Monday, September 28, 2009


This is just the kind of thing I LOVE to read!

As if I'm not depressed enough that Summer is over and that Winter is on the way.

Looks like there's going to be a lot of layering and wearing "Snuggies" or some such in the W2LJ household this coming winter. I'm also not looking forward to the heating gas bills. It looks like in the near future that there will be some trips to Lowe's or the Home Depot for weather stripping and other such supplies.

I can only hope that the guys who came up with this forecast are the same ones who predicted a killer hurricane season this year.

73 de Larry W2LJ

A few things

I got the repair estimate on the Explorer today; and it was pretty bad. But not bad enough to justify buying a new vehicle at this time. We're going to suck it up and have it repaired. For the time being Marianne and I don't want to start making car payments again; and we don't want to face having our auto insurance premiums skyrocket for having to have full coverage on a brand new car. As a result, however, FDIM for 2010 will probably be out of the question once again, as we will have to start saving up for something new within the next year.

Sam K5OAI made a pretty good follow up post on QRP-L regarding CW on 40 Meters and the RTTY conditions that occur during a RTTY contest. Go up, young man ...... go up! There IS plenty of space from about 7.100 to 7.125 MHz that is vastly underused! A lot of SKCCers hang out up there as well as some other folks. We would do well to use that space and not let it go unused.

Lastly, there was another post on QRP-L recently that was made by Tom Clifton KC0VSJ. There is a neat book that he narrated on Librivox, which is entitled "The Brighton Boys in the Radio Service". It's in the public domain, so you are free to go to the site and download and make a "book on tape" for yourself. According to Tom, the story is set during WWI and it is about "three college chums who join the military and face the perils of spies, submarines and enemy soldiers". Kind of reminds me of the ol' Tom Swift stories in a way.

The link is:

I downloaded the zip file (which is about 100 MB) and have burned it onto some CDs; so that I can listen to it in the CD player in the car while I drive back and forth from work. It's a nice change of pace from code practice and either broadcast AM or FM radio.

Speaking of Tom Swift ..... I grew up loving to read! I have my Mom to thank for that. She instilled in my sister and I a love for reading that holds true to this day. A trip to the library was a special treat for us. I grew up reading all the Tom Swift books as well as the Hardy Boys mysteries. From the school library, I was always bringing home biographies of famous inventors and other historical figures (especially those from the Revolutionary War period).

If you like to read, the world is your oyster. You can teach yourself a lot of things by doing some reading. In addition, it's a great escape! A good mystery or techno-thriller (or whatever) is still a really economical form of entertainment - especially if you make use of your local public library.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New car shopping

The Explorer, which is now 10 years old, has developed a really nasty grinding noise that just reared its ugly head on Friday. I dropped it off at the shop yesterday, and they can't even look at it until tomorrow.

I will be renting a car tomorrow AM so that I can get back and forth to and from work. Kelly Blue Book value on the Explorer is $2500. So ...... if we're talking a repair of about $4000 or more we just might take the plunge and put that money towards something new.

As much as I would like a Jeep, I really can't afford one. Marianne and I were looking at a Hyundai Tuscon, which we figure that we could get for under 20K. We'd still like to have something in the SUV or crossover class so that Marianne could get to the hospital in bad snow if she needs to.

I'm really hoping that it's not as bad as it sounds, so that we don't have to start up with car payments again.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Laying foundations

The year was 1964; and like all kids, I loved to watch TV (which was pretty much only black and white back then). Telstar was pretty much new and I remember the hoopla made about seeing video from overseas with the footonote "Live Via Satellite" at the bottom of the TV screen.

WWII had only happened 20 or so years previously; and we were still pretty much attached to that era; although things were changing at a far more drastic pace than we were aware of.

And radio ...... shortwave radio still held a fascination that it no longer holds today (sadly). It was still a "modern miracle" to be able to talk to people in distant lands at a time when overseas communication by telephone was still not the norm.

And a young, impressionable kid saw this episode of "McHale's Navy" and was exposed to that miracle of radio; but on a personal level, for the very first time.

Even though this could not have been Ham Radio, per se, as the communications would have been during a time when Amateurs were off the air - that's what I took it to be. I remember watching this and saying to myself that I wanted to be able to talk on a radio like that some day.

And I do, not with a microphone, but with a code key - and the fascination remains just the same.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I saw a post from Sam Morgan K5OAI on QRP-L about the RTTY contest this weekend. I headed down the basement to give a listen on 40 Meters for a few; and sure 'nuff, it's almost wall to wall RTTY right down to 7.025 MHz.

