Thursday, March 27, 2014

A couple of things

1) Worked a few more DX stations today during lunch. The bands were decent again.Had QSOs with TI8/AA1M in Costa Rica, LZ2HR in Bulgaria and F6ALQ in France.  The QSO with Bernard in Soissons, France was a bit more than just your typical "599 TU" DX QSO. We actually conversed a bit! Wow .... Amateur Radio is actually well suited for conversation, don't ya know?!?  Next few days look like rain, so I probably won't take the gear with me to work tomorrow.

2) Got skunked in the 80 Meter Fox Hunt tonight. I almost worked Ray K9XE in Illinois as he had three out of the four characters of my call sign several times.  But he stated more than a few times throughout the hunt that he had S9 noise on his end. Oh well, he tried and I tried - no fault in that.

3) The date and time are set for the 2014 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt - Sunday, August 10th. You can check either, or the Skeeter Hunt page of this blog.  The exchange is a bit different this year. Instead of RST, I decided to go with the op's first name instead. Just trying to be a little different this year. Oh, and Skeeter numbers will be given out starting on June 21st, the First Day of Summer - so please, don't try to sweet talk a number out of me before then, OK?

Oh, and I had a Skeeter professionally drawn for this year's logo. Here he is:

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Got 'em!

A very big "Thank You" and a tip o' the old callsign cap to Will NQ2W who sent me an e-mail letting me know that he had worked TX6G from his home near Albany, NY with 5 Watts on 10 Meters.

I just ran down the basement, and after figuring out the pattern, also snagged them with 5 Watts.

Thanks again, Will!

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


I was able to go out again at lunchtime today for another QRP session. We lucked out and the Nor'Easter in our vicinity stayed far enough off the coast so as to spare us from any snowfall. SE New Jersey, closest to the shore, was not so lucky. Very windy conditions today in the storm's wake. And while it wasn't as cold as it has been, the wind made it feel bitterly cold, even though the thermometer would have us convinced otherwise.

The SideKX plates and cover really do a great job protecting the KX3 within my "carry case". The elevated sides do not impair me from accessing and correctly pressing any of the KX3's buttons. Some have asked me about that, and there's the official answer - no problems, at least for me, anyway. The cover keeps the KX3's face nice and dust free - a much more elegant and practical solution compared to using a freezer bag.

I worked HI3/N3SY in the Dominican Republic on 15 Meters and ZF35LC in the Caymans on both 10 and 15 meters. I also worked LY24A on 15 Meters - a special event station celebrating Lithuania's 24th Anniversary of reclaimed independence.

Which brings me to my final thought. I have worked a lot of special event stations from Eastern Europe lately. Mostly from Poland and Lithuania as they celebrate their re-gained independence and/or their joining NATO. These events happened in relatively recent history, but these people are proud none-the-less. They have gone through a period of not having that independence; and it is still fresh in their memories what it's like not to have that freedom and liberty. I am so happy for them. At the same time, I fear there are a lot of folks in this country and in "the West" who don't really appreciate what they have and don't realize what has been earned for them through the continual blood, sweat and tears of many brave men and women. Or even worse, maybe they have become complacent about it.

I have no idea how to turn that around except to teach the younger generations as much as possible about the events that happened, especially over the last 60 years or so ago. As someone much wiser than I once said (and I paraphrase), "If we fail to learn from history, then we are doomed to repeat it."

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The allure of DX

is a very good thing, but can be bad at times.  My buddy W3BBO describes it as an "obsession" or an "addiction".  I'd have to agree with him there. Once you get your first taste and get hooked, there's no turning back. Add QRP power to the mix and,  if you're addicted to challenges - stick a fork in you, you're done.

The bands were alive with signals again during lunchtime today.  But yet, I only worked two stations. My addiction got in the way. I worked Laci HA0NAR in Hungary, who I have worked many times before. I also worked LY10NATO, who asked me to spot him, as he was calling CQ without many takers.  Being in the car, away from the Internet, I didn't have that luxury.

My downfall came when I heard TX6G on 12 Meters. He was LOUD. 599+ loud at times.  I immediately thought, "Wow! THAT loud, here's my chance to work them QRP.".  Not today, Grasshopper, not today.

Undoubtedly, if I wasn't so hard headed, I could have worked at least three or four more stations in my limited time allotment.  However, my stubborn Polish side got the better of me, and I did a Don Quixote, and chased a windmill. 

The windmill won.

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Two more pileups busted tonight.

