Monday, October 29, 2012

Landfall !!!

Hurricane Sandy has doubled her speed from 14 MPH to 28 MPH and has made landfall around the Cape May area of New Jersey.

Courtesy of Wunderground

I now know what a Christmas Tree feels like, with the lights blinking on and off so much. But hey, at least for now they are continuing to come back on. The next six hours or so should be the worst.

I have switched from the desktop to the laptop. The desktop doesn't seem to like the sudden power downs too much.

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

Two to four hours from landfall

and the winds are picking up.  This is the maple in the backyard that serves as the center support for my 88' EDZ.

So far, recorded gusts from nearby weather stations have topped out at 45 MPH.  That may double as Sandy makes landfall.  I heard a loud crack before. Turns out a branch in the neighbor's back yard snapped.  Hope that's not in store for us.

Power has gone out briefly several times already.   Marianne has called to inform me she might be stuck overnight at the dialysis clinic where she's an RN.  Seems that some of the local roads have been closed.

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

All over but for the waiting

I spent another three hours with my CERT Team today, filling and distributing sand bags to the citizens of South Plainfield who requested them.  I left an hour early as I came home to clean out the gutters, which had filled up with leaves (again).  Did I ever mention that I hate heights and I really, really hate ladders?  I fell off of one as a child, and have had an intense dislike of them ever since.  But you do what you have to do.

The garbage cans have been securely bungee corded to the fence.  All Halloween decorations have been brought in.  I also covered the grill and secured that in place with bungee cords.

All that's left now is waiting for the "show" to begin.

To all of you in Sandy's path, I wish you Godspeed and pray that you all will remain safe and directly out of harm's way.  May we all wake up on Wednesday, and by the Lord's grace, be able to say - "That wasn't so bad!".

I will post as I am able.  If you don't hear from me - no surprise - the power will have gone out.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

So this is what we're looking at......

A possible Category 2 or 3 hurricane, which has not encountered ANY huge land mass to speak of, paralleling the coast, making an almost 90 degree left turn and slamming into the US, somewhere between the DelMarVa peninsula and Cape Cod.  Unfortunately, New Jersey looks like the prime target as of right now.

In addition, we will have Full Moon tides to deal with and the fact that Sandy has not hugged the coast line makes a huge difference.  If Sandy had hugged the coast, there's the chance she could have weakened.  But she will be coming in directly from open water, in effect, making her a water siphon that is expected to drop anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of rain (or more) on us by the time she pulls out of here Tuesday night.

Rainfall potential courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

The South Plainfield CERT Team filled 600 sand bags with 1,500 pounds of sand; and distributed them to flood prone neighborhoods today.  We will resume again tomorrow; after another 2,000 pound load of sand is dropped of at the Department of Public Works tonight.

Personally, I am as about ready as I can be.  Loose objects outside around the house have been taken down and stowed.  Grocery shopping is done and we have enough food to last over a week - even longer if we have to ration.  There's extra bottled water in the house and tomorrow, after showers are done, the bathtub will be cleaned and filled in order to serve as an emergency supply.

The freezer in the basement has been topped off with two huge bags of ice.  I have another two coolers loaded with ice, if needed.  Flashlights are ready and batteries have been bought.  Candles are ready also, should the electricity go out (and it most likely will at some point). The cars have been topped off with gas. The grill outside has propane and can be pressed into service to cook food, if needed

My lead acid batteries, which can power the HF rigs are all charged and ready to go. The HTs are charged and so are all the batteries.

I just hope, that by the grace of God Almighty, that this thing makes a right instead, and heads out to open seas.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oh, joy!

I received a telephone call tonight from South Plainfield's Director of Emergency Management.  He wanted to know if I can come down to the Emergency Operations Center on Saturday from 12:00 Noon to 4:00 PM to help distribute sand bags to the various South Plainfielders who want them.  Possibly Sunday, too. Good thing I wasn't planning on participating in the CQWW DX SSB Contest this weekend.

 Courtesy of AccuWeather

All of this in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy arriving sometime early next week.  Of course, I offered my assistance immediately.  Hurricane Irene is still fresh in my mind, even though it's been 14 months since she graced us with her presence.  She was the most destructive storm to hit New Jersey - ever.

The forecasts are all over the map, if you'll pardon my pun. Anywhere from nothing but some strong wind, to the possibility of a "White Hurricane" if a cold front from Canada moves into place at just the proper time.  We had a "White Hurricane" back in 1991, the much vaunted "Perfect Storm".  I still vividly remember THAT one and am not looking for a repeat performance.  I thought those were supposed to be "once in a lifetime" events, anyway!

