Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SDR Cube in action

George Heron has made a couple of Flip videos of his new SDR Cube in action.  The URL link is way long; so if you want to see them - click here.

There are six video segments for you viewing pleasure.  Looks like a neat little radio.  I was looking at the circuit boards and see that they are all SMD.  To get that much radio squeezed into such a small package, it's no wonder!  And there are times I think my K2 is too small!  As a Ham who has been around a while, I guess that I am too used to my radios being big and having a lot of knobs.  But this definitely looks like a lot of fun.

I had a nice QSO tonight with Jerry N1QLL on 40 Meters.  The band was nice and quiet without any local neighborhood QRN.  Jerry lives in a small lobstering and fishing village on the coast of Maine.  I've had the good fortune to have visited Maine twice in my lifetime.  It truly is a beautiful state!  I visited Bangor once and Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park another time.  That was back in my Novice days; shortly after being licensed. Back in those days, I was into photography as a career, and  I have some really nice medium format transparencies of my visits.  None of mine are as nice as the photo below:

Jerry was using a Ten Tec Omni 6 to a Windom for our QSO; but he's about halfway done building his own K2.  He wants to use if for camping, activating light houses and that sort of thing.  I wished him good luck with the rest of the build and commented that my K2 is now six years old!  It's hard to believe that I've had it for so long.  Seems like just yesterday that I finished it and had that first QSO.

I also worked  Jose EA7LS who is operating portable in the Dominican Republic.  For whatever reason the G5RV wasn't doing it for this QSO; so I switched to the Butternut to get HI7/EA7LS into the log.  It's nice to be fortunate enough to have two outdoor antennas to choose from depending on conditions. Whenever I get frustrated that my antennas aren't doing the job for me; I just remind myself of my Ham brothers who are restricted to using REALLY compromise antennas; and I am very thankful for what I have.  All a matter of perspective, I guess.

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New catalog

If you make a comment on a post; and it takes a bit of time for me to approve it and for it to show up, I apologize for the delay.  Now that my netbook went south, my time on the "family" computer is limited at best.  When I get the chance, I sneak down to the shack and use my laptop - like I'm doing right now.

I received a catalog in the mail yesterday from a source I had never heard of before, Marlin P. Jones and Assoc. Inc.  It's almost like a Harbor Freight but for electronics stuff.  They have a Web presence:, so if you want to, you can check them out for yourselves.

The stuff in the catalog is interesting and the prices seem to be as reasonable as anywhere else.  They have a ton of things like magnifiers and building tools.  I could go through this catalog all day long and just plan purchases!  I am sure that if I had free reign, I would deplete my money supply quite handily.  It's just like Homer Simpson says, "Why do things have to cost money?"  There's a ton of stuff in this catalog that I would love to have.  Rummaging through this catalog also reminded me of my days as a teenager, when I would sit for hours eying up all the goodies available in the Edmund Scientific catalog.  What does that tell you about me?  Nope, no "Car & Driver" or "Motor Trend' for me.  I spent my teen years concentrating more on telescopes than hot rods.

We've had two straight days of rain here in Central NJ.  There was also another tornado watch issued for today; but fortunately, nothing came of it.  I thought the rain would cool things down; but it has been very muggy,  soggy and sauna like.  I am hoping that the weekend will bring good weather so that I can either lay more radials down for the HF9V or perhaps start construction of my 160 Meter vertical.

Today on QRP-L, I saw that George Heron N2APB, the lead behind the NJQRP club is introducing a new product called the SDR Cube which he describes as a "Stand alone SDR transceiver ..... no PC, portable, compact".  For a look you can go to his "Coming soon" site.

An interesting thing about looking at blog stats, before I turn in for the night ......   That post I made about the Ten Tec Eagle the other day, led me to an all time high for "hits" for a single day.  505 people came over and read that post!  I don't believe I've ever come anywhere near that mark before for a single day; and it sure as heck surprised me.

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

Monday, September 27, 2010

So you want a Vanity Call ?

A few folks have contacted me privately, asking for a "Plain Speaking" approach to applying for a Vanity Callsign.  I will do my best to do justice to that effort here.

First off, this is serious business as far as Hamdom goes.  If you're a relatively new licensee, then it's not so bad.  But if you have had your call for a lot of years, your callsign is like your second name.  Not only will it be confusing to your friends for a while; but you'll have to get new QSL cards and any personalized station accessories that you have will become obsolete once you have your new call.  Also, awards that you have earned - keep those in mind.  Let's just say that except for WAS and WAC, which I still have from my N2ELW days - all my awards (DXCC, 1K MPW, DXCC Millennium, etc) have been applied for and received AFTER changing over to W2LJ.  If you're a regular reader of this blog, you also know that I re-did WAS as W2LJ; but the second time it was more for the fact of doing it via QRP and CW rather than because of the callsign on the award.

And like I mentioned about the second name thing ....... among close friends and while I was an officer in the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club, I was often known by and referred to as "ELW".  That all changes when you go for a Vanity callsign.  I'm not trying to dissuade anyone - just be sure it's something that you really want to do.

Once you've decided to take the plunge, you have to make sure the callsign you are interested in is available.  In order to find that out, I recommend going to the NM4C Vanity Call HQ Website.  That is where I found out that W2LJ was available.  It wasn't my first choice (ideally) as I really wanted something with LM as a suffix - my initials.  There were no callsigns in the 2 district left with those letters, so I settled for LJ - my first two initials.  I could have gone with another call district to have achieved my first preference; but there's enough of the purist in me that made me decide I did not want to lose the number "2" in my call. YMMV.

