Showing posts with label weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label weather. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

OK ..... Wait ...... What?

Wow! It was hot here today! It got up into the upper 90s (36C) today and I was loving it! Well, maybe not "loving" it, but I wasn't hating it or wishing it away. I was in my element as I went out to the Jeep and proceeded to try a little QRP.

I wasn't hearing too much on 15 Meters and everyone on 17 Meters seemed to be involved in a ragchew, so I proceeded down to the good ol' standby - the 20 Meter QRP Watering Hole.  It was there that I heard a station calling CQ rather slowly.  I set the KX3's keyer for about 13 WPM and waited for him to sign.  I am guessing that this person is a relatively new Ham because of the slower code speed and because he had a 2X3 callsign and the prefix was KK. I think in the #2 call district we're still at KD as a newly issued prefix.

I sent his call twice followed by mine, three times.  He had a decent 579 signal, and he gave me a 549.  OK, not the strongest, but in my book, a 549 signal is decent enough to have a ragchew with.  After the preliminaries, I thought we were going to get into the heart of a nice chat. That's when I got, "BANDS SEEM TO BE UNSTABLE. YOU ARE UP AND DOWN. 73 DE KKXXXX". Just like that, he was gone.

OK .... wait a second ..... what just happened?


It seems to me that one of the attributes of short wave communications is QSB, i.e. fading.  It's a rare conversation where it doesn't occur, even mildly. It's something you learn to adapt to and overcome in all but the severest cases, as you build up your skills. I feel bad for this guy, because if you're going to limit yourself to only 599 signals, you're going to miss out on a lot of fun. And you're not going to develop yourself as an experienced operator, either.

The antennas are unplugged tonight. As a result of the hot weather and a cool (not cold) front moving through, we are getting some hellacious thunderstorms.  No hail, but the downpours have been heavy and even though the rains have stopped for now, it's still lightning. A lot.

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Two more pileups busted tonight.

Ten Meters was busy after I got home from work - plenty of signals.  I heard TX6G but they were kind of weak, so I decided to check 15 Meters.  They were louder there and their pileup wasn't quite as busy as on 10 Meters.  So, I started sending my call, with no luck. After a bit, I noticed their signal was starting to fade. Not wanting to lose them, I decided to go QRO and bumped up the power to 75 Watts. Bingo on the first call at higher power - TX6G is in the log for a new DXCC Entity. The group is there until April 1st, which is a week from tomorrow - so I will try throughout the week to try and get them via QRP. That's a tall order, but do-able if the pileups get smaller as the DXpedition draws to a close.


From there I went back to 10 Meters and listened more than anything.  I heard quite the few JAs and tried calling a few, but 5 Watts just wasn't cutting it.  Then, I heard a fierce pileup for VP2V/SP6CIK.  I managed to bust that pileup with 5 Watts.

I was amazed at the ferocity of that pileup.  While the British Virgin Islands are an easy hop from the US, I guess they are a rarer entity from Europe and Asia.  I heard quite the few JAs being answered as well as a lot of European stations. Whoever was behind the key was handling the pileup methodically and precisely. Very good pileup management and very good pileup discipline.  I only heard a few "UP"s from the Pileup Police.  All in all, it was a well behaved group.

I didn't go out to the car at lunchtime today, as winter has returned for a brief visit. It was 27F (-3C) and I just wasn't in the mood to freeze.  Tomorrow we're supposed to get anywhere from a dusting to 3 inches (7.5 cm) of snow.  BUT, by Friday and Saturday, it's supposed to be back up near 60F (16C). That's the only good thing about late March snows in New Jersey - they tend to disappear fast.

I guess the old Mark Twain quote about the weather in New England holds true for New Jersey, too. If you don't like the weather in New Jersey, just wait a few hours. It will change - especially this time of year.

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

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Snow is coming

And I certainly hope this is the last blast for the Winter of 2013/2014.  The Equinox is less than three weeks away, and I am ready - perhaps readier than I've been in a while.  The snow that is forecast to start this afternoon, and last into Tuesday morning my bring us 4 inches - and then again may bring us 14-18 inches. The meteorologists just cannot seem to agree on this one. So that tells you the situation is extremely volatile, and we'll just have to wait until after it's over to see who was right.

But in the meantime, here are some warm weather thoughts from the Buddies in the Caribbean from LAST Winter.  Barbados seems like a good place to be right about now!


I was able to get on the air for a bit yesterday afternoon. The CW portion of the bands were kind of on the barren side, as the ARRL DX SSB was going on.  I could swear I heard a tumbleweed or two blow through.  But I did manage to work W1AW/7 in Washington State on both 12 and 15 Meters - first call with QRP each time.  I also worked HK7/AL4Q - an Alaskan call in Colombia - that's different!  I also worked EA6BH in Mallorca.  That's probably another wonderful place to be this time of year.


Clear away those dishes after a delightful dinner - enjoy some wine and set up the KX3, throw an EFHW over the railing, and we're good to go!

I can dream ..... can't I?