Here's hoping and praying that Sandy is so impressed with her pre-arrival media coverage, that she turns out to be nothing more than a big fizzle!

By the way, got on the air tonight looking for some good DX in advance of the big DX contest this weekend. I didn't check out the TelNet Cluster; but I suspect all the DXers must have been hanging out in the SSB portion of the bands as there was nothing doing in the CW sections. Dead as a door nail. Can you say, "Disappointing"?

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Interesting what 500 mW can do.

NY3A W2LJ3560.4CQ [LoTW]9 dB20 wpm0112z 24 Oct
K3MM W2LJ3560.4CQ [LoTW]5 dB19 wpm0112z 24 Oct
W4KKN W2LJ3560.4CQ [LoTW]13 dB19 wpm0111z 24 Oct
KM3T W2LJ3560.4CQ [LoTW]8 dB19 wpm0111z 24 Oct
NY3A W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]11 dB19 wpm0109z 24 Oct
K1TTT W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]7 dB19 wpm0109z 24 Oct
W4KAZ W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]5 dB20 wpm0108z 24 Oct
W2RDX W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]12 dB19 wpm0108z 24 Oct
KQ8M W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]5 dB19 wpm0108z 24 Oct
AA4VV W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]8 dB19 wpm0108z 24 Oct
W4KKN W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]16 dB19 wpm0108z 24 Oct
KM3T W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]7 dB20 wpm0108z 24 Oct
K3MM W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]16 dB20 wpm0107z 24 Oct
W3LPL W2LJ7041.0CQ [LoTW]7 dB20 wpm0107z 24 Oct
WA7LNW W2LJ10116.0CQ [LoTW]9 dB21 wpm0105z 24 Oct

Antenna was the 88' EDZ - rig was the K3 - power out was 500 mW.

No QSOs, but interesting to see where I was heard via the Reverse Beacon Network.

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

Friday, October 19, 2012

Something new every night

Working HF is definitely like fishing - or maybe like the proverbial Forrest Gump "box of chocolates".  You never know what you're going to get.

Last night, I cast my net out upon the waters and was fortunate to have two nice QSOs on 40 Meters. One was with Rick KC4KNN and that was immediately followed up with a nice chat with Scotty KG3W.  I have worked both ops before, Rick once back in 2006 and Scotty several times in various QRP events.  It's always nice to run into someone you've worked in some contests. The chance to QSO and talk for a bit longer than "559 NJ 5W" is very pleasant.

Tonight, I was tuning around 30 Meters and heard a loud station way down near the bottom at 10.103 MHz.  Loud, calling "CQ DX" and not getting many takers.  I listened for a bit to find out it was ZB2FK.

ZB2 - that's Gibraltar!  Hot chocolate, that's a new one for me!  I have heard Gibraltar several times in the past; but was never able to break the pileup.  This time, Ernest was not all that busy. I waited until he was done with the station he was working and threw out my call.  As I finished unkeying, I heard several others also calling.  I thought to myself, "Here we go - from nobody to pile up in 60 seconds" but he answered ME!  Little, puny ol' 5 Watt me - and on the first call! Talk about being at the right place at the right time!

There's nothing quite like the exhilaration of netting a new DXCC entity.  And I'm a lucky kind o' guy, as I seriously doubt I'll ever make Honor Roll, I have close to 200 more chances to feel that exhilaration again!

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

And now for something completely different.

Courtesy of Rem K6BBQ - questions that I guarantee you have never been asked before!

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Ham Radio Heroes

Sounds silly, doesn't it?  But yes, I do have Ham Radio heroes.  They include the ones who Elmered me; and the ones who have mentored and motivated me.

But tonight, I'd like to concentrate on the ones who have inspired me, in a very particular way.

My big dream as a QRPer is to someday be in the position where I can operate from the "Great Outdoors" on a regular basis.  Whether it be SOTA or a far away DXpedition like Steve WG0AT and Guy N7UN. Or day hikes like Jim W1PID or Ron WB3AAL. Or even perhaps, someday, serious trail hiking like Steve KD1JV.  And then there are always the pedestrian mobile exploits of Paul W0RW and Ed WA3WSJ to enjoy.  There are also the adventures of Martin VA3SIE to admire.  He always seems to be able to get to a good location for the outdoor QRP events - or just a fun day out.

For now, I will have to settle for trips to the local parks and even the back yard to fulfill my outdoor "fix". But someday ........ someday .......... (the dreaming continues).

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

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Antenna planning

I measured out the distances from the house to the maple tree in the back yard and over to the mast in the "upper right" corner of the back yard.  The 85 foot W3EDP will fit just fine, with room to spare.  There should be less than 10 feet worth of Dacron rope between the end of the antenna and the mast.