Keep in mind that when you apply for a Vanity Call, you can supply up to 25 choices.  The more you supply, the better your chances are that you will be granted a new call.  If you only supply one or two or even three choices; and it turns out that none are available, you still have to pay the Vanity filing fee.  No refunds, so the more the merrier.

To actually file for a call, the easiest way is to go online.  Mosey on over to the FCC's ULS (Universal Licensing System) Website - which can be found here -
You will need your FRN number, which now appears on the bottom of your license; and your password.  When you received your license, you also should have received a letter from the FCC telling you what the password for your FRN is.  If you lost the letter; or plain just don't remember, there is a hyperlink which will allow you to reset your password.

Once you've logged in, it will take you to the "My Licenses" page.  All the way over to the right, there is a hyperlink to "Request a Vanity Callsign". This will take you to a page where you have to answer two simple questions about fees - asking you if you are exempt from FCC licensing and regulatory fees.  For the basic "Joe Ham" both answers are "No".

When you hit the "Continue" button, you will be taken to a page asking about your eligibility with regards to your request.  You make one of three choices here - first is if you are trying to request an old call sign you previously held as your new Vanity call (more about this later).  The second is if you are requesting the call of a deceased relative.  The third choice,  labeled "Primary Station Preference List" is the one most people check off.

When you hit "Continue", this brings you to the "meat of the business" page.  This is where you list your (up to) 25 choices for your new call.  Like I said before, the more options that you present to the FCC, the higher likelihood that you will receive a Vanity call.  If you list only one or two choices and someone has beat you to both - then unfortunately, you're going to be out the $13.30 that you get to pay for the privilege of filing for a Vanity call.

Once you submit your choices, there are only a few more steps, including paying the fee, which can also be done online through a secure, encrypted connection.  Make sure to print out copies of your application and payment fee when you are asked if you want to.  It never hurts to have records of your transaction should the need arise for them later.

Then comes the hardest part - sitting back and waiting.  Ideally, you should have your new callsign within a week. get updates from the FCC everyday, I believe - so once 5 or 6 business days have passed after you have filed - do a search on your name in QRZ.  If your request has been granted, you will find out fairly quickly.  If it is denied, you will get a letter from the FCC telling you so.

That happened to me back in the mid-90s, when I first requested a Vanity call. I had requested either WL2M, or KL2M.  All the 1X2 and 2X1 calls with L&M had been taken in the Second Call District.  I found out the hard way that the calls with an "L" in the prefix are restricted to residents of Alaska.  I thought that wouldn't be the case, as I knew of Hams with Alaskan calls that moved to the lower 48 - and they weren't required to change. Also there are tons of Hams who have calls outside their districts (as I mentioned before) so I thought the WL calls were fair game.  They are not.  Calls with KL, WL, NL, KH, WH, NH, WP, KP, NP are still sacrosanct to Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  I think I still have the letter from the FCC telling me this, kicking around somewhere. As an aside, I was so miffed with the refusal; and the fact that I lost the money, that I didn't file for a Vanity call again until the year 2000, when I received W2LJ, my present call

Lastly, if you get your Vanity call and decide that you absolutely hate it, have no fear - there is a cure.  You can through the process again; and you can file to get your old call back - as a Vanity call!  You will now have the privilege of paying for it every ten years when you renew your license.  So be careful!

I hope this was simple enough for everyone to understand.  Like I have posted before, the process is pretty easy and there is absolutely NO reason in the world why you should pay someone to do it for you.

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

Saturday, September 25, 2010

New Rig from TenTec

When I first saw this on the K1TP Website, I first thought, "Cool! A replacement for the Argo!".  But no, this is not a new QRP rig.  Although the low end will put you at 5 Watts, this radio will put out 100 Watts.  To see the brochure, you can click here

It is a nice looking rig, though.  And if the price is right, maybe I wouldn't mind having a little QRO power around for times when QRP just can't get the job done.  I always have wanted a Ten Tec radio!

Some interesting things that I have noticed.  The DC Input connection is Andersen Power Pole type.  I think that's the first time I've ever seen that.  Up until now, I've kind of resisted the entire power pole concept, preferring to "roll my own" as it were.

AM and FM modes are "optional" and not built in, which is kind of weird these days as far as radios made by the "Big Guns" goes.

The Eagle comes with a USB port (sign o' the times) and you can adjust the display color to whatever color and intensity that your little heart would desire.

The brochure states that the radio is suitable for portable use; but the RX Current drain is 1.25 Amps - Ouch!

Still intriguing however as another base rig.  Something else to buy lottery tickets for!

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

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vanity Call

OK, so we've had KC2ZDH for two days now.

I applied for a Vanity Call for the club.  Something a little more appropriate, incorporating the town's intials -
S & P.

Again, even though I renewed my own license earlier this year, I am still amazed at just how easy it is to renew an Amateur Radio license or apply for a Vanity Call using the FCC's website!  Why anyone would choose to throw money away by having a certain third party do the filing for them is beyond me.

If you want to do it; but are intimidated by the FCC website, send me an e-mail.  I will explain it the best I can and I'll save you the $7.  You can use that to buy some transistors or something!

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010


There was an envelope from the FCC waiting for me when I got home from work today.  Inside was a letter containing my PIN and password for the FRN number for the new callsign for the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club.  But of course, nowhere was there a mention of what the callsign was.

A quick trip to and a search on "South Plainfield" let me know that our new callsign is KC2ZDH.  Not exactly the most "sexiest" looking callsign; but if you send it out in Morse Code, it has a nice rhythm to it!  In fact, I think that if we ever held a special event as a Club, I could get used to sending it.  Maybe not saying it; but definitely sending it.

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club (SPARC - I like that!) is a fledgling organization.  It is loosely built around the various RACES / ARES / OEM personnel who are also Amateur Radio ops.  As we gain more structure and formality, I am sure we will open up membership to anyone from town and the surrounding areas who would care to join.