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I guess I am not the hardiest individual

This past weekend, we enjoyed some temperatures in the upper 40s and lower 50s (9 to 12C) and we had a lot of snow melt. I've even seen some robins hopping about - a sure sign that Spring is on the way.  These Polar Vortices that we have been enduring, bringing bone chilling cold and snow down into our midst have sure taken a bite out of my lunch time QRP operating sessions.

I guess I am not the hardiest individual.  While I love QRP and CW, and getting on the air as much as I can, I do not cherish the cold weather. I have not been on the air at lunchtime since last December. Way back then, daytime temperatures were tolerable, and I didn't mind sitting in the car and pounding brass. It was chilly, but not mind numbingly cold.

The past few Winters spoiled me.  I look back at my logbook, and I see that there were actually days that were so mild in January and February, that I actually spent some lunch hours out of doors in the local park!  This year, that would have been the height of insanity.  Hating the cold weather as much as I do, even Amateur Radio is not enjoyable for me if I am not comfortable.  Operating under adverse conditions during an emergency is one thing. Doing it when you're supposed to be just having everyday fun is not my cup of tea.

The good news is that, if the weather prognosticators are correct, we should be heading into more normal temperatures come maybe the second week of March.  So even if it isn't balmy, it will be more than warm enough to head out to the car for some daily lunch hour QRP.  The old 60's song rings true - "Don't it always seem to go that you don't what you've got 'til it's gone?"  I really miss my daily fix of QRP.

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

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow bound - not quite.

Yesterday was a day spent working from home - as much as I could via my company issued laptop. We received about 14 inches of snow.

I am back at the office today and am looking forward to the upcoming three day weekend.  There's lots of Amateur Radio stuff to look forward to.

1) This weekend is the big ARRL CW DX contest.

2) This weekend is the monthly Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Event

3) This is the weekend my KXPA100 gets built and put online.

I am NOT looking forward to another 2-4" of snow tomorrow, along with the necessary snow removal chores. BUT Spring is closer than farther away at this point, so you have to keep your eyes on the prize.

I did manage to get on the air last night for the 80 Meter QRP Fox Hunt and bagged both Foxes - Dave N1IX in NH and Rick NK9G in WI.  I was able to get on between bouts of thundersnow.  Yes, that's right - thundersnow.  As the big Nor'Easter rotated around, the rain that had started falling changed back to snow as the low pressure system started siphoning cold air.  The warmer/colder air mix started a little battle which generated a few instances of lightning and thunder during a snow event.  Not common, but not the rarest, either.

I do have to admit that I was spoiled rotten by the last few years of drier, milder Winters that we have been experiencing. This year, we have made up for that in spades, and I am more ready for Spring than I have been in a while!

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Of course ........

The annual Freeze Your Butt Off contest, which is sponsored by the Arizona ScQRPions is this Saturday.  QRPers are very familiar with this Wintertime outdoor QRP operating event.  The lower the temperature at your operating position, the higher your multiplier, and hence, the higher your score. Your reward for braving the outdoors during the coldness and enduring the misery.

For the last three weeks in New Jersey, I think it has gone above the freezing mark of 32F (0C), maybe once. We have been in the deep freeze for a while now. So what's the forecast for FYBO day?  Rain and 45F (7C).  Compared to the last three weeks, it's going to feel like Springtime!  Of course, there's no multiplier given for enduring wet, sloppy conditions.  So if it's pouring, I guess I'll give it a go from indoors, and save my KX3 from making like a duck.

I guess I should keep my mouth shut and not complain, but couldn't the thaw come the day AFTER the FYBO Sprint?  I'm just a giver of points, but it would be nice to have the bigger multiplier so I could at least halfway compete with the Big Boys!  ;)


I took the plunge and ordered the Begali Simplex Mono tonight with the palladium base, and the gold contacts (30 Euros extra).  I did not get the key engraved with my callsign. I was tempted, but I wanted to keep the price down as much as I could.  I figured that going with the gold contacts was the better option for more reliable keying.  Function over form, I guess. I am really excited now and am looking forward to finally having a Begali key.  This is something I have wanted for a long time, but could never bring myself to actually purchase until now.

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tough Winter

As with most of the USA, this Winter of 2013/2014 sure has been a rough one! The cold snaps have been harsh and long lasting. And this has been causing the snow that we have gotten to stick around longer than usual for this area. Pardon the pun, but this Winter has been about 180 degrees different from last year, when we had only one minor snowfall. And for the most part, last Winter was downright balmy!

The extra cold weather has been kind of keeping me out of my basement shack. Thanks to our efficient gas furnace, all the heat goes to the upper floors, while the basement remains chilly. When the outside temperatures approach the single digits, my shack thermometer registers about 55F (13C), definitely not the most comfortable.  Even with wearing a long sleeved T-shirt, a polo, AND a sweatshirt, I get to the point where my hands get cold and sending without errors becomes a chore.

