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!