The drawing is not to scale; but the run along the side of the house accounts for no more than 15 to 20 feet or so of the antenna run.  The EDZ currently follows the same route (more or less) but I am hoping to get a dog bone insulator (which will serve as the wire "bending point") up about 10 to 15 feet higher in the tree than where the center insulator hangs for the EDZ.

Last Thursday, I ordered a 4:1 current balun from Universal Radio and I have all the other materials I need.  The balun should come during the week, and hopefully I will get to do some antenna installing next weekend.

In the end, this W3EDP will be configured as a horizontal "L" as you can see from the diagram.  The ends will be at about a 25' level and I am hoping the point at where the wire will take its sharp right turn will be in the 35 - 40' neighborhood.

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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

To quote John Lennon

"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans".

Yes.  The original plan today was for self indulgence - to spend all afternoon playing in the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party.  Needless to say, it didn't happen.  Not by a long shot.

There was grocery shopping to get done, lawn mowing and leaf clean up to get done, baking to be done for the Sacred Heart Music Ministry bake sale tomorrow.  All things that had to get done, which left me not much time on the radio.

After dinner, I have gotten on the air and have made some contacts on 20 and 80 Meters.  40 Meters would be nice but the RTTY'ers are once again swallowing up the band all the way from 7.040 to 7.100 MHz.  Wow, I remember in my RTTY contesting days in the 90's we didn't dare come below 7.060 MHz.  Times have changed.

I will go back down to the shack in a bit; but wanted to share something I found in the basement while calling "CQ QRP' looking for contacts.

I found some old licenses. These three each have one of the call signs that I have held.

The top one is a KA2DOH one, and this is the license I received after upgrading to General in the Summer of 1979.  The N2ELW one is from when I applied for a General Class call in 1983.  Got this one in August of 1983 and shortly thereafter upgraded to Advanced on October 18th, 1983.  The reason I remember that date so well is that's the date of my parent's Wedding Anniversary.  If they were both alive, they'd be celebrating their 60th this year.  Both of these licenses were from back in the days when the license term was only five years.

The W2LJ one is the license that I carried before I renewed two years ago.  I found the CSCE's (for you non-US Hams, those are Certificates of Successful Completion of Exams) from when I upgraded to Extra all the way back on March 1st, 1993.  Next year will be 20 years as an Extra and this year will mark my 34th as a Ham - sure doesn't feel that long!

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Enough with the nitrates, already !!!!

There's a couple of threads going on the KX3 e-mail reflector today. One is titled "QRP Baloney" and the other "QRP Sausage".  Both threads are a "discussion" trying to determine what QRP "really is".

I, for one, originally thought that QRP was making sure your transmitter put out 100 Watts or less. Well, that was back in the "Ancient Times", in the Mesozoic Era when I originally joined QRP ARCI.

Somewhere along the line, that changed and the definition of QRP became a power output of no more than 5 Watts for CW and 10 Watts for SSB.

I am fine with that definition. Period.

Now we have some purveyors of bologna that are insisting that QRP means "5 Watts with ONLY simple, non-gain type antennas".  Wow!

Somehow it's not in the "Spirit of QRP" to do as much as you possibly can with that 5 or 10 Watts.


For the record, my antennas (currently - might add a W3EDP soon) are simple, and non-gain - a Butternut HF9V ground mounted vertical and an 88' Extended Double Zepp wire . But while I am sleeping tonight, if the Angel of the Lord appears in a dream and says, "Lawrence, the Father has decided that you have truly been a good and faithful servant lately.  In appreciation, when you wake up tomorrow morning, in your backyard He will provide a 40 foot tower with a multi-band Yagi mounted at the top".

What? Am I supposed to say, "Dear St. Michael (or Gabriel or Raphael - whatever), I am a QRP Purist - could you tell the Lord to make that a Buddipole instead"?

No .... I don't think so.

The concept of QRP is to limit your power output.  If you take that 5 or 10 Watts and pump them into an antenna "fire hose" so that you SOUND like you're pumping out a kW, then I say "Bravo for you".  The true "Spirit of QRP" is "doing more with less" - taking those Watts that you're using, and with a combination of good operating skill and the best antenna you can muster, putting out the best signal that you possibly can.  That's it - no more, no less.

If you listen to the purveyors of bologna, I guess they would also tell you that a guy pumping 500 Watts into a 6 inch piece of copper at ground level is actually QRP.