Makes me glad that I'm an Extra!

Seriously, however, where has the courtesy gone? I was very active for a time with RTTY and the digital modes in the 80's and I remember very clearly, that even on a contest weekend, RTTY signals low in the band (below 7.060 MHz on 40 Meters, for example) were the exception rather than the rule. We tried very hard not to claim the entire CW portion of the bands for ourselves.

Seems that selfishness rules these days; and that thinking of anyone beyond our own needs is an anachronism.

In one vein, it is good that the bandwidth is being made use of; but on the other hand, it really is a bummer when the only real time you get to operate is the weekend and you can't because your favorite band is crowded with ......

73 de Larry W2LJ

Back to radio

Looks like Jim W1PID had infinitely nicer weather than we had in New Jersey today.

Another trip to the Great Outdoors with a QRP portable radio and a good friend. That's a winning combination in anyone's playbook!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Political rant time (fair warning to ignore)

If you're not interested in politics - then it's time to move on, ignore this post and read something else. It will probably keep your blood pressure a few points lower if your political heart lies anything right of center.

For the "progressives", it seems once again that history began on January 20th, 2009. We got ourselves a new President; and we're ALL supposed to rally behind him, sing "Kumbayah" and wait for that "Hopey Changey" thing to work its wonders.

Now that's all well and good. And Mr. O is indeed my president; and I wish him nothing but the best.

However, it seems to me that I am being told if I don't exactly embrace his policies with wide open arms and the most loving of hearts and hugs, rainbows and kisses; then I am nothing more than an ignorant, racist (Please don't forget racist!) Neanderthal who is probably too stupid to do much more than eat, breathe and exist.

Obviously, I am too stupid to realize that although socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried, that this gifted man will finally be the one to pull it off. Hard work and opportunity, which has done this nation damned well for over 200 years, are to be thrown in the toilet only to be flushed away. I really am way too stupid, because I don't believe in a "Nanny State" type of government, which takes care of everything for us - from the moment we are born (if we are fortunate enough not to have been aborted) to the moment of death (which might occur earlier than expected if the government finally decides that it's way too expensive and not cost effective to keep me alive). Like the Founders (who must have REALLY been stupid) I believe in individual freedom, the integrity of the family as the basic unit of society, and the innate knowledge of the PEOPLE of this great nation to know what is best for them, without government intervention. That idea, a Nanny State, was NEVER the intent of the people who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

And now for all the whining and had wringing about disagreement and not being in accord with the "Great One".....

I remember the past eight years of the POTUS being called a liar on a daily basis, whether it be the media, authors, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, etc. "Bush lied ..... people died".

I seem to remember an open bias (actually, HATE would not be too strong a term) by the news media against George Bush, Dick Cheney, and anything remotely considered Republican (or worse yet) Conservative. I seem to remember "conveniently timed" exposes by the likes of Dan Rather, which in the end turned out to be nothing more than fabrications.

The Internet was ripe with all out attacks and the most vile vitriol against Bush ...... comparing him to a chimpanzee and other very ugly attacks. You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who would refer to the President as "Shrub". Open calls for Bush's assassination and wishes for Dick Cheney's death ..... "That's only Freedom of Speech" we were told. Freedom of Speech, my ....... Where was the "We have to stand united behind our President" then? Where were the calls for civility then? Where were the calls for reaching a common ground then?

The attacks from Congress and the media came every day during the Bush administration. All you "Progressives" out there felt you were doing your patriotic duty, ala' Hillary Clinton. So now why is time for us to just shut up, sit down and twiddle our thumbs without so much as a whisper?

We will not shut up and play dead just because it would be convenient for you. If you can't win in the arena of ideas then maybe it's time for you to reexamine your policies and try to figure out just why the American public is not totally head over heels in love with them.

Oh yes, for you that always brings us back to "us" being stupid. You gotta love the "Chattering Masses".

End of political rant - I've posted my opinion on my blog. Feel free to post yours. It's still a free country for now - I won't be responding to any of them. BUT, if they get too vile and uncivilized ..... fair warning, they will be deleted.

Glad that's off my chest - Back to radio.

73 de Larry W2LJ (AKA the Conservative Whackaloon)

Friday, September 25, 2009

20 Meters this morning

Before I left the house, I jumped on 20 Meters for a few minutes this morning around 12oo UTC. The band was open to Europe; and I managed to work a station from Latvia YL3UZ.