Thanks to all of you who have been sending comments and emails with regard to my quest for a single lever paddle. I am still leading towards the Begali, but looking at some other manufacturers has been fun. It seems I always hesitate before making a purchase like this, as I am not used to spending money on myself. Plus the fact that I'm concerned about the cost of all the natural gas I'm burning this heating season, I have to double and triple think purchases like this.

The QRP Fox Hunt season enters the second half tonight. With the two pelts I nabbed on 40 Meters tonight, I have 16 pelts in 22 hunts for a .727 batting average. In the 80 Meter hunts, I have snared 13 out of 16 possible pelts for a .8125 batting average. Thanks to good propagation and the excellent ears of our Foxes, I am having one of the best seasons I have had in a while.

The last good news that I have for the night is that Jim W4QO posted on the North Georgia QRP Group email reflector that he has successfully worked Amsterdam Island FT5ZM with QRP, not once - but twice! Since Jim is a fellow Eastern Seaborder, that gives me hope. Amsterdam Island is close to 10,000 miles away from New Jersey, so that's a long haul by any standard. Right there, that puts you close to 2,000 miles per Watt. With my dinky antenna farm, I am sure that if I work them at all, it will be during the second half of their stay on the Island. I read somewhere that if all goes well, the DXpedition will remain in place until about February 20th. So that gives me some time, and I will do my best to get them in the log.

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

Monday, January 06, 2014

Roller Coaster

Like a lot of you in other places, we've been on a bit of a temperature roller coaster lately.  Last weekend, after Christmas, it was up in the mid 50s (12C) here in New Jersey. This weekend, after New Year, we went as low as -3F (-19C) and our high for the day on Saturday was about 20F (-6C). That was just two days ago.

This morning, when I drove into work, it was 54F (12C).  Now, after lunch, it is 38F (3C) and the temperature continues to free fall.  By the time I leave to go home, I am sure that the temperature will be somewhere around the mid-20s (-4C).  And over the next 24 hours, we're supposed to get some of the coldest weather we've had here in over 20 years.  The temperatures are expected to go below 0F (-17C) at night again, but this time with wind chills way lower than that. Tomorrow's high is supposed to be only somewhere around 11F (-11C).  But then, later towards the upcoming weekend, it's supposed to warm up again to more like springtime temperatures.

Stop the roller coaster, I want to get off!  I am NOT a big fan of the cold, but I sure wish that it would already stay one way or the other for a while.  It's winter time, so even though I don't like it, I can deal with the cold for a bit.  This teasing of Spring, and then the plunge back into the deep freeze is just cruel.

On a radio note, I was looking at the solar conditions yesterday and I was licking my lips.  High SFI, a goodly number of sun spots and low A and K values. Having some free time for a change,  I got on the air, expecting to hear a lot, and for a while I thought ALL my antennas were on the fritz!  Nothing much heard yesterday, and nothing much worked.  What a let down.  At first I thought maybe everyone was working the ARRL RTTY Roundup, but even RTTY signals seemed sparse to me.  In a major RTTY contest, we often get interlopers all the way down to the lowest of the low part of the bands. Yesterday, all the RTTY stations that I heard seemed to be staying way above the .060, QRP Watering Hole areas.

Maybe all the RF is freezing from the cold air and is just dropping out of the sky.

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

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Antenna repair work

always seems to be conducted when weather is less than optimal for such things.

You may remember me telling how I had to temporarily re-hang my 88' EDZ wire last Saturday. Just a week ago, we were enjoying weather in the low 50s (11C), it was a good day to perform that task.  But then during the week, I noticed it wasn't working right and seemed to be deaf.  I thought initially that there was a short in the PL-259 connector.  I changed that out and it made no difference.  I suspected a fault maybe a bit farther back in the coax, as feedlines always seem to be a probem, but then I thought - what if the problem is with the window line and not the coax?

So today, I headed outside and this weekend, the weather is quite a bit colder than last. In fact, it's quite the opposite of last weekend. Last night we had a low of -3F (-20C) and today's high was about 20F (-6C), so where did I find myself?  Of course, in the back yard, freezing in the new fallen snow, inspecting my antenna to see where the fault might lay. And since I work better without gloves, that just added to the pleasure!

Fortunately, the fault was found quickly and it was an easy fix.  When I was re-hoisting the antenna, the window line must have flexed and stressed badly at the BALUN terminals, and on one side, the wire had snapped.  It proved to be a simple matter of loosening the screw, removing the old tiny bit of wire, stripping back a bit more of the insulation on that side of the window line and re-screwing the bare wire back down in place.  I needed tools no more sophisticated than the Swiss Army Knife that I always carry.  (You can't work for a Swiss firm for 22 years of your life and NOT carry a Swiss Army Knife with you wherever you go.)



I went to my basement shack, where it's a balmy 58F (15C) and was delighted to see the KX3 deliver a match in literally, just a couple of seconds.  My preferred wire is now back in action and I am quite a happy camper.  Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that my temporary support line will hold for the rest of the winter!

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

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

My best wishes for a very Happy and Healthy New Year to all of you out there!  May 2014 bring plenty of rare DX, ragchews, contest QSOs and all nice things to your logs.

