Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022

 


Today in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving, which was instituted by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg, which was a particularly fierce battle of the Civil War.

There are many things to be grateful for and about a week ago at this past soup kitchen session, where I volunteer once a month, I met someone who really inspired me to list some of the things that I am thankful for. I did this over a period of eleven days on Facebook.  I wanted to share with you Day 10:

Gratitude Day 10 - This one may seem a little weird and nerdy, but stick with me on this. For Day 10, I am grateful for my hobby, which is Amateur Radio....for a lot of reasons. I've been a licensed Ham for 44 years now.  The smattering of electronics that I had to learn for my license led me to 22 year career at Sinar Bron, where I was Service Manager. In order to learn even more about electronics, I enrolled and went to night classes at DeVry where I met another good friend (he's on FB and he knows who he is). The hobby led me to memberships in several clubs where I have established some of my most important friendships. Rather than embarrass them,  I'll just name a few call signs ... W3BBO, K2VHW, KD2FSI, AB2ZK, W2AOF, N2LCZ, W2OIL, KC2YRC, K2NBC, WB2KLF, AB2VE .... this list could go on for days and days, and doesn't even begin to touch the hundreds of Ham friends I've gained through Facebook and the internet, and the many I have met over the airwaves.  Also, I was privileged to know some fine Hams who have passed and are now known as Silent Keys ... W2OU, W2WK, K2FD, WV2O, N2EBA, WB2MSV, N2LHD - all good and treasured friends. Besides providing me with hundreds of hours of fun and enjoyment,  Amateur Radio also led me to become a CERT member as well as a volunteer part of the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management. The hobby has provided quite a ride, for which I am most grateful.

I hope all of you who celebrate today have a truly wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Field Day Scores 2022

 

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club under call sign NJ2SP has done something it hasn't done since 2017. We've come in 2nd Place in the 3A Battery category. 2nd Place out of 10 entries.  To be honest with you, at the end of Field Day, I wasn't sure how we had done compared to previous years.

Congratulations to SPARC and all who participated!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Warms the cockles of my heart

 I didn't participate in the Zombie Shuffle on October 28th, but I like what I see in the results.

After a few years of a modicum of entries, Paul NA5N received and posted results from over 110 Hams. This is a significantly upward trend and can only mean good things.  One is that the solar cycle is indeed on the upswing and the other is that publicity works.

The Zombie Shuffle has always been a very popular and fun event and it's one of the highlight events of the QRP year. The fact that Paul announces it early and that it's promoted by him and others makes all the difference in the world.

I have found with the Skeeter Hunt that promotion is of utmost importance. While I take the chance that people are going to get sick of hearing about it, the results speak for themselves in that interest remains high and even more importantly ....... no, make that MOST IMPORTANTLY, that those who participate have a good time. And that's what it is all about - giving people the opportunity to enjoy themselves and have a good time, even if it is for only a couple of hours.

Announcing an event on only once or twice and only one one or two outlets isn't going to get the job done. That's why, in my most humble opinion, some previously well attended QRP events seem to be floundering as far as participation goes.  Band and solar conditions play a big role, and there's no doubt about that. At the same time, you can't rest on your laurels. Just because you've had a good turn out and good participation for a year or two doesn't guarantee that such success will continue.

It's sad when you look forward to a yearly QRP event that was popular in the past, and go on the bands that day and find hardly anyone to work. And it's even sadder when you peek at the QRP reflectors and you see little or no chatter about the event other than "Where is everybody?"

I mentioned the "Fun Factor" of the event itself. That plays largely into word of mouth advertising and the "anticipation factor" that will augment any publicity that can be garnered via e-mail reflectors, websites, blogs or contest calendars.

Your club's or organization's QRP event will only be a big deal if you make a big deal about it. We hold and put on niche events and we can't rely on big reputations like the big contests have. They don't need a lot of publicity and reminders. Our events do.

Hopefully as the bands improve, the attendance and interest in some of the yearly QRP events will improve - but organizers and sponsors ....... don't discount the "Two P's" ...... Promotion and Publicity. They will make all the difference in the world; and if you're not up to using them, then expect and don't be disappointed by less than optimum results.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Has he gone the way of the Dodo?

I look at the sidebar of my blog here and I see a total of 38 posts for the entire year of 2022. Holy Shamoley - that's pretty bad! I know some of you are probably wondering what's been going on.

Frankly, my attention has been divided this year. I chronicled the work accident that I had with my hand last January and then how I was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly thereafter. It's been an interesting year to say the least.

Fortunately, as previously mentioned, the cancer diagnosis came really early while the situation remained very treatable. In fact, just this last Friday, I just finished a nine week round of radiation therapy, rather than opting for surgery.