I heard stations from England, Scotland, Russia and Poland, to toss a few country names out there.

QSB was deep and I heard the Latvian station call CQ and was surprised that I was heard first try. He was 579 and I received a 559 in return, which I will gladly accept any day of the week! Everytime I accomplish something like this with only 5 Watts, I still get that old "Novice Thrill" back again!

I tried working SP2009B; but the band started changing; and I had to get a move on.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ham Radio operators are a danger ......

Oh .... this is good!

Well, as a QRPer, I guess I would be considered acceptable to the Earth Liberation Front. But there's something about these kind of hysterics and tactics that really gets me stoked.

I wonder if any of these folks have ever used a cell phone or sat in front of a TV screen; or used an electric blanket, or a microwave oven?

Before they go off on a tirade - they really should do a little research and get their facts straight. Do you know anybody in your neighborhood that REGULARLY uses the full gallon? I don't.

And, yeah, the poster was probably a troll; but I still got rankled.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Microphone Troubles

John Shannon k3WWP mentions in one of his latest diary entries about makeshift and homemade CW straight keys. He also mentioned how Tom WY3H had a straight key fall apart on him in the middle of a QSO; and how Tom finished the conversation by touching his two key wires together to send Morse.

That brought rushing back a memory of an episode of Adam-12 that I had seen as a kid. I wasn't a Ham yet; but I guess it left an indelible impression on me! I researched it out on Hulu and found it. I apologize for the commercials; but instead of just posting a link, I embedded the episode here.

This was Episode 5 from Season 4; and its title is "The Search". The screenplay was written by Stephen J Cannell who would later go on to create such hit shows as "The Rockford Files" and "Quantum Leap" to name a few.


73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Totally unrelated to Ham radio

I was driving home from work on Interstate 287, doing the usual creep and crawl thing. Much to my surprise, I was passed by the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile! Since I was at a dead stop in my lane, I managed to pop out the cell phone and grab a photo as it went past.

It's not often that you see a giant hot dog pass you at about 45 MPH!

Also to my surprise, the photo came out better than I thought it would - thanks Motorola! (I'm grasping for a radio related topic, here ...... work with me!)

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, September 21, 2009

Double Edged Sword

One one hand, I'd like to thank and praise the United States Post Office; and on the other hand, I'd like to register a complaint.

I received another e-mail from W5JAY, Jay Bromley, who is the Awards Manager for QRP-ARCI. He informed me that my Worked All 50 States certificate had gone out in the mail on Saturday. It arrived today! Two days from Fort Smith, Arkansas to South Plainfield, NJ via "plain ol' vanilla" First Class mail! I think that's phenomenal and I think the USPS deserves a hearty round of applause!

On the other hand, Jay prominently and conspicuously marked the envelope "Please Do Not Bend" right in plain sight. So what did my letter carrier do? Yep, he bent it over in order to stuff it into my mailbox. Luckily, I am home this afternoon; and I retrieved the mail within about 5 minutes of when I had heard it deposited into my mail box - so no big deal. Jay had the forethought to put a piece of cardboard in there as a stiffener, so there are no creases or permanent marks of any kind.

So the question remains - doesn't anyone read? Yes, folks do; as you're reading this blog right now. But do markings like "Do No Bend", "Fragile", or "Please Handle With Care" make packages invisible - or worse - a target? Yes, I know in the "scheme of things" this is totally minor and probably not worth the time I am wasting to write about it; but it is a pet peeve.

Changing the topic to something more radio related and definitely more interesting, the Topeka Capitol-Journal has this article today:

The article ties sunspot numbers to the "Global Warming" craze; and at the risk of being called a "Conservative whackaloon" again, I won't go into that here. But it is interesting how folks are beginning to realize that the sun's cycle is tied into so many things, and not just our fascination with radio propagation.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 19, 2009

QRP Afield - not!

Boo - hiss! No QRP Afield for W2LJ.

Here's the story in a nutshell. Larry is asked to join a conference call at work on Thursday at 3:00 PM. "There's going to be a big install of Dell servers next week. We need your team to prep about 350 servers for FIRST THING on Monday morning. 197 in your building and 157 at one of our other locations. Think you can find people to work on Saturday?"

By some small miracle, we pulled it off. But my team and I really busted rump yesterday and today. I had to go in today to finish the job for my building and ended up going into work at 6:00 AM (hoping to get out early enough to do some operating) and ended up staying to 4:00 PM.