I started the year out on a good note by working VK2DX on 12 Meters this afternoon, just as the gray line was approaching both of us.  Nick was a good 579/599 here in New Jersey, but I daresay that I was 339 or worse on his end.  Lots of repeats to get him to pull me out, but thanks to Nick's more than excellent ears, I am now able to add Australia to the "worked via QRP" list.  That's almost 2,000 miles per Watt, as Australia is just about as "on the other side of the world" as you can get from New Jersey.

Not looking forward to the next couple of days, as we're looking at some significant snow here tomorrow night into Friday. A possible 6-12 inches is forecast.  New York City and Long Island are supposed to get the worst of this storm with possible blizzard conditions for them.  This storm seems to be tracking a bit off the coast, so the farther inland you are from the Atlantic, the less snow you will see.

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

When you least expect it - expect it!

As the old joke goes .......

First, a little background.  We have put up a baby gate in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room since Harold, our Beagle, came to live with us.  Even though he has passed the one year mark, he still has a lot of puppy in him.  By that, I mean to say that he chews ..... a lot!  He has the run of the back yard, the family room and the kitchen.  The living room and the rest of the house will become available to him as he grows older and becomes less of a chewer.  In Jesse's case, that came around about his second birthday, so I am expecting that Harold will become calmer as October 2014 approaches.

Anyway, earlier this week, I was taking dinner plates from the kitchen to the dining room, and I snagged my right leg on the baby gate.  I mildly twisted it, but really didn't feel anything at the time.  The next day it was fine. Two days later? Whoa, Baby!  My knee was sore, then that got better, then my hamstring was sore and that got better, and now my calf is the sore spot.  I sure don't heal like I used to when I was younger! I gave in and bought a heating pad on Thursday on my way home from work.  That has helped a lot and today has been the first day since Christmas Eve that I have been walking without a noticeable limp.

I had planned to spend today on my fanny and not do much of anything - just rest the muscles in my right leg and apply some heat on and off throughout the day.  Then this afternoon, my little eye spied out the rec room window and I saw the wire from my 88 foot EDZ was all kinds of droopy.  What the hey?!?

I went outside to discover that the Dacron antenna rope holding up the center insulator had broken.  The antenna was still in the tree, but had dropped about 10 feet.  Not a good thing, especially as I am scheduled for 40 Meter QRP Fox duty this coming Tuesday night - New Year's Eve. It seems you can always expect trouble when you least expect it.

The weather was nice here today - sunny and in the low 50's (about 11C), so I began looking for my antenna stuff.  I found the pneumatic launcher, and the mason's twine that I use to pull up rope - but where's my Dacron antenna rope?  I searched the shack high and low for almost a half hour and couldn't locate it.  I know it's hiding somewhere here in plain sight - but I still can't find it.  All I was able to locate was some Nylon rope that I use for tying various things.  This rope is not ideal for antennas as it stretches over time, but with daylight starting to wane, it's any port in a storm.

After one or two failed attempts, I got my line through the tree.  The pneumatic launcher worked like a charm.  One time I forgot to open the bale on the fishing reel, so the projectile launched just fine, but the fishing line broke and stayed put, while the little projectile soared like an eagle.  Once I remembered all the steps, I got the line up and through how I wanted it.

At this point, I have to give big kudos to my son, Joey.  He gave me a hand with this project today, and if it weren't for him, this repair job would definitely have taken longer, and perhaps have not been accomplished at all.  Thanks, Joey - I owe you a big one!

So my 88' EDZ is now back in the air, with temporary rope support, a few feet higher than it was.  I will have to purchase some bonafide Dacron antenna rope (if I can't find what I thought I had) and re-do this some weekend in the near future. Of course, all the weekends from here on out until April with probably be sub-freezing and snowy!

I did get on the air tonight to hand out points to the Stew Perry contesters on 160 Meters. The W3EDP loads just fine on 160 Meters and with 5 Watts, I have been working up and down the East Coast and out towards Ohio and Michigan.  Not bad for 5 Watts and about what I expected from last year's contest.

But I think I'll head upstairs now and apply some more heat to this old, aching calf muscle. And to think how I used to chuckle when my Mom used to tell me, "Don't get old!"

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The 10 Meter QRP Watering Hole

was quite packed today at lunchtime!  Which was absolutely, positively fantastic!  In fact, it was just a little difficult to find an empty frequency. So for a change, I listened for a CQ instead of calling, and I ended up having a nice QSO with F5LAW, Yann who lives near Lille, France. Yann was using his Kenwood TS-480SAT at the 5 Watt level.  He was pushing those 5 Watts into a 4 element Yagi antenna.  I gave Yann a 549 and he gave me a 559.  There was some QSB, but the entire QSO was solid copy!  And on his last exchange, Yann's signal had peaked to a solid 589.

Yann had commented that he had survived Autumn storm Christian with no damage to his property, although some of the surrounding area was not as lucky.  That reminded me that it was just one year ago today that Hurricane Sandy did her number on New Jersey and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic coast:




Fortunately, in this section of New Jersey, all the damage has been repaired.  There are still areas close to the shoreline that bore the brunt of the storm much harder than we did and have still not fully recovered!