For those who are not familiar, that means nine weeks of radiation exposure every day, Monday through Friday for nine solid weeks. Each treatment was about 15 minutes long and was absolutely painless. The main side effect was intense fatigue, and I did end up telling my doctor that I now know what a microwave chicken feels like!  Extreme tiredness from the therapy, in addition to working full time left me with no desire to even so much look at a radio. The thought of undertaking a portable operation or going down to the shack seemed akin to climbing Mount Everest. Most evenings I was in bed before 8:00 PM. I still can't manage to view one of my favorite television programs, "Blue Bloods" which airs on Friday nights at 10:00 PM. I'm out like a light way before that!

My doctor had mentioned that I tolerated the therapy very well, all things considered.  Most patients, according to to him, are not able to finish the course of treatment in one shot. Many times the series of weeks need to be interrupted so that one or more breaks can be taken. He was amazed that not only was I able to finish the course of treatment in one shot, but that I was also able to continue working full time simultaneously.

I have to tell you, there was also a lot of driving involved. I'm a contract worker here where I work, so if I'm not here, I don't get paid.  To maintain a 40 hour per week paycheck, I would wake up super early (4:00 AM) and come to work super early, put in some time, leave for therapy (at a hospital back near home) and then return to work to finish out the day. That meant putting about 100 miles per day on my car, and with gasoline prices doing their roller coaster ride over the last few months that also taxed my wallet. Needless to say, any Ham radio purchases that I may have been considering are on an indefinite hold.

None if this is to call attention to myself, to pat myself on the back or to engage in a self pity party. I just wanted all of you to know that I have not gone the way of the Dodo and am in no danger of extinction. As my energy level slowly returns to normal, my passion for radio and blogging will also return. But I do want to impress upon my readers, especially the "more mature" ones - make your you get a PSA test on a regular, yearly basis.  That, and the grace of God are what led me on this journey which so far is looking very good and may have very well saved my life.

You know, the irony of all this is that I went totally QRP back in the very early 2000's because I was concerned about the effects that high levels of RF might have had on my kids. I didn't want to take any chances with their health considering that my wire antennas were anchored to the house, near their bedrooms. Now 20 some years later, I myself got to experience the life and times of a frozen microwave dinner!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, September 16, 2022

QRP Afield tomorrow !

 As always, on the third Saturday of September, the New England QRP Club sponsors QRP Afield.

All the rules and regs can be found here - https://www.newenglandqrp.org/qrp-afield-2018/

I know, I know ....... the hyperlink says 2018, but the page has been updated with the dates for 2022, 2023 and 2024, so it's current.

I'd like to give it a whirl for at least a little bit, but weekends are just so darn busy, cramming in on Saturdays the things I don't get to do during the week because of that nasty ol' work thing. We'll see. The weather outside is forecasted to be delightful, with partly cloudy skies and temps in the upper 70s.

The backyard has been totally transformed. We had a landscaping crew come in and clean up all the overgrowth reaching into our backyard from our neighbor's yards. They also got rid of the kids swing set, which was 20 years old and beginning to rot.  We also had them tear down and remove the utility shed. The back wall had been broached by squirrels and by limbs form a neighbor's pine tree - which was removed by the new owners who recently moved in. The patio block pad is none the worse for wear and we will eventually get (probably) a metal shed of the same or a bit smaller size. Until then, I'll place the mower and whatever garden tools I wanted to keep on the pad and will keep it all covered with tarps.

The guys who did the job for us were great! No antenna or feedline damage!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, September 08, 2022

To my Amateur Radio friends in Britain

Thinking of you in your time of mourning.

If there was ever someone who was the epitome of service to their country, it was Queen Elizabeth.


God save the Queen! Long live King Charles III

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, August 22, 2022

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt 2022 Aftermath

As planned, I set up in the backyard. The Jackite pole held my PAR END FEDZ 40/20/10 aloft and the radio was of course, my KX3. With the ATU out of line, the PAR delivers a nice 1.2:1 SWR. Setup is a matter of routine, now. I started setting up with about 20 minute to go before the bell rang for the beginning of the Skeeter Hunt and I still had about 12 minutes to spare when all was said and done.

The terrestrial weather was cloudy to mostly cloudy with only a few peeks of sunshine here and there. It was hot, hovering between 88F and 91F depending on whether or not the sun was out. It was muggy, but not too uncomfortably so. I was glad I decided to set up in the back yard as I was afforded many opportunities to go inside for a refreshing glass of cold water.

Band conditions were not what I was hoping for. At the 17:00 start, I answered John Shannon K3WWP who was calling CQ on 20 Meters using the NAQCC Club call N3AQC.  He was loud, and that made me do a double take.  Basically - loud signals between Central New Jersey and Western Pennsylvania on 20 Meters?  I expected to work N3AQC on 40 Meters - not 20 Meters. It was harbinger of things to come.