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


It's definitely not often that you hear a CQ from a station with a callsign like that!  But that was the case tonight on 30 Meters.  Around 23:40 UTC, I heard H74LEON calling CQ on 10.110 MHz.

Not knowing exactly where or what this station was, I jumped into the fray, anyway.  At 23:42 UTC, I made it into the logbook.  30 Meters doesn't play so well on the G5RV; so I made this QSO using the Butternut HF9V vertical.

OK, so now I'm in the log - time to investigate exactly who it was that I worked.  It turns out that H74LEON is a special event station in Leon, Nicaragua, set up the commemorate the 400th anniversary of the relocation of the city.  Yes, that's right - the total relocation of the city!

It seems that Leon was originally founded in the year 1524 by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba.  The city was relocated about 20 miles to the west after it was severely damaged by flooding from Lake Managua.  The flooding was the result of an eruption of the Momotomba volcano in 1610.

Throughout my Ham career, I have always loved chasing special event stations.  Anymore, it's not all that common to run into a special event station that is making use of CW.  This was a nice surprise.

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

Monday, September 20, 2010

They can't all be 599

nor should they be!

As a QRPer, there have been many times when a QSO has gone very well until I mentioned my output power.  Then all of a sudden, I become very difficult copy and the QSO comes to an abrupt halt as I have gone from 599 to 339 in a mere matter of seconds.  I am sure that this is legit, sometimes, as we've all had QSOs abruptly close like that due to changing band conditions.  But other times, I think it's psychological.

If you work stations that are only 599 and never weaker than that, you are going to miss a world of good contacts.  I got on 40 Meters tonight and started calling CQ without much luck.  I took a break for a bit and heard a less than optimal signal calling CQ.  The station was K2HYD/1 in Maine.

As it turns out, Ray K2YHD and I have QSOed several times before; but mostly in QRP Sprints.  Tonight we had a nice ragchew.  Ray is up in Maine doing some work in a state park, helping the park Rangers.  He was in his tent, using his KX1 and was sending out a 4 Watts signal out to a wire antenna up in the trees.  Ray was 559 with some QSB at times; but between the K2's filters and the gray filter between the ears, I was able to get 99 & 44/100th's % of what Ray was sending.  By the way, another "trick" I use is to make judicious use of the RIT knob to bring the CW pitch to a tone these tired ears can handle better.  I lost a lot of high end hearing as a result of photographing concerts back in a younger lifetime and different line of work.  Ear protection wasn't thought of back then like it is today.

But I digress.

If I hadn't bothered answering Ray because his signal wasn't blowing me out of the water, I would have missed out on a wonderful QSO.  Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper for those gems, you know?  And when you do, you will have found how worthwhile the effort was!

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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

QRP Afield and other stuff

As expected, I didn't get enough free time to head out to the park and set up a proper QRP Afield station.  So I did the next best thing.  I sneaked down into the shack for about an hour and became a CPG (contest point giver) as my friend and fellow blogger Kelly K4UPG would term it.  In that time, I worked five QRP Afield stations of which Kelly K4UPG was one!  It seems all I was hearing was the Southeast, as all the stations that  I worked were from Florida or Tennessee.  Kelly was a solid 559 into New Jersey which "ain't bad" on 2 Watts!

I heard some folks calling WB3AAL, Ron who was out on the Appalachian Trail, working portable.  The weather was ideal to be outside - partly cloudy and cool with a high temp of 71F (21C).  And the solar conditions looked decent today, too.  I hope all of you who participated in a big way had a great time.

The visit to my doctor this morning did clear some things up and answered some questions and doubts that I had.  After speaking with him, we ended up agreeing that I will call a surgeon on Monday.  The cause of my hypercalcemia is an overactive parathyroid.  The question is now which one(s) of the four?  The surgeon that I will be calling has a lot of experience in endocrinology related surgeries; so he might have a good idea based on his experience, despite the inconclusiveness of the scan.

End result?  Remove the overactive gland and my blood calcium level should return to normal. Goodbye to future kidney stones and osteoporosis.

BTW, I never posted the last of my nine First Day Covers.  This is it, it's the same one that was posted on K2DSL's blog which inspired me to post all of these.

This one every nicely sums up the entire reason for honoring Amateur Radio ops with the stamp - "During the Alaskan disaster, Ham shortwave radio operators worked around the clock transmitting and receiving vital messages".

That is what public service is all about.  And it's nice to know that if we are needed, we will be there and we will be ready.  The record speaks for itself.

Lastly - I just read where the National Weather Service officially confirmed that it was TWO tornadoes that wreaked havoc in New York City this past Thursday night.  These two tornadoes were the 9th and 10th to hit the city since 1950; and in addition to these, there was a macroburst (which was what I was thinking) that caused damage along a swath of real estate that was 8 miles long and 2 miles wide.  Talk about a wild and woolly storm!

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

Is this where things are going?

Today's "Rhymes with Orange" by Hilary Price.

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

Friday, September 17, 2010

Busy weekend coming up

and I doubt that I will find the time to participate in QRP Afield.

I have to go see my doctor tomorrow.  I received a telephone call from my endocrinologist last night; and he's advising me to have surgery to remove two or three of my four parathyroid glands.  Personally, I am still not convinced and I am going to speak with my primary physician about it tomorrow morning.  I trust him; and if he feels that it's in my best interest, I will probably make an appointment to see a surgeon.

After that, there will be grocery shopping, taking Cara to a birthday party and visiting my Mom in the afternoon.  While I'd prefer to defer some of those activities until Sunday, I can't as our church is holding its annual "Parish Picnic"; and I am one of the organizers of the festivities.