And from the few minutes I got outside, it was a perfect day! Sunny and in the low 70s with crystal blue skies - not a cloud to be seen. It would have been prefect for QRP Afield! But after moving around 197 servers at 60 pounds apiece, I was not in the mood to do anything this afternoon except veg out a little.

Huge sigh. Maybe next year.

The reports for QRP Afield are starting to trickle in on the e-mail reflectors. And I always like to treat you folks with the exploits of Jim W1PID who lives in "God's Country" up there in New Hampshire.

Here's the link:

73 de Larry W2LJ - hope you're all enjoying your weekend more than I am!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A pleasant surprise!

I received the following e-mail today from Jay Bromley, the Awards Manager for QRP-ARCI:

"Hi Larry, Congrats on your ALL-States QRP award all CW. I have it ready and it should go out tomorrow. If there is any problems please let me know. Again congrats, I don't hand out many of those! -----your number 17!"

Now that surprises me! I would have thought that there'd be a veritable ton of QRPers who have completed WAS using CW. And perhaps maybe there are; but they don't take advantage of the wonderful awards program that QRP-ARCI offers.

If you're one of the not familiar, a simple visit to here will cure that right up! I'm sure a lot of you are aware of QRP-ARCI's 1,000 Miles per Watt Award; but there is so much more available! For instance, there's Worked All Continents QRP, County Hunters and QRP DX Awards just to name a few.

AND ..... you don't have to submit QSL cards! Fill out the form and have two General Class or higher Hams verify and sign off that they have seen your cards or log; and you're good to go!

OK - so in the Ham Radio world, maybe the QRP-ARCI Awards don't hold exactly the same esteem as the ARRL or CQ awards; but you know what? QRP-ARCI is made up of my fellow QRP'ers, the folks who share the same passion for low power operating that I have. The QRP-ARCI WAS Award will be framed and displayed prominently on my shack wall - of that you can rest assured!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The ultimate portable logging tool?

I was at Costco the other week doing the mundane household shopping thing, buying a few bulk items that we like to keep on hand. I usually dread going to Costco as it is always so crowded that it seems like you can travel between aisles by simply picking up your feet to allow yourself to be moved by the human masses!

But this time I went early (not early enough!) and I was by myself. So I stopped for a few minutes in the electronics section to drool over the multi-thousand dollar HDTVs, digital cameras and other goodies. What caught my eye and seemed reasonably affordable were the Acer Aspire one netbooks.

These little computers were so compact; but yet seemed to be so big on features. The entire Microsoft Office Suite was pre-loaded on them; and they seemed at least as capable as my older Dell laptop that I have in the shack. But what impressed me was the size! I could easily imagine popping Win-EQF onto one of these babies and putting it into the backpack for logging portable QRP QSOs. Dealing with a full keyboard instead of a paper log or the stylus of my Palm Tungsten E would really be nice. Then just load the log files onto a memory stick to transfer over to the main computer. What could be easier than that?

I think I'm going to have to take a long and hard look at my bug collection. Maybe if I sell a couple on eBay, I just might be able to raise enough funds to buy one of these.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, September 14, 2009

Amateur Radio and YouTube

There is a wealth of Amateur Radio videos available on You Tube. Admittedly some are pretty bad; but on the other hand, other are very well done and are very fun to watch.

If you want to be surprised, you can go to YouTube and type in "QRP" and you will get pages and pages of results. You will find a lot of homebrewing videos, Morse Code videos, portable operating videos, rig comparison videos, etc, etc, etc.

I'm not advocating that you spend all your time behind the computer watching Ham radio videos while you could be on the air making contacts; but it is fun to see what fellow Hams are doing and posting.

Want to see what the Hendricks PFR3 sounds like? Want to get a view of the new Chinese HB-1A? Want to see an ATS3B in action? Want to see how some Hams homebrew their own ladder line? Want to see the latest, or perhaps an earlier "Peanut and Rooster" adventure? Want to see how those home made compressed air antenna support rope launchers work? It's all there and more!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Working a celebrity

Just got off the air after a couple of nice QSOs tonight. The first was on 40 Meters which is always good for contacts, no matter the time if year or the sunspot cycle. The real treat, however, was going on down to 80 Meters to find conditions there not bad at all. For me, that's the only consolation of Summer coming to a close. I hate cold weather and I hate the thought of an oncoming Winter; but good conditions on 80 Meters make up for it somewhat.

Anyway, my CQ on 80 was answered by none other than Mike Rainey AA1TJ. Mike may not be a stand out celebrity in the general Ham Radio community; but his call is well known among die hard QRPers and homebrewers.