No ...... that would just be stupid.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least! (But take the pains to make it sound like the very most!)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Antenna contemplations

The wire from my Inverted L End Fed Zepp met its doom this past August..  I went outside after a particularly bad evening of thunderstorms to find wire hanging down on the back porch and the other end hanging down the mast that was supporting the far end.  The gusty winds caused it to fall apart somewhere in the middle.

I didn't use it much as I could never get a decent match on the antenna tuner.  For whatever reason, perhaps the truly random length of it and the lack of a decent counterpoise, it always gave my auto tuner fits and starts.

This evening (and for the past few evenings) I was following a discussion on W3EDP antennas on the Polar Bear QRP Ops mailing list.  I did a lil' Googlin' and came up with this:

I can (I think) definitely fit a 67" hunk of wire along the run that was occupied by my ill fated EFZ.  According to the .pdf, that should make operations on 80 Meters and up possible.  However, I would really like to find a way to squeeze an 85" piece of wire, in order to make operations possible on 160 Meters, too.  I know, not nearly an ideal antler for 160 - but something is better than nothing (which is what I have right now).

I have the ladder line and I have a heavy duty 4:1 balun that my friend Bob W3BBO was not using and sent me.  I have the wire and the coax is still there. I just need to cobble one of these together and get it up before the weather really turns nasty for the winter.

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

Monday, October 08, 2012

Big Brutus

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love Amateur Radio. Two of my "passions within a passion"  are operating QRP and taking QRP to the great outdoors and operating portable.

I use this blog as a vehicle to promote and publicize those two passions (among others).

So you will forgive me while I extol the adventures of the 4 States QRP Group and their portable operations at Big Brutus.  "What the heck is a Big Brutus?" you might well be asking yourself. I did the first time I heard of it.

Big Brutus is a gigantic electric powered coal shovel that was used in Southeast Kansas.  In 1985, Big Brutus was dedicated as a museum and memorial to Kansas' rich coal mining history.

The 4 States QRP Group has made an official club outing to Big Brutus for four years now.  You can see a slide show of their outing here.

Thanks to good friend, Terry WAØITP for sharing!

As you can see, this was a well coordinated group event.  But it doesn't necessarily have to be. Whether you're like our buds from Kansas, here; or whether you're like Jim W1PID, taking day hikes and making contacts - it's all good!  I know we're coming up on colder weather here in North America as we travel farther into Autumn towards Winter ...... but it's never too early for even just thinking about treating yourself to some fun outdoor QRP outings in 2013.

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

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Apologies for my absence.

But during the past week, we had another family milestone event. The last of our parents, my mother-in-law, Nora Dunmyer, passed away last Monday.  The funeral was this past Friday. Needless to say, it was a hectic week - mostly for my wife Marianne and her brother, Tim.

Obviously, the photo above was taken on the day of our wedding (14 years ago, when I was much thinner and my hair had way less gray in it).  In the photo, my father-in-law, Joe is standing next to Marianne, and my mother-in-law, Nora is standing next to me.  She was a wonderful woman who was born in Donegal, Ireland into a large family.  Of all her brothers and sisters, only she and her brother Harry Gallagher came to the United States. As a young woman she earned a degree in teaching. She taught reading and English in the Catholic Schools system in New York City and in various communities in Northern New Jersey, for many, many years.

She was an inspiration to many of her young students, who have since grown up to lead responsible, productive lives.  And several of them contacted Marianne this past week, via Facebook, to let her know how important her mother, "Mrs. Dunmyer" was to them.  That has to be about the nicest tribute anyone can pay.  To touch lives in a significant way was her gift.  She will be missed.

On a side note, Marianne still has plenty of cousins and a few aunts and uncles still living in Ireland. One of her uncles was a Ham, although Marianne cannot recall his call sign.  From the times she has visited the Emerald Isle, though, she was able to tell me about the tower he had on the side of his house, and unfortunately, also about the time it was struck by lightning and how the house almost burned down as a result.

Needless to say, there was no radio activity of any kind this past week.  I had hoped to play in the 4 States QRP Group 4X4 Sprint yesterday, but that was not to be.  However, an e-mail today on QRP-L from Hank  N8XX reminded me that the QRP ARCI Fall QRP QSO Party is next weekend.  So while that is not a portable event by any stretch of the imagination (although there's no reason it couldn't be if you wanted) I hope to make a semi-significant effort if time allows. There's no way in Heaven that I will be able to operate anywhere near the 24 hours out of 36 allowed.

A) I just have too much going on which precludes that possibility.
B) And even if "A" were not true, my butt would preclude the rest of my body from sitting in a chair that long.

So I will be happy if I manage to get 4 to 6, perhaps even 8 hours in of "giving out points".  Hope to hear you  on the bands next weekend!

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