So the chances of hitting the park for QRP Afield are "slim and none, and slim left town" right about now.  All of you who have some time and get the chance to operate - have a great time!

RFTB is Sunday night, however.  If I am not too pooped from picnic duty, you just might be able to hear W2LJ playing around in the Sprint.

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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nasty weather

A little bit before I left from work, I heard some hard rain and some loud thunder.  This was pretty significant, as my office is in a warehouse kind of environment where there are no windows; and the ceiling is very high.  To hear the rain pelt against the roof meant that it was raining very, very hard.

A thin line of severe thunderstorms passed through the area in under 45 minutes.  By the time I got to my car, it was still cloudy, but had stopped raining.  Off to the east, I could see the dark, ominous looking clouds and numerous cloud to ground lightning strikes.

Once I got moving, I tuned the VHF/UHF radio immediately to the Middlesex County SkyWarn net on the K2GE, Sayreville repeater.  While Middlesex County was beginning to be hit hard, I advised the net that the action was already over in Somerset County (where I work) and that it wouldn't last long in Middlesex County.

Reports started coming in of some places receiving quarter sized hail and winds in the 40+ mph hour range, along with rainfall rates approaching 2 - 3 inches per hour.  As bad as that was, it seems that the NYC boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens bore the worst of it.  A funnel cloud was reported; and while it has not been confirmed as a tornado (as of yet), the resulting damage was plenty.  It could have been a macroburst as I heard reports on some of the NYC area repeaters of tree limbs ripping through buses; and people being dug out from under piles of falling debris.  There was also an unverified report of a man being killed by a tree falling on top of his car.

I'll have to make a point to watch the 11:00 news tonight to see just how bad NYC was hit.

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

As announced on QRP-L (and other QRP lists) last night

QRP ARCI is pleased to announce their sponsorship of the Iowa High Altitude Balloon (iHAB) project. This sponsorship is for the second launch by iHAB. This launch will provide improvements over their first launch to include better APRS tracking, an improved 20 meter beacon and better camera clarity.

The launch is scheduled for October 2, 2010 at 14:00Z (9AM CDT) from the Ottumwa Industrial Airport (OTM) IHCC North Campus Aviation Building. Preflight will begin at 13:00Z (8AM CDT). Should weather prevent the launch, the fall back date will be Saturday, October 9, 2010 at the same times.

The QRP Beacon (1.6 watts) will be on 14.059.0 MHz signing (the QRP ARCI Club call sign) "K6JSS iHAB 2"

Please go to for more information on the flight and special recognition for reception reports.

Ken Evans, W4DU
President QRP ARCI

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Day Cover #7 and #8

These two feature Mercury - the Greek god, not the planet. The top one has some buildings, with what seems to be radio waves emanating from the top of one of the buildings.  The bottom one features Mercury against a backdrop of the globe.  However, this second one is more in tune with the public service theme.  While the League is certainly mentioned, the main theme seems to be about "Services Rendered".  Very nice.

I wonder if Amateur Radio will rate a stamp on the 100th anniversary of the ARRL in three years.  Whose ear should we put a bug into about that?

I suppose most of you by now have seen that tower climbing video that was on YouTube.  It seems to have been yanked from a lot of sites due to a copyright issue.  But if you search for it, you can still find it.  I am NOT fond of heights and I can get the sweats while climbing an extension ladder.  I fell off a ladder when I was eight years old, and while all that happened was getting the wind knocked out of me, I still have major problems with precarious heights to this day.  Being at the top of tall buildings or being in an airplane doesn't bother me.  But being on top of a ladder or on a roof, where I know that it's easy to fall, I have a lot of difficulty.  Watching these guys climb that tower was making my stomach start to feel just a bit queasy.  You have to know that if I had a Ham radio tower, that it would be a crank over!

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Day Cover #6 and something else

Here is Number Six:

This one features a headset.  I haven't seen this variety in a long, long time.  These remind me of the headsets we used to use for Morse Code testing back when I was a VE with the Raritan Bay Radio Amateurs in Sayreville, NJ.  But even those had two ear pieces.

This upcoming Saturday is the last big outdoor QRP event for the year - QRP Afield, which is sponsored by the New England QRP Club, of which I am member # 650.  For the rules, just click on the URL:

I am not quite sure what Saturday is going to entail.  I need to get over and visit my Mom for a bit in the morning; and I just found out that Cara has a birthday party to attend on Saturday afternoon. So maybe, just MAYBE, I can sneak over to the park on Saturday afternoon with Joey.  He can keep himself occupied with his Nintendo DSI if he gets bored watching me.  Hope to take the wrist rocket, wire, PFR3A, Fuchs tuner and enjoy an hour or so?   XXXXX - that's my fingers being crossed!  As of right now, Saturday is forecast to be sunny with a high of 76F (24 C).

Speaking of outdoor QRP events, here's a video I found on YouTube from KC2OZM.  It is from FOBB 2010.  KC2OZM doesn't live all that far from me, the same NY Metropolitan area; and from his video, it looks like we shared the same weather that day.  I sure hope this Saturday will be better!

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

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Holey Moley

I was directed to this site by Mike VE3WDM's blog.

The knobs are BEAUTIFUL, without a doubt - but you can buy an entire SW+ Series kit from Dave Bensen at Small Wonder Labs for less than the price of just one of these babies!

The embedded video sure does a good job of demonstrating how superb these are. But if I start buying stuff like this there is NO WAY that I will ever be able to afford a K3, much less buy after market knobs for it.

However, for those of you who can afford them; go for it and more power to you!

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

When that winning lottery ticket becomes a reality!