I recognized his call immediately from reading articles about his minimalist QRP designs in QRP Quarterly and the Web. In fact his Website, which is a treasure trove, is here:

If QSB was not playing tricks with my ears, Mike was using a one transistor design that was putting out 80 milliWatts. He started out a 449; but with the filters on the K2 and a little judicious use of the RIT to produce a good tone for these "hard of hearing" ears, I was able to get an even better copy on him.

It was a pleasure to work Mike and I will have to get a QSL card out to him tomorrow.

Speaking of the "hard of hearing" ears, I worked for Six Flags Great Adventure for a summer when I was way younger back in the late 70s. I was in the public relations department and worked as one of the corporate photographers. One of my responsibilities was to stay late on Friday nights to photograph all the concerts that occurred during the summer for the following year's brochure and publicity needs.

Back then, the effects of loud noises was just becoming known; and ear protection wasn't widely publicized or "in vogue" back then. As a result of standing in front of blaring concert speakers, my hearing has suffered, mostly in the loss of being able to hear higher frequencies. I am able to compensate for that on the radio by using the RIT function of the K2 to lower the pitch of the received CW signal so that it is easier for the "ol' filter between the ears" to make out and copy well.

A nice night on the radio is always a treat.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 12, 2009

QRP Afield - next Saturday!!!

Next Saturday is QRP Afield, which is most likely the last big outdoor contest event for the 2009 Summer season. It's an all day event lasting from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM EDT, so there's plenty of opportunity to get on, even if it's just for a few hours.

This event is sponsored by the New England QRP club (of which I am a member) and is one of the highlighted QRP events of the year. For a complete view of all the details of the event, you can visit:

I am looking forward to setting up for a little bit - somewhere! Encouraged by my backyard results from last weekend, I am contemplating using the Buddistick (elevated) along with my K1. I am just hoping the weather next weekend will be a lot better than we are experiencing today. Today has been damp, rainy and soggy - not good portable ops weather at all. If you are a sufferer from arthritis, NJ is not the place you want to be today.

With the end of the Summer operating season comes the Fall and Winter building season. I have a number of unbuilt kits in queue that I want to get going on. With 160 Meter season fast approaching, the first goal is to build that 160 Meter board for my K2. I have all the parts sorted out in a muffin tin; now all I have to do is get my butt in gear and start melting solder!

When I had my Icom-751A, I used to get on 160 Meters at 5 Watts using the G5RV and had decent results. Bandwidth wasn't wide, however, and moving more than a few KHz necessitated retuning the antenna tuner often. But that's a small inconvenience compared to the fun that 160 Meters can provide.

Which brings to mind another outdoor project that I want to get done before the weather turns cold - adding more radials to my Butternut HF9V. This time I am going to make a radial plate out of a sink strainer as per the article that appeared on eHam a few months ago. I would like to add another 25 to the existing 25 I have out there already. Some of those have gotten destroyed by dog, kids and lawn mowers over the past ten years, so adding more will definitely increase the efficiency of my Butternut.

So many things to get done; and so little time!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, September 11, 2009


It was eight years ago today. The sky was a blue as I ever remember it being. The temperatures were cool and it was the beginning of a beautiful Fall day - full of promise.

Then the world turned upside down. We were at work listening to WPLJ, a NY top 40s FM station when word came that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We were all thinking ..... Cessna. Then when we found out it was a commercial airliner, we knew right away it was no accident.

We all gathered in the conference room to turn on the TV that was there. And being a member of the local Office of Emergency Management, I distinctly remember thinking at that moment, "A lot of firefighters, police and EMTs are going to die today - may God be with them." My mind's eye pictured heroes rushing into a building directly against an opposing tide of emerging victims. And although we knew it would be a horrible aftermath, we NEVER thought the towers would come crashing down. A lot of good people died that day - in horrible ways.

We were let out of work early; as like all the rest of the nation, we were in shock. And although we're not close enough to be able to see the NY skyline from our area we were able to see the plumes of smoke rising on the eastern horizon. And eerily, there were no planes in the sky anymore, which is just about unheard of around here. EXCEPT for F-15 Strike Eagles flying CAP (combat air patrol) over the metropolitan skies - I will never, ever forget looking up in the sky over my house and seeing them.

A lot has happened since then. We have grieved and we have moved on - but we will never, ever forget the violence done on our country and our countrymen that beautiful September day.

May God continue to be with and bless America.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Congrats to two Flying Pigs

Congratulations to two of my Flying Pigs QRP Club International bretheren.

