboard the other day and that can be seen here.

Composing the Soapbox is next and that's going to take me a while. There were over 130 log summaries sent in, the majority having comments and many having photos as well. It's going to take me a while to get that published. For instance, I worked on it for a couple hours tonight; and I've only gotten through the first 16 entries. That's a little bit more than 10%, so I've got a good bit of work ahead of me.

This is the part of the Skeeter Hunt that is my favorite, right after operating, of course. Being able to let the QRP world know what the participants used, how they set up, describing the fun they had - for me, this is the icing on the cake. That being the case, I want to do it right and give it the effort it deserves. I also truly believe that the Soapbox section is what makes Hunters come back year after year.

I don't get rid of them, either. If you go to www.qsl.net/w2lj, you can see the Soapbox comments going all the way back to the beginning in 2012. I enjoy going through them myself from time to time to see how the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt has evolved.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Almost there!

 


I got L1 and L4 wound and installed and T1 wound and installed on the QCX40. T1 did not turn out as picture perfect as Hans' construction manual, but I'm 99 and 44/100ths % sure that I got it wound and installed correctly. Tomorrow, I'll try and finish up and perform the smoke test.

I must admit, if I had to do T1 over (and who knows, I may have to yet!) I would not wind it as one continuous winding with loops between the windings. If I end up having to do it over, I would do each winding separately.  As long as the winding are done in the same sense, for example, all wound counter clockwise and all the first windings going under, then it works out the same as Hans' method. 

This past week at work was a bear with a lot of late nights and hard days. At 63, I don't bounce back as easily as I used to when I was younger. Because of that, I am trying to do as little as possible. Kit building is more like play than work, so I'm taking the opportunity to get some rest and have some fun at the same time.

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

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Debating

 I keep debating in my head whether or not I should post about this - but I think I have something of value to offer here, so I am going to go ahead. What's that old saying? "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!".

This post is going to deal with questions - specifically questions asked in our Amateur Radio community.

Last weekend I asked a question in a comment on Facebook. It was a popular Amateur Radio related topic page - which shall remain nameless. Admittedly, I didn't read the original post too well. It was lengthy and I kind of just glossed over it. My fault 10000% and I freely admit it - and I freely admitted it on the Facebook page. However, the question I asked seemed innocuous enough and I expected a three, maybe four word answer. That's all it would have required.

Instead, I got pilloried for even bothering to ask. "Didn't you read the post? AND YOU STILL ASKED THAT QUESTION?  SERIOUSLY? Do you know how many times we get asked that? Do you know how FRUSTRATING that is?"

That's not the word for word diatribe I received, but you get the gist. When I tried to explain why I asked what I asked, it got even worse. I responded (as I will explain below) and for my efforts, someone thought it was cute and funny enough to post this image of a crying towel.


I tried to explain that questions are a part of life. In my own life, I get asked a million questions a day - I know, that's an exaggeration, but it feels that way sometimes. People don't read and people don't listen. Sometimes they're tired, sometimes they're hurried and in a rush, sometimes their minds are focused on other weighty matters. It happens.

But that is NEVER is an excuse to be rude or condescending. One of the hallmarks of excellent Customer Service and just polite human behavior is to answer questions courteously and with a smile.  Even if you're screaming in your mind and ripping your hair out in your mind because it's the millionth time  ...... be kind.

One of the things that drives me crazy the most is when someone, particularly an Amateur Radio neophyte, will ask a very simple and easy question about something and someone answers with "RTFM", or says something like "How did you pass your test?". Is it so hard to give a courteous and polite answer? If you don't have the time to give a detailed answer then suggest a publication or location where they can find the answer and perhaps gain a little knowledge in the process. There's NEVER an excuse for being rude.

If you're frustrated and tired of hearing the same question over and over ...... grow a set and get over it, or better yet keep your mouth shut. If you're in a place or doing something that you really enjoy but part of that involves answering questions from maybe hundreds of people ..... well, that's life and part of what you got yourself into.  Always remember that other old saying, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Be kind. Always. It's a good rule to live by.