Video courtesy of Alan N5NA (ex WB5GVE)

On another note, I did manage to get some "On Air" time this weekend.  Not much, just a little.  17 Meters was open Saturday afternoon and I worked Oscar EA1DR.  Be sure to check out Oscar's QRZ page.  With the antenna set up that he has, I think he could have heard me if I had been using 500 mW to a wet noodle!  To say that Oscar has an impressive antenna farm is an understatement.  I wish that there had been more activity on 17 Meters.  I really like that band; and whenever 20 Meters is decently open, I always go up to 17 Meters with fingers crossed.

This afternoon, 20 Meters seemed open; but once again, I was plagued by that very intermittent, but severe neighborhood QRN.  I heard some 599 stations; but the noise was beginning to give me a headache, so I went down to 40 Meters. It was like a breath of fresh air, there!  I called CQ and on the first over, I got a call from Rick VE3MG in St. Mary's, Ontario.  Rick and I had a pleasant QSO. He was using his Yaesu FT950 at 100 Watts to his centerfed Zepp, while I was on the K2 and the G5RV.  Seems we're both CW aficionados as neither of us have microphones attached to any of our HF rigs!

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

First Day Cover #5

This First Day Cover is really different from all the others. Attached to the envelope is a thick metal foil stamp.

It's probably hard to tell from the scan; but it is gold color on black foil.  There are two satellites in the background, as well as a tower, with what I am presuming is supposed to be some kind of Yagi at the top.  The operator is using an ElectroVoice microphone and this is mentioned at the bottom.

Strange thing is there's only one stamp on the envelope; but from the feel of it, I would guess we're talking more than one ounce as the foil stamp is pretty hefty.  I would think that in reality, the Post Office would require two stamps, minimum.

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

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Prayers are a good thing on a day like today.


Larry W2LJ

September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001 - We will NEVER forget!


Envy - that's what it is, envy, pure and simple.  One of the Seven Deadly Sins that I am guilty of. I freely admit it and ask for forgiveness!

What am I envious of?  Two things and you can find the answer right here:

A)  What a beautiful place to operate from!  I would have to go quite a few miles to get away from the crowded New Jersey suburban sprawl to find a place that compares to this.  Somewhere along the Delaware/Raritan canal perhaps, or somewhere up in Northwest New Jersey.  I still wouldn't be able to duplicate Jim's height above sea level, though.

B)  The other thing I am envious of is this one line from Jim's recounting of his outing: "I threw a water bottle over a branch about 45 feet."  WOW!  Does anyone have the e-mail address for the Boston Red Sox?  We have got to tell them about Jim, because that's some accomplishment as far as I'm concerned.  I must be a weakling ..... my best toss was about 35 feet or so.   Throwing a ball in a normal situation is not a problem for me. But throwing UP and into a tree ? .......  that's why I built the slingshot thingy that I posted about earlier this week.

In all seriousness though, even though this post was made as a bit "tongue in cheek", Jim really is quite the outdoorsman and has a beautiful environment from which to operate.  Maybe someday, I'll be able to retire, move away from this area and find someplace similar.  One can always dream!

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

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's going on?

As I type this, I am down in the shack and am on 40 Meters.   I just finished up a nice little ragchew session with Dan KB6NU - Amateur Radio friend and fellow blogger.

I am tuning around on 40 Meters and am hearing all kinds of (pardon my expression) crap!

So far,  I have come across a guy who is calling CQ so fast, that he can't even send his own call sign correctly and without errors.  What's up with that?  I know we all have days when our fists aren't quite right; but when you can't get your own call right, I think it's time to QRS. And on a further note, whatever happened to "Accuracy transcends speed"?  I guess he doesn't belong to FISTS.

In another instance, I am listening to two guys shoot the breeze and I am hearing "WB2XXX N9XYZ" for the changeover. Did we agree to stop using the "DE"?  Did I miss something?  Was there some new general announcement about CW protocol that passed me by?  I mean, really long does it take to send "DE"?  For me at least, that's a timing mechanism between the two calls.  I don't hear the "DE" and it kind of becomes a mish-mash for me.

Sorry ...... guess I fell into Curmudgeon Mode for a bit.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least! (And please send it accurately!)

Movie night

I caught this on YouTube today.  Even though it's from 1937 and the technology has changed, the basics still remain the same. This might be something that could be shown on the very first night/session of a Technician license class? Or maybe perhaps to a Scout troop or something like that.

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

First Day Cover #4

Here is Number Four:

This is the last of the engraved covers. I am guessing that the artwork is representing an Amateur Radio station from circa 1914, when the League was founded.

The rest of the Covers, which I will continue to post over the next few days, are not as nice as these engraved covers. The artwork is simpler and the Covers don't have that "elegant" look to them.

Posting all these brings to mind that in less than four years, it will be the ARRL's 100th anniversary. I'd be willing to lay money on the odds that things are already in the planning phase. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a certificate offered for "100th Anniversary DXCC", along the lines of DXCC Millennium.

Maybe by then, the sunspots will really get the bands hopping ?!?

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

Thursday, September 09, 2010

First Day Cover #3

Number three in my series:

This one features a 60s era mobile set up, a 60s era home station and a thin pencil type microphone.

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

Mosques, Korans and insanity

This is going to be a non Ham related, political rant - so if you're turned off by that kind of thing, you'd better leave now.

I just heard on the local breaking news that the pastor in Florida, who was planning the Koran burning on the anniversary of 9/11 has called off the event.  It's nice to see that common sense prevailed.  There is NO reason whatsoever on God's good green earth to burn another religion's sacred scripture - even if you totally disagree with that religion.

That being said ...... there was no reason for these idiots to do this in Pakistan today:

Of course, the American flag just HAD to be burned even before even one atom of wood cellulose from one page of a Koran had been treated to the same fate!  They just couldn't wait to see what happened on Saturday and THEN vent their frustrations if they had to?  Arggghhhhh !