As it turned out, skip was relatively short for the day on 20 Meters. later on in the afternoon, TX and OK stations started rolling in, but for the most part 20 Meters remained what I would call "relatively local". I never heard the West coast and the only VEs that I worked were in Ontario and New Brunswick - nothing to the West.

40 Meters was just plain bad. I only worked two stations - N3AQC again, this time with Mike KC2EGL behind the key and AF1N in Vermont.  I spent some time calling CQ on 40 Meters but had no luck.

I started the event calling "CQ QRP" but changed over to "CQ BZZ" after two stations on 20 Meters answered my "CQ QRP" call and initiated rag chew type QSOs.  I consider it rude to snub someone who wants to have a conversation just because I am in a QRP Sprint, so I sacrificed some contact time (maybe, maybe not) as a result of those two QSOs. 

From my QSO total, I probably didn't miss out on too much, anyway. I ended up with only 24 Skeeter QSOs, 2 non-Skeeter 5 Watt QSOs and the one ragchew was with a guy running 100 Watts. My personal goal was to make 30 contacts for the day and I came up three short.

I don't know why 40 Meters was so underpopulated with signals. Usually, it can be a money band for in-close stations, especially towards the end of the Sprint. In the past, it's been customary to see activity switch from 20 Meters to 40 Meters towards the last hour or so. Not yesterday.

Participation seemed to be high from what I could tell. My utmost thanks to everyone who participated! You guys are the best and you overwhelmingly support this Sprint year after year. The NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is what it is because of all of you! I remember a slogan from my youth - it was popular among those who were protesting the war in Vietnam.

"What if they held a war and nobody came?"

What if we held the Skeeter Hunt and nobody came? The point is you folks DO come and participate. Like I said before, many of you return year after year after year.  My part in any of this is small potatoes. All of you out there are the wind beneath the Skeeter's wings!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, August 19, 2022

Skeeter Hunt Sunday!

 This coming Sunday is the annual NJQRP Skeeter Hunt !!!

There's still time to get a Skeeter number of you so desire. I will be honoring any requests received until Midnight EDT Saturday/Sunday.  Latecomers will probably receive their numbers Sunday morning, so step up and don't be shy.

Complete rules can be found by going to the Skeeter Hunt page of this blog; or by going to www.qsl.net/w2lj

The terrestrial weather in my part of NJ is looking to be cloudy to mostly cloudy with a high of 87F (31C). I will most likely set up in the back yard like I did for FOBB, rather than go to a park. Energy and stamina levels are having supply chain issues these days. I'm just hoping Ol' Sol calms down and that we have some decent band conditions.

Have fun, be safe and have a great time!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least

Monday, August 01, 2022

Not sure if this is even available, anymore.

 This was the paddle I used yesterday for FOBB:


It's made from a Bulldog style paper clip.  I don't remember from where I got it; or even how long ago I acquired it - has to be 10 or more years ago. I always keep it in the portable ops bag in a hard plastic container along with my American Morse "Dirt Cheap" paddle.

This little guy has an amazingly good feel and action to it. You would think that it might get all fouled up once you hit a higher sending speed of say, 25 WPM or so, but no - it remains quite comfortable to use, and it doesn't get stuck and start sending extraneous dits or dahs.. The reason I like to use it when I'm operating from the patio table is that the rim of the table is metal. The base of the paddle is a magnet and when I place it on the table rim - it stays put!

I did a quick search on Google and eBay and couldn't find anyone who seems to be selling these. I'll have to take extra special care of it so that it doesn't get lost or damaged. Who would think that something so simple would work so well?

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


Sunday, July 31, 2022

FOBB Report

I set up on the backyard patio table. The antenna was the PAR END FEDZ held aloft by my 31 foot Jackite pole.

I made 14 FOBB QSOs, 1 POTA QSO and 1 SKCC rag chew.

Most of the activity seemed to be on 20 Meters - only 2 FOBB QSOs were on 40. The POTA and SKCC QSOs were on 40 as well. I was hoping there'd be more activity on 40 as signals always seem to be louder there.

Here's who I worked:

AB9CA

N5GW

NQ9RP

N8GAS

K4BAI

WA8ZBT

AG4P

KK4ITX

N3AQC (K3WWP at the key)

NA8Q (POTA)

AK4JA

W4LSV

WO9B

WB9TWJ (SKCC)

WA1ZCQ

K9DRP

On the whole, I thought activity was on the light side. I remember years when 40 QSOs was more the norm (for me anyway). Maybe the shine is off the apple, a bit? Maybe I'm just not as good as I used to be (which was never all that hot to begin with).

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

When is it not fun anymore?