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

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Interesting review

 https://swling.com/blog/2020/08/lets-hit-the-field-with-the-new-lab599-tx-500-discovery-qrp-transceiver/?fbclid=IwAR2loU8Ub1VIdzapMpxbSBxEqx8Ms9ZRY4DucaWgpthHNgSm0HwLoYRVilQ

The lab599 TX-500 Discovery 500 QRP Transciever - initial thoughts on the part of Tom Witherspoon K4SWL (who I've worked on the air many times). Tom authored a good write-up and I encourage you to read it.

The rig looks like a real winner - although it seems a bit strange how they chose the 6 pin connector to hook up a CW keying device - and the fact that you'd need to devise your own connector cable to hook up a set of headphones or ear buds is a"different approach" to say the least.

It's nice to see that more and more companies are making products and kits for our market. It would seem that QRP is indeed alive and well - perhaps more than ever (even if Ol' Sol ain't exactly cooperating right now).

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Here it is Wednesday

 and I'm already contemplating the weekend.

There's so much to get done! I need to get the oil changed in the Jeep, get the grocery shopping done, get the lawn mowed and some bushy overgrowth cut back.

BUT ....... what I really want to get accomplished this weekend is to finish, or at least nearly finish the QCX 40 and that means tackling T1 with its multiple windings and loops. I've read the instructions a couple of times already and will again before the weekend. Winding T1 in the QCX reminds me a lot of winding the main transformer in the Emtech ZM2 tuner, which I built years ago and is still a mainstay in my portable ops backpack. That wasn't all that difficult and I keep reminding myself of that as I get closer to taking on this task. I still have the L1 and L4 toroids to build and install and I want to get those dome before the weekend, so I can devote my attention entirely to T1. It looks like a more daunting task on paper than it will probably end up being in practice.

Inside my head, I still feel like I'm in my 20s. But from time to time, it's easy to realize that even though I "feel" like I'm in my 20s in my head, the truth is starkly different. Back in those days, my eyesight was better and I could put together a kit without much more aid than a really good light source. Now I need magnifiers, and all the other help that I can get. Back in my salad days, I would have put together this QCX in an evening; or perhaps two. I can remember working on Heathkits until 2:00 or 3:00 AM and then getting up at 7:00 AM the next morning to get going to work. These days, I'm between the sheets by 9:00 or 10:00 PM at the latest, and if I'm not,  I really feel it the next day.

My Mom always used to say to me, "Larry, don't get old." and I always used to answer her, "Mom, there's not much I can do about that.".  I now know what she meant. We spend our younger lives wanting to have the "freedoms" that we believe come with adulthood. Sometimes, it turn out that they're not quite cracked up what they seemed to be.

It's been a busy week at work, so far three days in. I've been coming home not wanting to do much other than "vegging out", but I have been working on the Skeeter Scoreboard. I've gotten over a hundred log summary e-mails so far, and I've tallied up the first 50 or so into the spreadsheet. The Scoreboard will be published over Labor Day Weekend; and I'll put out plenty of notice about it when the time comes.

Keep in mind there are still two big events coming up in the 2020 Outdoor QRP season - the Peanut Power Sprint and the Leaf Peeper Sprint. I'm looking forward to those, even as they mean the close out of the season. Every August we get a day or a couple of days that have that "first kiss" of cooler weather that remind one that Autumn and Winter are on their way. The past two mornings have been in the upper 50s (around 14C) as I've headed out the door to work. Those temps have definitely reminded me that the changing of the seasons is on the way in just a few short weeks, and that my beloved Summer only has a short time left.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, August 17, 2020

2020 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt

 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Day 2020 arrived much as it did for 2019 - gray and gloomy. But this year, there was a difference - rain was added to the mix and there was no clearing come mid morning. I fully intended to set up outside on the patio table under the big umbrella anyway. I went out there around Noon to wipe the table dry, and to get the antenna up. As I was standing there, wiping down the table, water kept dripping down off the umbrella and onto my back. "Oh, this is NOT going to work" was the thought that entered my mind. I don't mind cloudy, I don't mind humid, I don't mind cool (it was only 66 F at the time), but I DO mind wet.

