Saturday, September 27, 2008

Guess I got taken

It's my own fault, I guess. I should have used more common sense; and not have relied on "good faith" or the honesty of others.

About a month or so ago, I saw on one of the e-mail reflectors that a Ham was looking to swap for a 40 Meter Rockmite. In exchange, he was offering a straight key in trade. My 40 Meter Rockmite has been laying dormant; and I never mind having an extra straight key hanging around, so I agreed to the trade.

I got the Rockmite out the next day via UPS Priority mail; and my trade partner had it in just a couple of days. I got an e-mail that he was happily making contacts with it; and that, by the way, he had mistakenly mailed out the straight key to another Ham he was trading with. That should have set off the alarm bells; but the "good news" was that the key was on its way back to him and it would be shortly mailed to me.

That's the last I heard from him; even after about 4 or 5 inquiries on my part since. The e-mails to me have ceased; and ever since, all I've been hearing is the chirping of crickets.

I guess P.T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every minute; and I guess I'm one of them. The downside is that the next time a perfectly honest opportunity for a trade comes along; I'll probably never pull the trigger - you know that old adage about "twice bitten".

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Station in a box

To the right is my QRP "Station in a Box", that I keep in the car for portable QRP ops.

The case is an aluminum one that I got from Harbor Freight. It is 12" X 16" X 5". I don't remember what I paid for it; but I got it on special when it was dirt cheap.

It's a lot fuller than it used to be (as in the picture). It is currently populated by the following:

K1 with autotuner
12V 5Ah sealed lead acid battery
Emtech ZM2 tuner as a backup
Autek RF-1 antenna analyzer
LDG 4:1 balun
NorCal Doublet which I keep wound up on an empty monofilament fishing line spool
A Glad storage container with a Bulldog paddle, Morse Express Christmas straight key, cable for the battery to rig, an extra small jumper coax (about 12" long), allen keys for the Hamsticks.
Cheap-o set of Walkman type headphones. I also keep a roll of twine in there for doublet support ropes, a Swiss army knife, and a pad and pencils for taking notes during QSOs.

Also in the back of the car is the Black Widow crappie pole with homebrewed support mechanism, the PAC-12 and Hamsticks; as well as a canvas folding chair and a canvas collapsible camping table.

The only thing that I need to remember to bring along from time to time is my solar battery charger, which I keep in a safe place at home so it doesn't get damaged.

It pretty much has everything I need to set up a temporary QRP station in the great outdoors. If need be, I can transfer everything to a backpack if hiking becomes necessary. This is more in the line for setting up in a park or a picnic grounds.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Courtesy - the lack of it ..... (Part Deux)

I hate to rant on and on about this; but the lack of courtesy reared its ugly head again this past week. In fact, it was Wednesday night during the NAQCC Sprint.

A bunch of us NAQCCers had moved over to 80 Meters on and about 3.560 MHz. While we weren't exactly wall-to-wall; there were enough of us spread out over a few kHz so that ANYONE could tell there was something going on.

Anyone that was listening FIRST, of course. Because out of nowhere and without warning, in the middle of this bunch of QRPers came a loud, earsplitting PacTOR "CQ" signal. I've done enough digital back in my day to know what a digital CQ sounds like. This idiot, whomever he was, was at least 10 over 9 and he tore the band up. Fortunately, he gave up after about two attempts at a QSO, as no one came back to him.

So the question is .... just how hard is it to listen for a bit before you fire up the transmitter? Is this rocket science; or is it more like, "I just don't give a damn to whatever else might be going on ..... this is what I want to do?"

I can understand accidental interference. It happens to all of us sometimes. But to just blindly turn on the TX without so much as a few seconds worth of listening is just so alien to me. It definitely makes me shake my head.

73 de Larry W2LJ

QRP Afield

It looked like a promising day for the annual QRP Afield event, which is sponsored by the New England QRP Club.

The weather was great, being in the 70s with lots of sun and mostly sunny skies. I set up both the NorCal Doublet and the PAC-12 in the backyard. The NorCal Doublet was supported at the center by my 20 foot Black Widow crappie pole.

There was not much activity at all. Calling CQ and alternately doing the "hunt and pounce" thing on 20 Meters in the morning yielded all of about 2 QSOs in the first hours of the contest. The NorCal played very well on 20 Meters but was giving me a very high SWR on 40 Meters, which is strange. It used to play very well for me on 40 Meters also; so I think there's a wire busted somewhere. I'll have to build another as I still have a goodly sized hunk of computer ribbon cable sitting in the basement.

Anyway, after getting the grocery shopping out of the way, in the afternoon I made contact with W5ESE in Texas and 20 Meters seemed to have more activity going on. Then the cell phone rang and I got called into work for an emergency. I ended up getting home around 8:00 PM and thus, my QRP Afield day got ruined.

If nothing else, it was a good excercize in portable antenna deployment.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thank you

In the 7 years since 9/11/01, there have been no terrorist attacks on our Homeland.

Thank you so very much to the following:

Our brave men and women in our Armed Forces.
All firefighters and police and EMS personnel who safeguard us daily.
All intelligence weenies who are carefully poring through 1000s of bits of data daily, looking to decipher threats.
All our Coast Guardies, Border Patrol, NTSB workers, Customs officials who look to safeguard our borders, ports and other points of entry.
President Bush for your determined resolve, even when it seems like everyone in Congress is fighting against you.
To anyone else I might have unfortunately forgotten to mention.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Rainfall total

The rainfall total from Tropical Storm Hanna, in my little corner of South Plainfield, was 4.5 inches.

No winds above 30 MPH - so no broken limbs or felled trees or major damage in our immediate neighborhood. No power outages, either - power remained on throughout.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Courtesy - the lack of it .....