First, to Ivin Flint W9ILF for winning the QRP division of the 2009 Indiana QSO Party.

Secondly, congratulations to Dan Shepherd N8IE for winning his Division in the November Sweeps for the 6th consecutive year (QRP Phone). And Dan's run is totally amazing as QRP Phone is definitely "a hard road to toe". QRP can be tough enough during a "general" contest; but QRP Phone is really the double whammy. Dan's signal may be "small fish in a big pond" but his drive, determination and effort are Big Time!

Congratulations to both Ivin and Dan!

73 de Larry W2LJ - Flying Pig #612

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Parade pictures

I found out that the local newspaper took quite a few pictures of our Labor Day parade here in South Plainfield. Not Amateur Radio or CERT related by any means - but if you want a glimpse of my hometown on Labor Day, and the parade that I mentioned before:

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

More outdoor adventures from Jim W1PID

73 de Larry W2LJ

CERT and the parade

Every year, South Plainfield holds a parade to observe Labor Day. It has done so for more than 50 years now; and the South Plainfield CERT teams have been helping out with communications for the last five years.

Yesterday, my responsibilities involved shadowing the chief parade marshal / parade organizer making sure that information flowed in and out as needed. In addition to that, I sort of became involved as a parade marshal myself. It was kind of funny in a way, as I was placed in the area of town where the parade was being staged; and I had a clipboard and a radio. I guess people saw the radio and the clipboard and immediately assumed I was "in the know". Fortunately, the paperwork provided by the parade organizers was well thought out; and it was easy to tell people where they belonged in the parade lineup.

Instead of using a 2 Meter simplex frequency,as we have in the past, we used Middlesex County's OEM repeater which is on 440.800 MHz and is located high atop the County Building in not distant New Brunswick, NJ. We had excellent coverage using handheld transceivers; and fortunately,except for having to communicate parade lineup changes to the reviewing stand, there were no emergencies. One spectator, an older gentleman, became a little light headed and disoriented; and we were very lucky to have a unit from the Milltown Rescue Squad standing by at the marshaling area. After sitting down for a few seconds, he claimed to be feeling better and declined transport to a local medical facility.

I became a CERT member in 2004; and thank the Lord, we have had no huge emergencies in South Plainfield where our time and talents have been needed on a true emergency basis. Our involvement has mostly been in providing support during civic events. That does not mean, however, that we have not been keeping up our skills. The head of our Office of Emergency Management, Michael Zushma, keeps the teams up to date with training on such topics as sheltering, distribution of medicine and medical supplies in the event of a biological terrorist event, and even training on the "possible" H1N1 pandemic.

South Plainfield has done a fantastic job training citizen volunteers through the CERT program. I am proud to be a member of CERT and RACES for the town; and ARES for the county. It's all about giving a little back for all the enjoyment I have received from Amateur Radio throughout the years.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, September 07, 2009

Buddistick / Buddipole holders

Jamie KL7WP asked me to describe the homebrew holders that I have made for my Buddistick and my Buddipole (when I used to have one).

I have two versions; and both are quite simple to make. The first, which I have pictures of, is to be used where there is soil, like in the middle of a field, or a park where there are no picnic or other tables. It is nothing more than some PVC pipe fastened to a piece of angle iron using hose clamps.

As you can see, it's nothing fancy or elaborate. I cut the angle iron at an angle (say THAT three times fast!) at the business end in order to make a pointy tip so that it would be easier to pound into the ground. The picture above shows it laying on the patio table, to give you an idea of how easy it was to put together. I believe I used 1.5" PVC pipe. Home Depot had some 2.5' long scrap pieces and I was able to buy one.

This picture shows it pounded into the ground. When the soil is damp, that's a pretty easy task. When the soil is dry; it's a bit tougher, but a hammer does the trick. The next photo shows the setup as it looked with my homebrewed Buddipole, which I have since cannibalized as I have used the whips for other projects. (I'm going to have to build another as it worked well for me). Although in the picture it is not extended, this painter's pole extends to 12'. Anything higher than that would probably require some guying in addition to the bottom support. I haven't had a mast fall over yet, using this holder (knock wood!).

The other version, which I have made (but don't have pictures for anymore - I think I accidentally deleted them) is for use when there is no soil. This one comes in handy when you find yourself in a parking lot type of situation. This one is simple to make also; and I will do my best to describe it. You get a plank of hardwood; and it has to be hardwood (pine or other softwood will split on you). I used an oak board which was about 1.5' wide by about 3.5' long. Close to one end, you screw into place a pipe flange. Once the flange is in place, you simply attach a 2' or 3' piece of pipe. Then you drive your vehicle ONTO the opposite end of board to hold it in place - drop your Buddistick or Buddipole mast into the pipe and you're ready to start operating.