The decision was made to operate from the shack. There went the X4 multiplier and the home brew antenna bonus up into a puff of smoke. However, I'm not in it to win in any case. As Contest Manager, I consider myself ineligible. I do like to put forward the best effort I can, though.

The bands seemed plenty busy once starting time rolled around. 40 Meters was best for me. I worked a few on 20 Meters, but signals were very weak. QSB was terrible on both 20 and 40, but at least the signals were louder on 40 and I was able to deal with it.  I tried listening and calling CQ on both 15 Meters and 80 Meters for a bit, but it seemed that both those bands were about as inhabited as Robinson Crusoe's island. No one there but me - not even Friday.

I came upstairs at about the halfway point for a needed "Nature's Call" break. Wouldn't you know it? As I looked out the living room window, the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to break through the clouds. I was tempted to quickly set up for doing the second half from the backyard, but it occurred to me that that would be a scoring mess. Even though my score doesn't count, how do you score a 1/2 home operation and a 1/2 backyard portable operation? As it turned out it was the wise choice. By the time the closing bell rang, the gloom and spritzing rain had returned for an encore performance

At 2100 UTC I had finished up with 30 QSOs in the log. Not my best effort by any means, but still a lot of fun. Thanks to all who participated and made the Skeeter Hunt possible. I may do the background work to get it going, but you guys are the ones who are the wind beneath its wings. Without you there's no NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, and for that I am eternally grateful. MY reward in all of this is hearing stories about how you folks had a good time. There's so much un-cool stuff happening in the world today and we need to get a break from it, even if it's just for a few hours. If I can help bring some enjoyment to people's lives for even a little while - it's all well worth it.

For the next two weeks, I'l be collecting log summaries and on Labor Day weekend, I will publish the 2020 Scoreboard. Certificates and soapbox will follow as soon as I get the chance and time to work on them. 

2021 will mark the 10th running of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt. I have to think of something special for the occasion.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt - tomorrow!

 Tomorrow, Sunday August 16th is the 9th running of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

Over 270 of you have signed up for Skeeter numbers, so there should be lots of activity out there. Our fingers are crossed that the Propagation Princess will be in a good mood and will cooperate. This is an all time record number of Skeeters - NJQRP thanks each and every one of you for participating. It's not too late to sign up for a number, I'll be issuing them right up to about 10:00 AM EDT tomorrow for any late comers - just send an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net and I'll send you an e-mail back with your Skeeter Number for 2020.

If anyone is fuzzy about the rules, please visit http://www.qsl.net/w2lj - the rules are easy and not cumbersome. The exchange is easy and the main goal of this exercise is to provide ample fun - no jumping through hoops here.

Lastly, in these COVID times, please remember to stay safe. Back yard operations with a temporary antenna and a power source other than your home's commercial mains count as portable for the Skeeter Hunt. No need to go off into the public if you feel safer at home. If you do venture out, please keep yourself safe by observing your area's restrictions (i.e facial coverings, social distancing and above all Common Sense). We at NJQRP want to have you all back next year for the 10th Anniversary of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

Go out there, be careful and have fun! Hope to hear you and get your call signs in the log!

72 de Larry W2LJ - Skeeter # 13

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Decisions, decisions

My Weller WTCPT soldering station is going nigh on about 35 years old or so. I got it as a Christmas present from my parents back in the days when I was Service Manager at Sinar Bron. Each of us in the department had one and we used them every day, of course. They are like Timex watches in that "They take a licking and keep on ticking!"

My tips are getting old and worn and it's getting a bit more difficult to find new ones. And when you find them, "They ain't cheap". So I had to do some soul searching. Do I buy new tips, or is it time, perhaps, for a new soldering station?

I was looking at the 75 Watt station available form Circuit Specialists. 


It's only $33 plus shipping.  It also comes with a hearty recommendation from Bob W3BBO, who has one. As tempting as it was to order one, I decided to go on eBay where I found some WTCPT tips. With shipping, three brand new tips came close in price to  (but still below)  the new soldering station. I may regret my decision, but the Weller has served me for so long and for so well that I'm going to take the gamble and bet that the handle will continue to work for the foreseeable future. A replacement handle is about $99, give or take a few $$$. If it ever kicks the bucket on me, then I'll look for something new.