40 Meters was wall to wall NA QSO Party QSOs; so I ventured down to 80 Meters, not knowing what to expect with the atmospheric conditions roiling all day.

Pleasantly, there was a major lack of QRN and static crashes. Maybe Autumnal conditions are starting to make their presence known on 80 Meters once again. That would be a welcome to me as I enjoy QSOs on 80 with regularity. The G5RV does a very nice job for me on 80 and I have no complaints. I don't seem to garner much DX with it; but I have no problems having nice ragchew QSOs on 80 Meters with stations I guess could be considered "local".

And so it was tonight. Calling CQ netted a nice QSO with Bill WA1ZFE who hails out of Norwalk, CT. Bill was also QRP, running 5 Watts out of his Kenwood TS-2000 to a loop antenna. Conditions were such that we were able to give each other RSTs of 589. We were going at it nicely, comparing Hanna weather notes when IT happened.

And by "IT", I mean unannounced contest stations blasting on an occupied frequency without even so much as a complimentary "QRL?" Nothing like inconsiderate contesters to bust up a good ragchew. I understand that since I was running QRP, they might not have heard me; but even that being said, there's NO reason to just start blindly transmitting without throwing a "QRL?" out there as a courtesy. Such as it was, even turning on the K2's tight crystal filters made copy go from sublime to almost impossible in a matter of seconds - they were indeed, right on top of us.

Now I know there are many A-1 op contesters out there who are a shining example to uphold. Unfortunately, there are also "some" out there who break the cardinal rule, "Listen first before transmitting." They're the ones who give all contesters a bad reputation. I certainly don't mind sharing the bands with fans of contests; but it would be nice if they listened before jumping in with both feet.

Heck, it would be nice if EVERYONE would listen before they transmit - contesters, ragchewers, traffic handlers alike. I wonder why that's such a difficult concept for some?

73 de Larry W2LJ

Don't let the glass

'hit you on your way out the door, Hanna! Good bye and good riddance!

Hanna is beginning to leave our environs. A bit more rain is expected until Midnight; but it seems the worst is over (at least that's what various radar pictures are showing).

The winds are picking up on the backside of the storm. While 20 MPH gusts were intermittent before, it seems like a 20 MPH wind is about the norm right now with some higher gusts. A few minutes ago, I went out to check my rain gauge and it looks like a total of just just a skosh over 4.5 inches.

All in all, it wasn't a devastating storm. We've had some winter time Nor'Easters that were much worse. Back in 1994 (I think that was the year) we had a December Nor'Easter blow through and later it was called a "white hurricane". Those were much worse non-hurricane storms.

Tomorrow the forecast is for a very sunny Sunday with highs in the mid 80s. What a difference a day makes! Now maybe I'll head down to the shack for a bit to see what's brewing on 40 Meters.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Hanna is over DelMarVa

As of 6:35 PM EDT, the center of Hanna is over the DelMarVa peninsula. Heavy rain bands are falling over New Jersey; and as you can see, most of the state is colored yellow. Since the beginning, some 4 hours ago, about 3 inches of rain have fallen here in South Plainfield, at least in my back yard.

Strangely enough, just across town lives another SkyWarn spotter - Marv K2VHW. He has recorded about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch more rain than I have received here.

Luckily, I live on the crest of a small rise and I am not experiencing any water problems to speak of - notwithstanding a leaky skylight here in the rec room. Many parts of Middlesex County which are lower in elevation are reporting moderate to major flooding of local roads and highways.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Raining cats and dogs ......

It has rained approximately 2 inches in the last 3 hours. More heavy bands of rain are expected until Hanna clears out sometime between 11:00 PM to Midnight. So far, winds have been very quiet; a lot more quiet than I expected. I would guesstimate no more than some 20 MPH gusts; and those not often at all. They will probably pick up on the backside of the storm.

On a lighter note, Jim W1PID went on another one of his QRP hiking adventures recently. For a recap, along with pictures of the awesomely beautiful New Hampshire scenery, please visit:

73 de Larry W2LJ

Hanna has arrived

Approximately one hour ago, at 2:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time, the first of Hanna's rains have arrived in Central New Jersey.

Going out to do the grocery shopping this morning, the air felt like a sauna. This was truly a good indication of the tropical air accompanying the storm.

The radar image up top, courtesy of AccuWeather, shows the heavy rain bands across most of New Jersey.

SkyWarn has been activated, CERT is on standby and I have set out a rain gauge that will hopefully let me record total rainfall amounts that occur here in South Plainfield. Since it's a temporary gauge of my own design, I hope it doesn't blow away in the expected heavy winds to come. There have been accompanying rumbles of thunder occuring at random intervals. So I guess there will be no HF transmissions from W2LJ until they stop.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, September 05, 2008

Keeping an eye on the lady

Hanna, that is.

Tropical Storm warnings have been posted up along the East Coast all the way up to Massachusetts. Hanna should be just off the New Jersey coast around 2:00 PM or so tomorrow afternoon if present trends remain.

As of right now, anywhere from 3 to 7 inches of rain are expected depending on how close to shore Hanna's center tracks. Winds up to 70 MPH are expected - I'm sure my antennas will just love that!

I will have the Sayreville, NJ K2GE repeater tuned on the handheld all day. I am a Skywarn spotter and the Skywarn nets are held on that repeater for Middlesex County. Our Office of Emergency Management here in South Plainfield has already put our CERT Team on standby.

It should be an interesting day. I have all my radio batteries charged up and ready to go. Hopefully, no power lines will come in the way of any falling branches. We're not expecting any of the misfortune that recently hit the Gulf States; but there are several communities in Middlesex County that are prone to flooding during hurricanes and Nor'easters.

73 de Larry W2LJ