Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year !!!

Happy New Year, everyone! My best wishes to you for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2008!

What would the New Year be without resolutions? I have some; and they are largely Ham Radio related. I hereby resolve, that in 2008, I will:

1) Get on the radio WAY more often than I did in 2007.
2) Operate portable a lot more than I did in 2007, once the weather gets nicer, that is!
3) Keep this blog better updated with my experiences and happenings.
4) Finish a kit or other radio project or two.
5) Re-do the radials to my Butternut HF9V this Spring.
6) Keep my Web page updated and fresh.
7) Work Alaska and finally finish WAS QRP CW.
8) Become an SKCC Centurion.
9) Complete QRP DXCC (only 30 to go).

It will be interesting to see 366 days from now (Yes, this is a Leap Year) how I did. Until the next post, keep happy, healthy and safe!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, December 29, 2007

WOW !!!

Remember the days when you could get a nice sized TV (about 26 or 27 inches) for a couple of hundred bucks? Them days seem to be over!

Our television in the living room was on its last legs. Intermittently, it would turn itself off and back on. Very annoying when you're trying to watch something interesting. A few years ago, I'd have run out to Circuit City or Best Buy and would have picked up a replacement for maybe somewhere between $200 - $300.

First off, it's hard to even FIND a TV like the kind that used to be prevalent. Today, everything seems to be either LCD, plasma or projection. Secondly, the selection of TVs in the range of 26 to 27 inches is limited. Oh sure, it's incredibly easy to find something that will fit your entire wall; but there's also a man sitting next to those TVs who helps you fill out second mortgage papers!

Circuit City had just finished running a sale this week and they were all out of stock. A run across the highway to Best Buy led to me finding an 26" LCD by Westinghouse. Why my obsession with a 26 or 27" TV? Because anything bigger than that will not fit the pre-existing entertainment center; and for what I paid for that, I'm not about ready to get rid of it just yet!

Bringing it home and hooking it up was a piece of cake. I am a Direct TV subscriber but don't have the HD dish just yet. I plugged in the standard satellite connection, and while it's not HD it still looks better than the CRT TV that we had. This coming summer, just maybe I'll break down and get the HD dish installed along with the service. For now, the picture is fine.

Heck, I don't watch all tha much TV, anyway. I'm usually way too busy doing something else. But still, the price had me in sticker shock. I paid as much for this TV as I did for my K2. Hey, at least with the K2, I can talk around the world. Can't do THAT with an LCD TV !

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, December 28, 2007

So much for waiting !

OK, so the resolution was to get on for SKN and get back in the habit of getting on the air on a regular basis.

I guess I got so inspired by my own post that I didn't bother to wait. I went down to the basement and flicked on the K2. Both 40 and 80 Meters were beautiful! Not many stations heard; but the background noise was at a minimum. Even the weaker stations sounded pretty loud!

The RAC contest was in full swing and I decided to give it a try. "Just one contact" quickly became two; and then became three; and so on and so on ........

In a little while I had that satisfied feeling. My code speed doesn't seem to have suffered from my lay off from radio, my K2 and G5RV and HF9V vertical all seem to be working; and all seems to be right with the Ham Radio world.

You know, you get out of the habit of getting on the air and you miss out on just how much fun this all is. The magic is still there for me. In the blink of an eye, my radio waves are jumping out from my antenna, being heard and answers are being sent to me in mere seconds. It would take days to drive that far. How cool is all this !

The bug has bitten once again; and I am once more infected. It's a wonderful thing.

73 de Larry W2LJ

SKN and Resolutions

Monday is New Year's Eve. That means Monday night at 7:00 PM EDT is the start of Straight Key Night. This event will hopefully be my launching pad to more operating time in 2008.

My new job, which I began last April really has sucked away a lot of my operating time. The job is a lot more involved than my old one; and as a result, I come home a lot more tired than I used to. I let this allow me to get into the nasty habit of not getting on the air.

I hereby resolve to turn this around in 2008, beginning with SKN. I'm not foolish enough to resolve to MOCAD (make one contact a day). I know that there will be days when I'm simply too exhausted to get on the air. But I am going to do my best to get on at least 5 times a week. minimum.