I was looking at reviews of newer Weller soldering equipment on eHam and was concerned with the comments. It seems that they're not being made like they used to, so I am going to hold on to my relic from the past - for the time being, anyway.


A relic holding on to a relic - works for me!

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

Monday, August 10, 2020

W3BBO to the rescue! Once again.

 I mentioned in the previous post how it's QCX toroid time. I had mentioned to Bob W3BBO that as excellent as Hans Summer's assembly manuals are - they differ from Elecraft in one important way.

When you're ready to wind a toroid in an Elecraft kit, they generally start off the step with something like this "Cut off a 12 inch piece of the supplied magnet wire". In the QCX manual, Hans just gives you the toroid nomenclature and the number of turns. I'm not a rocket scientist - how much wire do I need without cutting too much and wasting some - or cutting it too short and REALLY wasting some?

Bob W3BBO had the answer, as always.  Go to W8DIZ, Diz Gentrow's Website at kitsandparts,com. He has a toroid page complete with winding info.

Take for instance - L4 on the QCX 40. It's a T37-2 toroid and you need to wrap 16 turns on it. Simply go to https://www.kitsandparts.com/xtoroids.html and you will see that you need a 10 inch length of magnet wire. Easy peasey, lemon squeezy! 


This is the stuff you automatically know when you are a home brewer par excellance, which Bob W3BBO is and I am obviously not. Thanks again, Bob - for pulling my fat out of the fire. In thanks, I will pay it forward and pass your tip to others out there who may need it. (I'm probably alone in that regard).

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Progress!

It was a pretty busy weekend with a lot a lot of "stuff" going on.

Saturday began with our "new normal" VE testing session in the Clark, NJ Municipal Building Parking Lot. Months ago, pre-Covid, we used to chuckle when we'd have three candidates and maybe ten VEs show up on a Saturday morning. Now, we need every VE we can get. These outdoor, socially distanced exam sessions require that many VEs and more, in order to maintain integrity and reasonably quick paper flow. We seem to be getting better at it each month and we've been getting good feedback from the candidates / new licensees.  It will be interesting to see how we're going to do this once colder weather arrives in 3 or 4 months.

The rest of the day was occupied with grocery shopping, cleaning, lawn mowing and various other little things that needed my attention. I set up a new Wifi range extender/repeater in the house as I was contending with a few dead spots, and I also want to set up a Webcam to accompany my weather station so that when I check into Weather Underground, I can visually see what the weather is like at home when I'm not there. I also do most of the cooking on weekends in order to give Marianne a break in that department.

The second Sunday of each month, I volunteer along with our Church group at a local soup kitchen. They've resumed, as they were halted for the last few months. Instead of giving our guests a "sit down' meal, we're giving them a complete take out meal, as we don't have enough indoor space to accomodate social distancing requirements. That eats up a bit of the day, but there was enough time before Mass and after soup kitchen to work some more on the QCX.


At this point, I'm pretty certain I'm more than 1/2 way done. I finished getting all the resistors in, the two RF chokes, all the electrolytics, the potentiometers, the trimmer cap, the transistors and the voltage regulator. I also got the power inlet, the pin headers and the three test points installed. Of all the components installed so far, those three singular test points were the biggest pain in the butt. You can't bend the "lead" to keep them in place - so you have to find a way to support them from underneath to keep them in place while you solder.  You can't use a finger to hold them in place as they get hot when you solder them in.  They're also shorter than some of the surrounding components and that doesn't help matters.

The solution that I worked out was to use the foam strip that the ICs came on. I placed that on top of each pin after I inserted it, carefully inverted the circuit board and then soldered each pin in place, while the foam supported the pin from underneath and prevented it from moving laterally, or moving away from the circuit board. Once again - never throw anything away that's excess before the kit is complete. You may never know when things like a piece of IC foam or even a clipped component lead might come in handy for something on down the line.

The next step is the toroids and the main transformer T1. I have no problem with toroids. I'm a toroid veteran from my K1, K2 and their respective auto tuner builds. But just because I'm a veteran doesn't mean I'm complacent about it. It was after dinner when I finished for the evening. I want to work on the toroids when I'm a bit fresher. Maybe I'll attempt them during evenings this week, taking my time and going slow.

