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!