This is a personal "rant" and all my own humble and probably misguided opinion, but I'm going to commit it to print, anyway. I'm probably totally wrong, and not many will agree with me, and I'll probably get some hate mail, but so be it., and here it goes: There are some things in Amateur Radio that started out as great ideas, intended as fun, but seem to have morphed into and have taken on lives of their own.

A case in point - NPOTA in 2016. Now don't get me wrong - I absolutely LOVED NPOTA and I have often stated that 100 years from now, it will still be one of the best things that ever came out of the ARRL. It was designed to be a celebration of the Centennial of the National Park System - right? Go out, get some fresh air and have some fun, enjoy being in the Great Outdoors and maybe learn a thing or two about the park or entity that you were operating from - right?

Well, soon it became how many entities can one activate in a day, or a weekend, or a week. I guess the roving thing is fun for you competitive types, but it seemed like it was missing the point to me. When I mentioned this to one Ham of Facebook, who was lamenting that he was not able to activate as many entities in one day as he had planned, I was summarily told to "go jump off a bridge".

The same thing seems to be happening to POTA, another program I dearly love. Look on social media and there are just so many posts of people griping about pileup behavior, ops calling other ops "lids" and the like. How can it be that much fun if you're getting your panties all bunched up in a wad?!? 

I look at FISTS, the SKCC and the NAQCC and sometimes it seems like the QSOs have become just a hunt for operator numbers for awards. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with that, but each of these organizations were founded to provide a FUN way to promote the use of CW, QRP or in the case of the NAQCC - both.  Exchanging member numbers is fine, but that shouldn't be the end all of the QSO.  I can't tell you how many times a QSO has ended shortly after I have given away the coveted piece of info - my membership number.  Whatever happened to the art of the rag chew? I have to state for the record that some of the best rag chews I've ever had never had a membership number as part of the conversation.

I guess I'm just not the competitive type.  When I enter QRPTTF, or FOBB or even when I came up with the idea for the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, I didn't and don't go out thinking that I'm going to win or even place high in the standings. I go out with the idea of enjoying the ability to get outside get some sunshine and fresh air, have fun and forgetting about the everyday worries of life for a few hours.

I know, I'm weird. Please forgive the rant.

73 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

A good FOBB suggestion by Gene N5GW

Gene N5GW is always competitive and nearly always show up in the top 5 or 10 of these QRP operating events.

He posted a suggestion on QRP-L regarding FOBB this Sunday. Since he always does so well, it may serve the rest of us to take heed:

"Most of the activity should take place on 20 Meters, but I suggest checking 15M/10M on the half hour and 40 Meters on the hour to improve our chances for QSOs during spotty band openings."

Sounds like a plan, Gene - thanks for the suggestion!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 25, 2022

A winning combination!

The other evening, Bill W2AOF and Ron N2LCZ and I got together via Zoom to submit the Field Day score for NJ2SP (the deadline for entries is tomorrow, BTW).

I can't even begin to tell you how easy a chore this has become!

What makes it so easy is that we use the N3FJP AC Log Field day package. it summarizes everything we need, including the dupe sheet and the ADIF file of the log.

All we had to do was go to the ARRL Field Day score submission website, click on a few boxes where were qualified for bonus points, attach a few supporting files, hit "Submit" and we were done in a matter of minutes!

For those of you who do not have N3FJP's Field Day logging program, I very highly recommend it. It makes what used to be a rather tedious chore a snap.

Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Flight of the Bumblebees is next Sunday!

Just a gentle reminder, FOBB is next Sunday, so if you're thinking of operating portable as a Bee, the time to sign up for a number is growing short. You can check out the Bee roster and see if there's a number you would like to have by going here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1eje4xhoXNz6P47x8v9KehhCsf_NjkhfPxzw_-7eT5YU/edit#gid=1688633864

As of now, 62 Bee numbers have been assigned. With this heat wave embroiling the country, maybe folks are hesitant about going a distance from home and setting up remotely. I know that's a concern of mine.

The 10 day forecast for South Plainfield for next Sunday is for cloudy conditions with a high in the upper 80s and a chance of showers in the afternoon. If that's the case and doesn't change, I'll probably set up on the back yard patio table under the umbrella. The antenna of choice will be the PAR END FEZ, most likely. I'm sure most of the action will be on 40 and 20 Meters, although I think the KX3 will match the PAR on 15 Meters as well, even though efficiency will go way down.

If the forecast changes with the chances for precipitation approaching zero, I may get the urge to go to Cotton Street Park, or even perhaps Washington Rock State Park. 

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Hard to believe it was 53 years ago today!

 


53 years! Where did the time go?

Buzz Aldrin is the only crew member left. The flight jacket he wore during the mission is up for auction with Sotheby's and is expected to go for more than 2 million. Wow!

I was 12 years old and was absolutely GLUED to the TV set that day. If you're old enough to remember, where were you?

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!