After working Yann, which ended up being a 16 minute QSO (nice!), I went to 10 Meters and worked OHØH in the Aland Islands.  Then it was time to pack it in and head back into work. Another successful day with QRP.

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




Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Almost done!

I have about 2/3rds of the 2013 Skeeter Hunt Soapbox comments Webpage composed.  Hopefully, I will finish tomorrow night and will then publish them (I'll post the link here, of course!).  Thanks to all who submitted soapbox comments and especially for all the photos.  I only wish I was a better Web artist, so that I could give them the layout they truly deserve. Once the soapbox comments are published, I will begin printing and mailing certificates.

It is being said that we are now at the peak of sunspot Cycle 24.  Several articles have pointed to that fact. We may, or we may be not.  I am not an astronomer/astrophysicist, so I wouldn't be able to tell you that from my own authority.

But I do know that 15 Meters has been good lately, and today's lunch time QRP session was decent again.

In my limited amount of operating time, I worked the following stations:

HA3FTA
9A287R
DK3GI

The first two contacts were pretty much your average "bang bang" DX QSO exchanges of RSTs. The last QSO with Roland DK3GI was a little bit more in depth.  Roland who lives near Nuremberg, was pushing 200 Watts to a beam.  I also found out that it was rainy and cool where he was - it was only 15C (59F). Typical Autumn type weather.

On the other hand, we're having a brief re-visit from Summer here in NJ. After some cool days and some downright chilly evenings the past few days, the heat and humidity have come back with a vengeance!  It was a sticky 85F (29C) here today, and it expected to go into the low 90s (32C) tomorrow.  But then clouds will come in Thursday and by the weekend, the temperature is supposed to struggle to reach 70F (21C) on Saturday and Sunday.

As Mark Twain once said this about the weather in New England:

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

The same holds true for New Jersey!

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Old stuff and new stuff

I just came inside from outdoors. There's a small cell with a thunderstorm approaching. In fact, it's just on the other side of town, according to the weather radar at weatherunderground.com. Nothing large enough to break the back of this heatwave, and will probably just make it feel steamier than it already does.

The backbreaking thunderstorms are supposed to arrive tomorrow. By Sunday afternoon, it is supposed to be at least 10 degrees cooler than it has been.

Today during lunch, I headed out to the Jeep once again, even though today has been the hottest day of the week, by far. 17 Meters yielded a QSO with OE3DXA, Werner near Vienna Austria, while 20 Meters was good for a QSO with N5URL, Bob in Oklahoma. The QSO with Bob fell victim to QSB. Like two old soldiers, we both just faded away.

I am going to be mixing things up a bit on the blog in the very near future. I will be having occasional guest posters. Every now and then, I get an e-mail from a QRPer who has had an interesting adventure or radio related experience. They don't have blogs of their own, but yet are eager and willing to share. I will make the "Do More With Less" blog available to them. I think you'll all love these guest posts and I am looking forward to them.

The other new item that you will see shortly is a new series that I have decided to call "Profiles in QRP". These will appear once a month, where different QRPers will answer a set of questions, related to how they got started in Amateur Radio, what drew them to QRP, etc. Some of the profiles will hopefully be from some very prominent QRPers, while other profiles will be from people you may never even heard of.  I hope to get profiles from the QRP gamut ...  builders, contesters, designers, everyday Joes, HOFers, etc.

I'm sure you guys have had enough of me and my situation. This blog is supposed to be about QRP and CW. Hopefully, I can bring you some interesting reading in the near future.

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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Toasty!

It sure has been warm here since last Sunday.  This morning I Tweeted that you know your in for a rough day when you wake up at 6:30 AM and the air conditioner has already turned itself on ...... and we keep the AC set on the kind of high side here at the W2LJ household.  We try to keep the house comfortable, but not like a meat locker.  So when the cooling turns on, it's already pretty warm in the house.

So when the weather is like this, what does a sensible QRPer do for lunch break?  Does he stay inside the nice, cool office building, kick back and maybe read for a while while eating his sandwich?

Well, maybe that's what a wise, sensible, pragmatic QRPer does, but none of those descriptions fit me, so I headed out to the parking lot to get the Buddistick on top of the Jeep and the KX3 on the air!  When I got out there, I set out the thermometer that I brought along from home.  I set it in a shady spot, out of the direct sun, and let it sit while I operated.  The plan was to check it and snap a photo of it, after I broke the station down, but before I headed back inside.

My first band of choice was 17 Meters as it has been really good to me over the last months of lunchtime operating. However, there must have been some kind of device turned on in the Engineering Building at work, because I had terrible electronic pulse noise from 18.068 to about 18.083 MHz.  The KX3's noise blanker (which is the best noise blanker I have ever used) put only a slight dent in the noise.  The incoming signal would have had to have been 599+ to overcome that racket.  The funny thing is that right at 18.083 MHz, it was like someone turned off a light switch and the pulse noise quite literally vanished.  The problem is that on 17 Meters, the majority of DX stations will be found on the lower portion of the band, so I decided to QSY.