The long range weather outlook is not looking great for my QTH for next weekend. I'm sure it will probably change between now and then, but right now the forecast for next Sunday (Skeeter Hunt Day) is for showers and perhaps a 1/4 inch of precipitation. If that is indeed the case, and things don't change, I'll probably end up setting up in the back yard under our big patio umbrella instead of going to the park that I usually go to. I did this a couple of years ago and it worked fine. The only problem is that situation would preclude me from using a home brew antenna for the event. There's just not enough space for my portable W3EDP that I use on Field Day, and I'd probably end up deploying the PAR End Fedz, which I've used in the past. I could conceivably use my EARCHI end fed, but the total length of that is 50 plus feet, while the PAR is around 39 feet, which is much more suited to the limited space I'll be dealing with.

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

Friday, August 07, 2020

Idiot !!!!!!!!

 Of all the bone-headed, idiotic things that I have done ....... I realized that I have missed the deadline to send in my Field Day results to the ARRL!  I feel like such a moron.

I've let down my fellow SPARC members. Argh!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Dreams

Ever since this COVID-19 thing has been front and center, my friend Marv K2VHW has been running what has been come to be known as the "Middlesex County Chat Group Net" each evening at 8:00 PM on the Middlesex County OEM repeater.

It's a Health and Welfare Net with local Hams keeping in touch with each other. If anyone needs something, it's our chance to help out. But beyond that, it's also a general discussion net, where any and all topics can come up. It's also been kind of an Elmer net. We've discussed radios, antennas, how to route feedlines, etc. 

Over the past few weeks, our discussions have been drifting towards the International Space Station, tracking satellites, the stars, planets and astronomy.  Tonight's session seemed to linger particularly on astronomy.

When I was a mere youngster, that was my dream - to be an astronomer. As a product of the "Space Age" I was thrilled by all things connected to space and space flight. I built a 6" Newtonian reflecting telescope when I was about 13 -14 years old. I wanted to spend my life unraveling the mysteries of space.

That was when math hit, and my dream died. My Mom often told me how my great grandfather (or was it my great, great grandfather?) was a professor of mathematics at the University of Kiev. That gene missed me completely. Mathematics might as well have been Greek to me, as I comprehended neither. Mathematics, however, IS the language of astronomy. Without the proper affinity for mathematics I was reduced to never becoming anything more than an avid stargazer.

Such are the things of life, but I guess I'll always wonder "how it could have been."

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

Isaias

It's been all over the news. A little storm blew through here on Tuesday - Tropical Storm Isaias. 

Fortunately, the W2LJ household fared very well. We lost power a couple of times, maybe for about a 1/2 hour each time, but no more than that. My weather station recorded only about 1.3 inches of rain at my location and a maximum wind gust around 20 MPH. The lot on which my house resides is surrounded by some pretty tall trees, so I'm sure they break up and affect the wind coming at my weather station.

I say that because while I only had some twigs and a few minor branches fall out of my two trees, the greater part of South Plainfield saw more damage than my block received. There were roads closed with major limbs down in the streets and taking down power lines. Many homes are without electricity and the local power utility is saying it may not be until next Monday that power is restored everywhere.

Somerset County, which is our neighboring county and the one I travel through to get to work fared much worse. Lots of trees down and many traffic lights on State Highway 22 are out of commission. In fact, the highway (eastbound) was closed Tuesday afternoon because of downed trees and power lines. My commute home was a lot longer that evening as I was forced to take several detours throughout the county.

My son Joseph texted me at work when power went out for the first time. He also told me there was a wire coming from the house that was down in the driveway. I immediately thought it was the mains wire from the house that had snapped from the utility pole. Power came back on shortly, so that proved my initial thought was incorrect.

When I got home in the evening, it turned out that the wire was an old length of cable TV cable that was left hanging on the house from when we switched from Direct TV to Verizon FiOS service. I cut it down and discarded it. Interesting stuff - it looked like regular 75 Ohm TV coaxial cable, but it had an extra wire running down the length of it. You could see and feel a raised "hump" where that extra wire was placed.