Then this mosque issue in New York City.  You know, really ..... build your mosque anywhere you darn well please.  But, by the same token, the backers of this project couldn't have shown a LITTLE sensitivity and planned to build it a bit farther away from where the World Trade Center stood?  How about a showing of good will and compromise from their side?  I wonder what kind of response a Westerner would get if they decided to try and build a church near Mecca.  Oh yeah, I'm sorry ..... they'd probably be whipped or stoned to death; or better yet, beheaded!

Not to mention that the funding for this Cordoba project has very shady and questionable origins. But we won't go there as it's not politically correct. Even the name of the project is suspect if you do a little research into it.  My gut is telling me something here; but I'm not the one who makes the calls.

I can understand why folks in America are just a bit on the short side of being understanding in this mosque issue.  It wasn't only the Twin Towers, it was also the Pentagon, Shanksville, PA and the USS Cole (where our beloved POTUS will not even allow the prosecution of the perpetrators, now!) and the Marine barracks in Lebanon.  It was our embassies being blown up and the first WTC attack and many other things which just stick in the craw of your everyday Joe In The Street.

But no, we're supposed to look the other way, turn the other cheek and forget all that stuff.  You can only turn the other cheek for so long before things get nasty.  I'm not saying I condone any sort of retaliation - not for one second.  But I can understand the emotion behind wanting to.

And that's exactly why Christians are called to turn away from the sin of Adam and do EXACTLY just that, to be forgiving, to put that human weakness aside ... no matter how hard it is.  It's a heavy cross to bear. I pray we're strong enough to bear it.

Larry  W2LJ

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Antenna line launcher

So here's the deal ..... pictures of the "new" homebrewed W2LJ antenna line launcher.  No new idea, no new technology, no new radical concepts.  Based on the same concept as that well known brand that is seen in all the popular Ham radio publications at a fraction of the price.  THAT is the only advantage!  Plus, if I can do this, YOU can do this.  When it comes to stuff like this, sometimes I am all ten thumbs and all of them left thumbs to boot!

The materials are: 1) Cheapie slingshot acquired from eBay 2) A 99 cent tent peg from Target or Wal-Mart, can't remember exactly which one 3) Fishing reel that used to belong to my father-in-law 4) Two hose clamps 5) Some 1/4 X 3/4" long screws, nuts and star lock washers.

As you can see from the photo, I made about a 3/4" notch into the tent peg.  Directly above the notch, I drilled a 1/4" diameter hole through the plastic.  I also drilled a 1/4" hole in the bottom of the slingshot; and then opened it up and inserted one of the screws and secured it with a star washer.

I reassembled the slingshot and then placed the screw through the hole that I had previously drilled through the tent peg. I secured the slingshot in place with another star washer and a nut.  After tightening the nut with a wrench, it became apparent that the lock washers are really holding everything in place as I can't easily rotate the slingshot on the tent peg platform.  It is there to stay unless I disassemble everything.

The fishing reel is held in place with two hose clamps.  I have attached a 1 ounce fishing sinker to the monofilament line; but I really have to buy some fluorescent paint and do up a bunch of sinkers.  If they are brilliant orange or yellow or even pink, they will be easier to spot in the tree; or in the grass where they would land in the field.

I took this contraption out to my backyard, to the tree which supports the center portion of my G5RV.  With only about 50% tension on the slingshot, I easily (and I mean EASILY) cleared my 40 foot tall maple tree.  I can see where full pull back on the slingshot elastic will allow an easy 50 - 60 foot shot.  Plenty high for one of my doublets or the wire for the Fuchs tuner.  I didn't want to go full throttle in my backyard as I didn't need the fishing weight making a rude entrance through a neighbor's window.

So what was the cost?

Slingshot from eBay - $5.00 (with shipping)
Tent peg - $0.99
Hardware (screws, nuts, lock washers) - $2.00 as I had to buy packets
Hose clamps - $3.00 (for two)
Fishing reel and sinkers - in my case free, as they were my father-in-law's.  I can imagine that you can find a suitable reel, line and sinkers at Wal-Mart or someplace like that without breaking the bank.

I'm sure I will need some practice with this, to get a good feel for it; and to get the hang of placing the line just so.  But I do know this is going to make the job of getting a doublet or end fed wire elevated all that much easier.  It's small enough to fit into my antenna knapsack; and I look forward to having even more outdoor QRP fun in the future.

This weekend, I am definitely going to tackle some of those 60 foot trees in the local park that eluded my antenna line efforts last weekend.

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

First Day Cover #2

As promised ........

Again, you can click on the image to make it bigger and see more detail.

This cover features an illustration of a Ham actively working his station. And from the caption, it seems like things have not changed much.  Back then, as now, we are constantly reminding the general public that we are there when "stuff" hits the fan.  Not merely a bunch of odd looking geeks involved in an esoteric hobby that no one quite understands.

I would imagine that back then, in 1964, our predecessors were also engaged in a constant PR battle to make the general public aware that "we" were not always the source of their TVI problems.  With satellite and cable, we have the advantage today, although problems do still crop up from time to time.

On another note, I have finished my homebrew antenna launcher.  Not anything brilliantly new or innovative - just my version.  I will try to post some pictures later tonight after I get home from the Raritan Valley Radio Club meeting.

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

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Amateur Radio Stamp - First Day Covers

Those of you who use my blog as a jumping off point for other Ham Radio blogs may have seen Dave K2DSL's post yesterday about the First Day cover of the 1964 postage stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of the ARRL.  The stamp was commissioned by the Post Office not only to celebrate the the League's milestone anniversary, but to also honor all the volunteer man hours unselfishly rendered by brave Amateur Radio ops who provided communications (sometimes the only communications) for many areas after  "The Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964" - hence the cancellation mark of Anchorage, Alaska.