On to 15 Meters!  I didn't hear a lot of signals on the band, so I decided (for whatever reason) to do something I hardly ever do.  I went to the QRP watering hole of 21.060 MHz and actually called "CQ QRP" for a bit. Normally, the only time I do that is during a QRP Sprint or contest, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, I decided to try it today.  And strangely enough, I got an answer.  The answer came from Reiner DL5ZP.  The QSO was a tough 2X QRP affair, as QSB was fierce, but we got in an exchange of the basics.  Afterwards, I had to wonder if I was taken in by a "slim" or a "pirate" as they are better known.  DL5ZP does not appear on QRZ.com. He does kind of halfway show up on QRZCQ and DX Summit and even Google, but by not coming up on QRZ.com, I have to wonder if this was legitimate, or what.

After the QSO with DL5ZP, I went to the 20 Meter QRP watering hole and did the same thing.  This time I was answered by W7USA in Arizona, and we had a very brief QSO.  Band conditions did not seem to be the best this early afternoon.

So after I put everything away, as far as the station goes, I went and fetched the thermometer from it's shady spot.  Here's what it indicated:


About 96 or 97F (36C) with just under 50% humidity.  Hot enough for me to almost burn my fingers on the magmount when I lifted it off the Jeep, but not hot enough to keep me inside.

Band conditions were much better tonight for the 20 Meter QRP Foxhunt.  I managed to grab two furs tonight by working John K4BAI in Georgia and Jay KT5E in Colorado.  But I have to admit that as soon as I bagged both pelts, I shut the station down and disconnected the antennas.  The weather service is saying that this 6 day heat wave may break tomorrow afternoon with possible severe thunderstorms anytime from tomorrow afternoon into Saturday morning.  I don't need to be driving home tomorrow afternoon, in the middle of a bad boomer, only to be worrying that I forgot to disconnect my aerials.

By the way, it's now 11:00 PM here. The sun has been down for about 2 1/2 hours, and it's still 84F (29C). Those are probably going to be some pretty powerful thunderstorms to break the back of this hot spell.

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Success like W1PID, but no scenery

Like my good friend Jim W1PID, I also operated portable QRP today.  Like him, I had some success working Germany, Sweden and New Mexico. Unlike him, I did not have a beautiful river and pastoral country views to soothe my eyes.

Nope, I was in the parking lot at work during my lunch break - again.  But also like Jim, I got to deal with the heat.  It was just breaking the 90F (32C) mark when I got out there.  I think the sunshine reflecting back up off the asphalt pavement might be good for another few degrees.  Tomorrow, I'll have to bring a thermometer with me and find out.

I plopped the Buddistick on top of the Jeep and found that the air temperature was not the only thing that was hot.  17 Meters seemed to be sizzling, too.  I worked two special event stations - the first being DL50FRANCE.

This station is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Elysee.  That historic document started a period of deep friendship and cooperation between France and Germany.  Up until that point, those two countries didn't exactly play nice together.

The other special event station I worked, and was also worked by W1PID, was SJ0SOP. This station in Sweden is on the air to promote the Sea of Peace award.


In between working these two special events, I slipped on over to 15 Meters to see if there was any activity there.  That's where I heard Paul KW7D in New Mexico calling CQ.  He was 599 loud in New Jersey and I got a 569 in return.  We had a brief QSO and I informed Paul that 17 Meters seemed to be a lot more active than 15.  We kept our QSO short so that he could QSY on over to 17 Meters and point his Force 12 Beam antenna towards the DX that was humming on the band.

I broke down the station and headed back inside into the air conditioning. When I got back to the car to head home, it was 95F (35C).  The humidity is up there at 68%, but at least it's not at 90% like it was last weekend.  The 90s with 90% humidity?  THAT'S miserable!

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

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weekend

We arrived home from Lake George yesterday.  I went to go pick up Sandy, our cat, from the place where we took her and Jesse to be boarded while we were away.  When Sandy got home, she was as upset as I was. She was looking all over the house for her "big brother".


They were real good buddies and it's quite obvious that I'm not the only one around here who has a bit of a broken heart right now.

The manager of Best Friends came over and explained to me that last Tuesday morning they found Jesse laying on his bed, which wasn't unusual at all.  He was an older dog and was no longer very active. They thought he was asleep and when they tried to wake him, well ......... he didn't.  The manager told me that one of her own dogs did the same thing.  He was old and hanging on and hanging on and waited until she and her husband were away to pass.  I don't know if it has any merit or not, but she told me that some dogs do that. It's like they want to spare their owners the hardship of seeing them pass.

This house is not the same without him, and I am definitely not the same without my pal.  The sun just seems to be a little bit dimmer than it used to be. And while I am thinking of Jesse, I'd like to thank all of you who left very kind comments or sent me an e-mail with the same.  I appreciate it and thank you so much - you're all in my prayers.