If you're fortunate enough to be in a park that has picnic tables with a hole in the middle for an umbrella - then you wouldn't need either of these holders. Drop your mast in the hole and go to town! And of course, bungee cords work well to lash a mast in place when you have a vertical support available (deck, fence post, etc).

I hope this was helpful. If anyone has any questions that I can clear up, please don't hesitate to send me an e-mail.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Playing around with the Buddistick

After reading an e-mail from Budd Drummond W3FF on the BUG (Buddipole Users Group) entitled, "Making the Buddistick Soar", I decided to do a little experimenting of my own.

This afternoon, I set up in the backyard; but instead of mounting the Buddistick to the tripod I have, I decided to get it elevated. For that, I used the 12' (approx. 4 meters) painter's pole that I had originally purchased and used with my homebrewed Buddipole.

I attached the Buddistick mounting plate to the end of the painter's pole by drilling a hole into the plastic end of the pole (where you would normally screw on the paint roller) and secured the plate using a hefty machine screw.

Basically the same as what you see above; but instead of the knurled knob, there is the machine screw. Then I assembled the rest of the Buddistick and attached the ground radial/counterpoise and extended the painter's pole to its full 12' of height.

I supported the painter's pole using the homebrewed holder that I built for my crappie pole. It worked fine. I could see that in the field that if there's some sort of post or support handy, then just bungee cording the painter's pole in place support would work just as well. For instance, I could just as easily have bungee corded the painter's pole to my deck; but decided that it was probably better to place it in the middle of they yard, farther away from the house.

When I was ready to operate, I set the K1 for 40 Meters and decided to tune the Buddistick using the K1's internal tuner. The tuner went through its gyrations for what I considered to be a long time; and when I transmitted, I could see that the power out was folding back. I knew something wasn't right; so I decided to hook up the Autek antenna analyzer.

At 7.040 MHz, I was getting an SWR of about 9:1, which was definitely not good! So I decided to go back to the drawing board and thought about the single wire radial/counterpoise that Budd includes with the Buddistick. As per the instructions, I followed the suggestion for 40 Meters and started out fully deploying the wire to its full 31 feet. This seemed as good a place to start as any; and I began to rewind the wire onto the spool it comes on. Sure enough, after winding up about 5 to 7 feet worth of wire, I could see the SWR coming down on the analyzer. All told, I think I wound up about 15 to 20 feet of wire back onto the spool and ended up with an SWR of 1.4:1. I was able to take the K1's autotuner out of line and use it that way. I was getting full power out with no signs of power fold back.

The first QSO I had was with Stan K4UK who was operating in a FISTS contest. He was using his Ten Tec Omni and a straight key from his house in Virginia and gave me a 579 report. I believe I gave him a 589; as he was pretty loud into NJ. After breaking with Stan, I worked a few stations who were operating in the TN QSO Party. The idea was to see if I was getting out and being heard; and I came to the conclusion that, "Yes", I was!

Then I switched over to 20 Meters to see if I could make any contacts there. I heard a few stations; but there wasn't much activity. I went back to 40 Meters and operated a few more before tearing everything down in order to make dinner.

Having an antenna analyzer is not absolutely crucial; but it does make life much easier when deploying antennas like these. Now that I have an idea of what I need to do next time, I probably won't use it again; but it is in the rucksack in case it is needed. It was amazing to me how the SWR literally melted away by folding the radial/counterpoise back up. I have come to believe that in the case of the elevated Buddistick; this wire isn't so much a counterpoise or radial, as much as it is the other leg of a vertically oriented dipole. So for all intent and purpose, the Buddistick (when elevated) is more of a vertical dipole than a "straight" vertical antenna.

Now what I would like to find is a painter's pole that extends to 12 feet like the one I have; but collapses to something shorter. My painter's pole collapses to 6 feet and is not easy to carry in the car. Something that would collapse to about 3 or 4 feet would be ideal.

73 de Larry W2LJ

40 Meters VERY late at night

I woke up at about 3:00 AM and was unable to fall back asleep, for whatever reason. So I decided to quietly head down to the shack to hear what I could hear. At about 0700 UTC, I was able to hear Australia VK2BJ and a ZL1 station down at the bottom of the band. Both were loud enough to make out callsigns; or partial callsigns, and that was about it.