Both Amateur Radio antennas made it through unscathed. In fact, the Butternut came through all the better. There were some overhanging branches from my neighbor's yard that were coming close to the vertical and would brush against it from time to time. It seems they didn't make it through the storm and must be laying somewhere in my neighbor's back yard. Except for one grabby vine, my Butternut is free and clear. I'll snip that vine with my tree pruner this evening, if it's not raining when I get home. Otherwise, that will go on the "To Do" list for this weekend.

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

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Cool stuff!

I just watched a pass of the International Space Station, as it passed in the Northwest to Southeastern sky. It was cool to be talking a bunch of local Ham buddies on a local repeater while watching. We also saw two dimmer satellites pass over, as well. I wonder if either of those two was perhaps an OSCAR.

This afternoon, I watched the splashdown of Dragon Endeavor as it gently landed in the Gulf of Mexico, While it reminded me of Mercury/Gemini and Apollo days, it was also apparent how far we've come since those days. The live TV from the communications airplane circling the recovery area made watching the deployment of both sets of parachutes possible. And after splashdown, it wasn't the US Navy responsible for recovery, it was a private commercial operation. As the spacecraft was bobbing in the ocean, there was live, high definition TV from inside, showing the two astronauts working on their touch screens going through their checklists. In days of yore, tbe first glimpse we got of the returning astronauts was when they were maneuvered into a raft by Navy scuba divers.

On the Amateur Radio front, I got more done on the QCX today. I installed the diodes and about 75% of the resistors.


In my younger days, I'd have had this done by now - but I'm taking my time. Plus ...... there's Harold, my faithful Beagle. For some reason Harold will not come down the basement steps. When I go down the stairs to work on the QCX, he sits at the top stair, waiting for me to come back up. It may seem stupid or overly sentimental , but I don't like to leave my buddy alone for too long on days when I'm home from work. So I go for small bits of time. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but I know I won't have Harold forever, so I like to spend as much time with him as I can.

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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Reminiscing

Last night, I installed the last of the capacitors onto the QCX 40 printed circuit board. I got those new magnifying glasses the other day and they really helped make things easier. I was able to read the capacitor nomenclature without resorting to the "microscope". The added light form the magnifying lamp helps tremendously.

A word to the wise (for what it's worth). I saw the magnifying headset in an ad on Facebook. Almost everything I view on Facebook is somehow Amateur Radio related outside of posts from friends, so the ads that pop up are mainly related to electronics. I liked them as soon as I saw the ad, but was not enamored with the price, so I did a search for the same type of headset on eBay. Got one for less than half of what the company on Facebook was charging. Moral of the story - always look around.

As I finished soldering in the last cap, i was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I got to thinking of my Heathkit "Glory Days" back in the 80s and early 90s. I built so many Heathkits, I was able to join their Master Builder Club which came into being very close to their demise. In no particular order, these are the Heathkits that I can remember building. There may have been a few more:


My very first Heathkit was one of their VTVMs.

Then came a flurry of Amateur Radio Kits:


The HR-1680 was my Novice receiver.


Who didn't have a Heathkit Cantenna Dummy Load (filled with toxic PCBs)?


The HW-8, my first QRP rig.


The Heathkit HD-1410 Keyer - VERY popular


My Amateur Radio coup de grace build. The SB-104A with macthing speaker/power supply and auxiliary VFO.

And there were also some non-Amateur Radio builds of neat stuff:



Had this alarm clock for many, many years.


The GR-70 scanner which had all the local repeaters programmed in.

And then, in my audiophile years - rack mounted stereo equipment:


Graphic equalizer


125 Watt per Channel Power Amplifier

Stereo Pre-amplifier

I spent a lot of money in those years - hey, I was working, single with no commitments at the time. I melted a lot of solder, got a lot of solder burns (along with the scars to prove it). But most of all, I had a blast building each and every kit.

There's a lot of great kits to be had today.  Some are questionable, some are downright excellent and come with instructions that actually outshine the Heathkit manuals - but there will never be an equal to what we knew as Heathkit.

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