But life goes on, so even though I really wasn't in the mood, I decided to go to the Sussex Amateur Radio Club hamfest anyway - to at least take my mind off of Jesse for a while.  I got there at 8:30 AM, about a half hour after the doors officially opened.  I got there to a double line of cars, backed up, paying admission and waiting to get in.  When was the last time you saw THAT at a hamfest that isn't Dayton or one of the other true "biggies"?

It was sunny and hot and humid!  I was sweating just walking around at a leisurely pace.  I ran into Don W2JEK who I have worked so many times in various QRP Sprints.  I walked up to the table where he was selling stuff and shook his hand and said "Hello".  You could tell he was taken aback for half a split second until he noticed my call sign on my cap.  We talked for a bit and then I continued to meander around.

I noticed a lot of QRP stuff on the tables.  There were at least two HW-8s and one HW-7 that I saw. There were at least two of the Chinese/TenTec HB-1As and there were several MFJ QRP rigs for sale.  I will take it as a good sign for QRP, that when I made my last pass of the tables, all the QRP equipment seemed to have been sold and in the hands of eager, new users.

There was lots of other interesting stuff, too, including this:


A Martin Flash Bug, which is a brand that I never even heard of, before.  It looks to be in very good shape, too.  However, I didn't want to part with the $100 the seller was asking for.  I also saw this, which was not for sale, but was being demo'ed.


This is the E-APS - the Emergency Antenna Platform System.  It's a robot that will serve as an emergency platform for a VHF/UHF antenna.  You put the robot on a light pole in a parking lot, for instance, and then remotely control its climb until it's at the height you desire. It was designed and built by a team of young Hams from New Jersey including Devlin KC2PIX, Chris KD2CXC, Ben KD2DLM, Joe KD2CQL, Kyle KD2DWC, Gavin KD2DPN and Robert KC2WCQ.  This unit is not for sale, but plans and open source programming are available to anyone who wants to build one.  For more information you can go to www.wc2fd.com or e-mail for info at info@wc2fd.com.  It's good to see young minds with fresh ideas doing concrete things to make Amateur Radio better; and thinking out of the box, to boot!

I ended up buying two items.  First, I bought a handful of 3.5mm DC connectors.  These seem to have become the de-facto standard power plug for QRP rigs.  You can never have enough, so I bought some to have for spare.

The second thing I bought was an HT holder for my Jeep.  It fits into the cup holder of my Jeep Patriot. There's a twist ring at the bottom which allows the insert to expand so it fully fills the cup holder and stays in place without budging.




Before this, I had simply rested the radio IN the cup holder.  That was very inconvenient for looking at the display, hitting the search button, etc.  I'm by no means an active VHF/UHFer, but had recently started taking the HT with me to work again, as broadcast radio gets boring to listen to after a while (no offense to those of you in the industry). I still need to get my ICOM  VHF/UHF molbile radio installed in the Jeep by a professional, and this will carry me over until I can find someone good and reliable who can do that for me. Listening to the local repeaters and even chatting on occasion makes the commute more pleasant.

When I got home, I realized that today was "Scorch Your Butt Off". I had almost forgotten!  And what an appropriate day!  Because of the steamy conditions, I decided to not go far. I went to the Cotton Street Park, here in town ...... where I went for FOBB last year.  When I left the house, the thermometer on the back deck said that it was 92F (33C) but that sensor is in the sun and tends to read a little high.  I checked both WeatherUndergound and the National Weather Service.  Most local weather stations close to my house were reading 88F (31C), so that was the temperature I used for the exchange throughout. The humidity was a whopping 91%.  Can you say, "Ugh"?

There didn't seem to be too much activity. Either that, or the bands were crud, and it may have been band conditions as I didn't hear too much activity of any kind, anywhere.  My set up was the same, my KX3 and PAR ENDFEDZ hauled up into a tree.  I made a grand total of nine QSOs, and the only person I worked on two bands was Rick NK9G on both 20 and 40 Meters.  QSB seemed to be deep and fast on all three bands I worked - 40, 20 and 15 Meters.

I stayed until the water and freezer pops that I brought with me ran out.  When I got home, the temperature had legitimately climbed to 92F (33C).  Another thermometer that I had on the front porch in the shade gave me that reading, as did another check with WeatherUnderground. The humidity had mercifully dropped down to 65% percent, though. Still tropical, but not as sauna-like.  The bad news is that it is supposed to remain like this for the rest of the week.

Remember, if you SYBO'ed make sure to get your logs off to Rem K6BBQ!

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Some thoughts

Argh! If my head wasn't screwed on, I would probably forget that, too!

Rem K6BBQ wanted me to mention that he has added a SOTA category to this year's inaugural Scorch Your Butt Off contest, coming this July. If you activate a SOTA summit, you can claim an additional 100 points to your SYBO score. Please keep in mind that this has NOTHING to do with your SOTA activation points, this is for your SYBO score only.