I tried calling the VK2 station a couple of times; but there just wasn't enough oomph in my 5 Watts to make it "Down under". Forever being the optimist, though, I am thinking that if I heard them this well with no sunspots; then in a year or two, they should be easy enough to snare with 5 Watts. We have to come out of this prolonged minimum sometime; and when that time happens there will be a lot of happy QRPers.

I finished my operating session last evening with a nice QSO with Brian KB9BVN. I have known Brian for a few years now through the Flying Pigs and have worked him several times before. We also trade e-mails from time to time; and I consider him a good friend. He had an exceptionally fine signal into NJ last night; and we were able to enjoy somewhat of a rag chew for about 20 minutes or so.

When you hook up with a good friend on the air and are able to have a nice chat - these are the "magic" moments of Ham Radio.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A week later, I did bag #95

I snagged my 95th DXCC entity tonight using QRP; and it was NOT the station in Sardinia that I had heard last Saturday night. This station was a lot closer to home in the Caribbean, St. Martin to be exact.

Twiddling around 40 Meters, I heard and worked FS/W6IZT who is vacationing (I would imagine) on the island of St. Martin. I checked out Gregg's home call on QRZ; and from the looks of the picture he has posted, he likes to take his K2/100 on vacation with him. His QRZ photo shows him operating from Maui on a previous Hawaiian vacation, with a nice portable station (K2, computer and key).

Other than Gregg, I did not hear anything "new" DX-wise on 40 meters tonight. I heard some German, Hungarian and Polish stations; as well as CO6RD from Cuba. I tried working SNØPL, who was quite loud; but no dice. I've worked Poland many, many times QRP so it was not a big disappointment. However, since Poland is the homeland of my ancestors, I always like to work Polish stations whenever I hear them.

Going through the blogroll today, I enjoyed K3NG's post about MFJ. I agree with him that they are pretty much maligned. I know that not every product that they offer is always 100% perfect; but I always bristle at the "Mighty Fine Junk" moniker. Hey, they must be doing a good job filling the niche that Woody describes; as Martin Jue was elected into the QRP Hall of Fame this past May at FDIM.

Today was a beautiful day in Central New Jersey with blue skies and high temps around 83 degrees. Tomorrow promises more of the same in store, with temperatures just a little bit cooler. I am hoping to set up the K1 and the Buddistick for a bit in the backyard for a little while tomorrow afternoon for a little outdoor QRPing. Also, W3BBO reminded me that later this month is QRP Afield, which will probably be the last big outdoor QRP event this year. My goal tomorrow would to get the Buddistick elevated on a painter's pole to diminish any ground losses and see if I can notice any difference from when I use it on its tripod.

Monday night is a big QRP Sprint night if you are so inclined. The monthly ARS SpartanSprint is Monday night; and I believe that the Michigan QRP Club Labor Day Sprint is also Monday night. I will not be participating as Labor Day is the big Summer event here in South Plainfield. We host one of the two Labor Days parades that are held in New Jersey. That takes place in the morning; and I will be up at the crack of dawn, assisting my CERT team in providing Amateur Radio communications. There are parties and barbecues being held throughout the day; and at dusk is our town's yearly fireworks display. The family and I will be watching that from the Sacred Heart School grounds. That will be proceeded by a big cookout which will begin at 5;00 PM.

The weather promises to be beautiful the next two days - the perfect way to "end" Summer.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Probable double skunk

In tonight's 20 Meter QRP Foxhunt, which is the last for the 2009 Summer season.

I heard Dick N5KIP work both the upper and lower Fox, so I have a fairly good idea of where to listen. And I'm not hearin' nuthin', except for Dick who in Louisiana was ear splitting loud into New Jersey!

Anyway, I will listen for the next hour or so until the hunt is over; but I've been doing this long enough now to know that it will probably be futile tonight. BUT, I'm still hoping for the best, nonetheless.

Tonight's Foxes are Tom AC7A in Arizona and Jeff VE1ZAC in Nove Scotia. The way 20 Meters has been this Summer, I don't really expect to even hear Jeff; but I do have some expectations of hearing Tom.

Fingers are crossed!

73 de Larry W2LJ

PostScript: At 0140 UTC someone in the neighborhood turned something on; and the noise level went from moderate to 10 over 9, thus ending the hunt for W2LJ for the night. Which is just as well, I guess, as I am exhausted and almost nodded off twiddling the tuning dial on the K2.