So that means more involvement in QRP contesting like I used to do; and a lot more ragchewing as well. I need to use Ham Radio as a vehicle towards relaxation and a distraction form the ordinary worries of the day. It's a good prescription!

In turn, that will also hopefully mean way more Ham Radio blogging in 2008, also! And with the sunspot situation slowly turning around, maybe more DXing, too! I have three goals that I would like to finish in 2008:

1) Finish QRP DXCC - I've been stuck at 69 countries for a long while now.

2) Finally earn SKCC Centurion status. I only need about 25 or so more QSOs with SKCC members. This will not only get me to Centurion; but it will earn the SKCC QRP award, too!

3) Finally work Alaska! That's the last state I need for QRP Worked All States.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Happy New Year and hope to work YOU on the air in 2008!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas !!!

To all my readers and all of my Ham Radio and QRP friends near and far,

My wishes to you and your families
for a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.
May you enjoy the loving embrace of family and friends.
May you enjoy the Peace and Light
that the Christ Child was born to bring.

Best wishes, also, for a very Happy, Healthy and
Prosperous New Year!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, December 21, 2007

CFLs - good news and bad.

One of the indoor floods that makes up one of our three kitchen ceiling lights went out the other day. I went to the local supermarket to buy a few needed items as well as a replacement bulb. The type of bulb I needed looks like the one to the extreme left and top in the photo.

Much to my dismay, the store was out of "normal" incandescent lamps. All they had were compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs. I have dreaded using these in the house because I've heard the horror stories that some Hams have experienced. I have read on the QRP reflectors that some of these lamps are the worst RFI generators this side of the Russian Woodpecker.

It was either walk around in a dark kitchen or bite the bullet; so I decided to bite the bullet. I bought three to replace all three fixtures in the kitchen. It turned out that they were only a couple of bucks more expensive than what I would pay for a "normal" lamp; so, so far so good! And if you believe the packaging, each lamp gives off the equivalent of a 65 Watt incandescent lamp; but only consumes 16 Watts of power in the process. So if you do the math, it works out that ALL three lamps will use less electricity than just one of the older style lamps that I had been using. In addition, based on an average of being on for 3 to 4 hours a day, these little wonders are supposed to last for three years.

The good news is that after I installed them, I ran downstairs to the shack and turned on the K2 and noticed NO detectable hash, noise or other trash on 80, 40 or 20 Meters. The ones I has purchased are really electrically quiet. Maybe because they are made by Phillips, which is a pretty reliable company. Maybe it's because they aren't "el-cheapo" no named "10 for 5 bucks" bargain brand lamps. Whatever the reason, I am glad they seem to be RFI free.

The bad news? I hate the light they give off! They're plenty bright enough - no problem there. The light however, is a cold and somewhat harsher light than the warm, soft yellowish glow that I have come to expect from "normal" incandescent lamps. Also, when you turn them on for the first time after they've been off for a while they are dim until they warm up. When you wake up at 6:00 AM in the Winter and it's dark outside; it's nice to be greeted by the warm, steady comforting glow of regular light bulbs. This dim for a few minute thing is going to take some getting used to.

Lastly, I've discovered that you cannot just throw these babies out when they finally go kaput. Unh-unh. These little demons contain mercury and must be recycled or turned into somewhere where they accept hazardous household waste. Wonderful! Now I'm going to have to take these to a County facility when they eventually give up the ghost. Luckily for me however, is that one of the County sites is right here in South Plainfield.

I suppose this is a small sacrifice to go a little "green" (you have no idea how much I hate that phrase!). However, I've been reading that in the next few years that new rage will be light bulbs that use LED technology. I just hope the LED bulbs will be made slightly more warmer and comforting than what they've come up with so far for these CFLs. Call me old fashioned or an old fogey; but a light bulb is supposed to be a light bulb. Why mess around with something that has worked perfectly well for over 100 years?

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Different Christmas Poem

A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

'What are you doing?' I asked without fear,
'Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!'

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said 'Its really all right,

I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night.'
'It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,

I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,'
Then he sighed, 'That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers.'

My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..

Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.'
'So go back inside,' he said, 'harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right.'

'But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
'Give you money,' I asked, 'or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son.'

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
'Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.'

Author Unknown