I had my last Pastoral Council meeting tonight, so I didn't get the chance to put any more radials down this evening. I have served on the Parish Pastoral Council for the last four years. Two meetings a month, all year around. That may not sound like much, but there are always many peripheral duties involved, as well as peripheral events where attendance was not mandatory, but desired. The normal term of service is three years, but I was asked to, and served for four. Now that these are going to be over, I will be able to attend Amateur Radio club meetings again. I hesitated to in the past, as I always tried to keep away from being out of the house multiple nights a week. To say my attendance of club meetings was sporadic is being generous. It was, for all intent and purpose, non-existant.

This Friday evening is an Electronic Testing Society of NJ meeting. Fancy name for a repeater club meeting, eh? The group is better known as the Greenbrook repeater group, and the meetings are always the last Friday of the month. Even though this would mean being out two evenings this week, I am going to make a best effort to attend, so as to get back into the swing of things.

I also hope to attend a lot more VE sessions when license exam season starts up again in earnest this September. I have always enjoyed being a VE, going back to the days when I regularly attended and volunteered at the sessions that were offered by the Raritan Bay Radio Amateurs.

I had to go to a remote site at work today, so I didn't get in my lunchtime QRP session, so no photos today, maybe tomorrow, weather permitting (but alas, it seems there's a 75% chance of rain for tomorrow).

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Asbotively tropical

Again today, I headed out at lunch time to the car.  It was hot ....  90F again, but this time before I left the building, I checked into WeatherUnderground and saw that the humidity was at 77%.  It was tropical to say the least.  I had a very pleasant QSO on 20 Meters with my good friend and fellow Polar Bear Ken WA8REI.  He was at home on his Mosley, so he was a solid 599+.  Fortunately, the beam was able to rope in my signal and I got a 579 in return.

Ken was enduring the sogginess in Michigan too, and was telling me that he is going to head on up to his trailer "in the country" soon to escape the heat and humidity.  Can't say I blame him.  When I got back to my desk, I felt a bit soggy myself.

Tomorrow, I will bring a camera along with me to snap a few quick photos of the set up in the back of the Jeep.  A few have asked, curious to see exactly how I have the Buddistick set up.

With that much humidity, you know that sooner or later, something has to give.  Around 4:00 PM, we had a prototypical summer afternoon thunderstorm and downpour.  Sad thing is, it really hasn't changed anything, and it feels just as soggy after, as it did before.  No cool fronts will be running through for several days at least.

After dinner, I got the first two radials down.  The lawn was all soggy and while that made things a bit messier than they would be otherwise, at least the gardening pins that I am using to hold down the wires went into the soil like a warm knife through butter.


The wires are screwed down onto to the sink strainer using crimped eyelets, which have been dipped in anti-oxidant paste.  I am using De-Oxit's paste which is the same thing as Butternut's "Butter it's Not" as far as I can tell.  Each is also secured with a star washer.

When all is said and done, I hope to have another 20 radials down which will put me very close to 50 total if count the original 25 I put down years ago.

Oh, I worked Crete for the first time in 13 years this evening.  I heard SV9/SV2FPU calling CQ on 30 Meters (88' EDZ antenna) and I threw out my call. Out of all the stations calling, I was amazed to hear him come back to me!  This also makes the first time I have worked Crete via CW.  Last time, all the way back in 2000, I actually used that mikeyphoney thing.  Don't tell anybody!

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

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's a good thing.....

It's a good thing that I have my lunchtime QRP opportunities, as lately, I seem to get more "on the air" time from work than I do from home! The weekends seem to be filled with nonstop chores and house responsibilities. Time for Ham Radio is scarce and at a premium.

But during the work week, I get that one hour break for lunch. If I'm lucky, I'll get out to the parking lot to find the bands hopping. This afternoon, I got lucky again.

I started my lunchtime session on 17 Meters, as has become my custom. I was fortunate enough to work two DX stations, S573DX in Slovenia and F5NTV in France.

After finishing with those two, I headed on over to the QRP Watering hole on 20 Meters. Once there, I called CQ for a bit, to be answered by John KG9HV, in Lafayette, IN. We had a nice 2X QRP QSO. I was on the KX3 and Buddistick, while John was using his Kenwood TS-570S to a dipole at 5 Watts. Even though the QSO was plagued by QSB at both ends, we were able to have a very nice conversation. And in fact, when the QSB let up, at times John was actually as good as 589!

The one bad thing about operating from the parking lot is dealing with the weather, kind of like a mini Field Day. It was hot (close to 90F - 32C), and it was the Noon hour, so the sun was at its peak. I didn't feel like wasting gas to run the AC, though, so I just lifted the tail gate (rear door) of the Jeep and allowed it to provide some needed shade. The nice thing was that the building's AC provided a nice refresher ...... after a nice radio session.

Hamlog for Android is perfect for my portable logging needs. It's super easy to use and has so many neat added on tools. I don't even bother with plain paper, anymore. I recommend it highly.

As luck would have it, there's not much to do at home tonight. While it would seem like it would be the perfect opportunity to get on the air, unfortunately there's also a severe thunderstorm watch on until 10:00 PM.  I may get on for a bit; but I'll have to be ready to pull "The Big Switch" at a moment's notice.

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