Over the years, I have found and acquired nine different versions of that First Day cover.  I owe that in large part to my Dad and my maternal grandfather who were both into stamp collecting.  They passed on to me not only parts of their collections; but a passing interest in philately as well.  I don't currently collect stamps with any great fervor; but I do like to look at what I have; and I'm always on the lookout for stamps related to the space program or Amateur Radio.

I am not going to post all nine First Day covers that I own all at once; but will space them out and will post one every night or so for the next week or so. You've seen the one Dave posted with the two young Hams and their Elmer.  I have that one also; and will post that last.

You can click on the image for a closer view.

This first one features Hiram Percy Maxim, the co-founder of the League; and its first president.  This First Day cover also features an engraving of the then new ARRL headquarters building.

I do believe that there may be one or two more versions of this First Day cover out there.  I haven't been successful in finding them - so far.  I have always had it in the back of my mind to have these mounted and framed in one big display for the shack wall.  Yet another project for someday!

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

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day Parade

I managed to get up at what is sometimes referred to as "Oh Dark Thirty" or Half Past Dark (actually 5:00 AM local time) to get ready to head over to the Emergency Management Office to help with this year's Labor Day parade.  A shocking foretaste of Autumn was in the air as it was only 49F (9C) when I left home.  A quick stop at the local coffee establishment helped to wake me up and keep me warm!  When I got to my assigned spot, which was near the Community Pool, it was cool enough that a mist was rising off the water's surface!

There were quite a  few CERT members who showed up and quite a few of those CERT members were Amateur Radio ops, which proved to be a fortunate thing.  We had things quite under control providing communications between the parade organizers and the town's emergency services.  It was a good practice excersize.  Not only did we pass routine traffic containing standard parade information; but we were also able to help to quickly reunite a child who became separated from his parents.

We used a 440 MHz simplex frequency and I was happy to see that this was quite ample for us.  South Plainfield is not a huge town, by any stretch of the imagination; but using UHF frequencies without going through a repeater can be tricky at times.  No problems whatsoever.  Not only was each radio op able to communicate with the command station; but if necessary, we could have communicated with each other directly.  We were all using various brand handhelds with rubber ducks at 5 Watts.

For all intent and purpose, this was my first practical "in the field" test for my Wouxun.  We chose a frequency that was not in my unit's memory; and I was quickly able to program it in and add it in seconds.  This is one of the reasons that I chose to program the radio NOT using the computer software when I first got it.  By doing it manually, the programming procedure became second nature.  This is a good thing to know in the event of an emergency, when the situation is fluid and you have to adapt at a moment's notice.

I was at the starting point of the parade and had to relay various points of information to the command center.  I did a lot of communicating and the battery held up well.  In the past years with the Alinco, I would have to swap out battery packs at least once during the event.  That didn't occur this morning, as the battery held up just fine.  Needless to say, I had a fully charged spare on my belt, ready if needed.  With the handheld also securely fastened to my belt, I used a Kenwood speakermike which I attached to the lapel area of my CERT vest; and there was more than adequate volume coming from the speaker. All my communications were done using Amateur frequencies and I pretty much ignored the municipal radio that I had been issued.  It seemed our radios worked better than the town's anyway, as there were often requests for repeats of information between the people using the town's radios.

Tonight there will be a fireworks display and CERT members will be needed once again.  However, my wife Marianne had to go to work today, so Joey and Cara and I will head over to their school which has a good view; and we will watch them from there.

For those of you thinking of a new handheld, as a spare, or even perhaps as your main unit, I would definitely recommend the Wouxun. So far it has performed well and the price is definitely right.  It may not have all the fancy bells and whistles offered on the handhelds from "The Big 3"; but it sure did a great job for me today.

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

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Got an idea today

while attending the ETS of NJ picnic.  Before the idea; a bit on the picnic.  It was gorgeous day for the event!  It was sunny and the temperature was in the mid 70s (24C) with very low humidity.  For the most part, the breeziness that we has yesterday had diminished.  The food was good and the fellowship was great too.  Not a huge amount of members showed up; but the ones that did had a great time.  I think even Marianne and Joey and Cara had a decent time.

After everyone had something to eat, Victor KB2NBC used his WristRocket to launch some line into the trees and before you even realized, an off center fed dipole had been erected about 35 feet in the air.  Someone had brought along a Kenwood TS-2000 and a power supply and a few of the members were working 20 Meter SSB.  I witnessed one QSO with a station on the west coast of Wales.  The band seemed to be in pretty good shape.  Not exactly my idea of a portable station; but fun was had, nonetheless.

I went back to take a closer look at the WristRocket, where Victor had laid it down.  It's definitely not an overly complicated device.  A sling shot, some metal and a fishing reel.  Victor bought it earlier this year at the Timonium, MD Hamfest.  When he shot the line up into the tree, I was amazed at how far and how easily it traveled.

When we got home, I went to our local park here and had intended to set up the wire and Fuchs tuner with the PFR3A.  However, the lowest branches of the trees were even higher than I remembered and I couldn't manage to successfully get a water bottle over one, ala' W1PID.  Roger Clemens I am not - and that's a good thing considering all the trouble he's finding himself in lately - but I could have used his throwing arm.

This got me thinking about Vic's antenna launcher again; and how relatively easy it would be to homebrew one.  I have a slingshot and I have an old fishing reel that had belonged to my father-in-law.  All I need is a steady platform to mount the two of them on.  And I think I have the answer for that, too - a 99 cent tent stake from Wal-Mart.

Rather than try to explain it verbally, I will post pictures and further details as it comes about.  Hopefully, this thing will be able to get a 1 ounce fishing weight about 40 or 50 feet high, up and over some good branches.  QRP Afield is in two weeks, on September 18th.  This might be just what I need.

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

Saturday, September 04, 2010

You young whipper snappers

and your little radios that fit into mint tins that let you work all over the world! Why, back in my day, radios were radios! They dad gum weighed a ton and they had tubes that would glow in the dark and warm up the entire shack! And when we didn't use 'em to warm up the shack, we'd toss 'em into our beds on a cold winter's night to keep the sheets warm! And Glorioski , our Watts were Watts ..... we didn't have tiny circuit boards ...... we used to warm our soldering irons in the fire and heck, how do you think the term "bread board" came to be, anyway? We used to build our radios on REAL bread boards and lookie at what we considered to be QRP !!!!!!

That's right, Boy-o, back in the day, QRP was a manly 100 Watts, not the puny 5 Watts that you spoiled young'uns use to talk around the world today! And our signals used to travel around the world ..... uphill both ways!

All kidding aside, I knew I had this somewhere! I was looking through some of my old special event certificates when I came across my original QRP-ARCI membership certificate, complete with my original call sign. In fact, except for QSL cards, this is one of the few certificates that I have that has my original call, KA2DOH, on it.  And back then, "QRP Quarterly" was a distant dream, off in the future.  The QRP-ARCI newsletter was a mimeographed (remember mimeographs?) thing that you would get via the regular mail.

It was only a few years later that QRP was changed to be the 5 Watts we have come to know and love. Sometimes, when I tell newer Hams that QRP used to mean 100 Watts or less, I get "that look". Well, here's the proof!

The weather has changed along the east coast. We are getting our first taste of Autumn. It was sunny today and very breezy, and for the most part, temperatures stayed in the 70s for most of the day, although it did go into the low 80s for a brief period this afternoon. As a result, 40 Meters was quite nice tonight. It was very quiet with hardly and summer type static crashes; and signals were loud, too. I had a nice chat with Hal KD8AC out of Youngstown, Ohio. Hal was using his K3 at 50 Watts to a centerfed Zepp at 35 feet. We gave each other 599 signal reports and it was armchair copy throughout the whole QSO.

Boy, Hal's K3 sure sounded good! What's that Super Jackpot Lotto up to now, anyway?

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

Do not miss this blog post !

From W1PNS's blog -

“Lean-to” homebrew stand for Elecraft’s KX1

This is a good one and will work for the PFR3A also. A perfect solution for a vexing problem. I don't own a KX1; but I do know this happens with a PFR3A - when the radio is laying flat on a table top, it is hard to tell if the RIT is on unless you are looking right down onto the LED display. More than once I have used the PFR3A on the shack table and since the angle wasn't right, I came to realize that I wasn't listening where I thought I was. I had inadvertently left the RIT on and didn't see the illuminated decimal point in the display. This homebrew tilt stand will get the angles just right so that won't happen again.

I am going to have to construct one of these. Thanks, Pete for sharing the great post, plans and idea!

Are QRPers neat, or what ?!?

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

Friday, September 03, 2010

He took aim

Courtesy of the NY Post

and he missed! Thank the Lord, Earl was a non-event in New Jersey, at least the central part of the state. As I was driving home, headed directly Eastbound, you could see the clouds that formed Earl's outer rim, all the way up, high into the sky. Impressive indeed!

But so far, we have had none of the rains or wind that was predicted. Earlier today, Earl had been downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 1 hurricane, which is the lowest a hurricane can go before being downgraded even farther back to Tropical Storm status. That happens once the sustained winds fall below 75 MPH.

So once these clouds clear out of here tonight, we are looking towards a very pleasant Labor Day weekend around these parts. Sunny for tomorrow, Sunday and Monday with highs in the 70's (23C) the first two days and then back into the 80's (28C) for Monday.

The ETS of NJ (local 2 Meter repeater group) annual picnic is on Sunday;' and the whole family is planning on attending. The ETS club has always shared the passion of the PARC Club in knowing how to put out a good spread. We are looking forward to it.

Monday, which is Labor Day, will bring the annual South Plainfield Labor Day parade. I will be there bright and early (6:00 AM) with other CERT and RACES volunteers who will help provide communications and logistical backup to the parade organizers. At night, we will have a fireworks display and the CERT and RACES folks will be there again, volunteering their hours to make sure all goes well and without incident.

In between all the activity; I am still hoping to sneak away to one of the local parks for an hour or two sometime this weekend, in order to play around with the PFR3A, Fuchs tuner and wire antenna. Also, if time permits, I will spend some time with the ATS-3B to see if I can make any progress on that front.

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

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Earl and New Jersey

As of this moment, it's looking like Hurricane Earl might only give coastal NJ a glancing blow. Current computer models are showing the Cat. 4 hurricane remaining well off shore, with only tropical storm warning posted for the immediate coast.

In fact, as of right now, the three different weather sites that I keep tabs on (TWC, AccuWeather, Weather Underground) are only calling for a 50% of showers on Friday, the day that Earl is supposed to be in the vicinity. But hurricanes are fickle beasts with minds of their own, and anything can happen between now and then. In any event, the "go bag" is prepped and ready to go should the worst happen and should our CERT team be activated.

On a personal note, I had to go get a parathyroid scan today. Some recent routine bloodwork has shown that I am trending towards hypercalcemia, that is, too much calcium in my blood. Which was probably the cause of my kidney stone attack back in 2009, or so my doctor thinks. If the scan reveals benign adenomas on my parathyroid, then I might have to get it removed. I should know more next week. It's always something, isn't it?

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