Ten Meters was busy after I got home from work - plenty of signals.  I heard TX6G but they were kind of weak, so I decided to check 15 Meters.  They were louder there and their pileup wasn't quite as busy as on 10 Meters.  So, I started sending my call, with no luck. After a bit, I noticed their signal was starting to fade. Not wanting to lose them, I decided to go QRO and bumped up the power to 75 Watts. Bingo on the first call at higher power - TX6G is in the log for a new DXCC Entity. The group is there until April 1st, which is a week from tomorrow - so I will try throughout the week to try and get them via QRP. That's a tall order, but do-able if the pileups get smaller as the DXpedition draws to a close.

From there I went back to 10 Meters and listened more than anything.  I heard quite the few JAs and tried calling a few, but 5 Watts just wasn't cutting it.  Then, I heard a fierce pileup for VP2V/SP6CIK.  I managed to bust that pileup with 5 Watts.

I was amazed at the ferocity of that pileup.  While the British Virgin Islands are an easy hop from the US, I guess they are a rarer entity from Europe and Asia.  I heard quite the few JAs being answered as well as a lot of European stations. Whoever was behind the key was handling the pileup methodically and precisely. Very good pileup management and very good pileup discipline.  I only heard a few "UP"s from the Pileup Police.  All in all, it was a well behaved group.

I didn't go out to the car at lunchtime today, as winter has returned for a brief visit. It was 27F (-3C) and I just wasn't in the mood to freeze.  Tomorrow we're supposed to get anywhere from a dusting to 3 inches (7.5 cm) of snow.  BUT, by Friday and Saturday, it's supposed to be back up near 60F (16C). That's the only good thing about late March snows in New Jersey - they tend to disappear fast.

I guess the old Mark Twain quote about the weather in New England holds true for New Jersey, too. If you don't like the weather in New Jersey, just wait a few hours. It will change - especially this time of year.

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

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Disappointment and then .... jubilation!

Amateur Radio is lot like other areas in life. There highs and there are lows - there are valleys and there are peaks.  Often, the journey from one extreme to the other takes places within minutes of each other.

This evening, I was tooling around 10 Meters late. It was after 7:00 PM local time. The sun was already down, but sometimes - just sometimes, this is when the good ones can be heard.  Twiddling the dial, I heard a very weak BY5WJ. China!  So I turned up the power, as I've never worked China and started tapping out my call,  Woo hoo!  Success!  "W2LJ UR 579 TNX LARRY DE JOSH".

Josh? In China?  Me, 579? Can't be! Then I realized it was 6Y5WJ - not BY5WJ. It was Josh in Jamaica, and we have worked a few times before.  Obviously, being in his log, my info popped up and that's why he answered me by name. After a few minutes, the band changed, and he became "normally loud" for what I would have expected a Jamaican station to sound like in New Jersey. So in a few seconds, I raced around the globe from the exotic Far East to the warm shores of the Caribbean.  A bit of a disappointment, to say the least (no offense, Josh!).

At that point I started switching bands. 12 Meters - not much. 15 Meters - W1AW/5 in New Mexico is coming in strong. 17 Meters - not much.  20 Meters - OK, a lot more signals than the other bands (as we all know, 20 Meters is usually open to somewhere). What's that? VU2what?  A few more seconds of listening - it was VU2PHD, Mat in India.  Wow!  I very rarely ever hear India on the air. Still set at 75 Watts from my failed China QSO, I tapped out my call.  Holy crow - I hear "W2?" coming back. I sent out my call a few more times, following up with my suffix twice, "W2LJ W2LJ LJ LJ".  I got a "W2LJ UR 559 QSB. UR CALL AGN?"  I immediately sent back "DE W2LJ W2LJ UR 579 579 IN NJ NJ. OP LARRY LARRY". Or something like that, I'm so exhilarated right now, I can't even remember the exact exchange. All I know is that this was my first QSO with the Indian sub-continent, and is only about the second or third time I have even heard them on the air! And I'm in his log!

I immediately ran over to my e-mail program to send a quick note to my buddy Bob W3BBO in Erie, PA. Bob is my friend, my DX Guru, and is the only person I actually know who is on the DXCC Honor Roll.  To my surprise he had already written me, "Did I hear what I think I heard on 20 Meters?"

I was able to answer in the affirmative and asked him how he happened to be listening. He had worked Mat earlier in the week and was going to make another attempt, as he wasn't sure that Mat got his call correctly the first time. He had heard Mat come back to me and sent a quick e-mail to confirm. Whatever the reason, one of my best friends was on the scene to hear me work a new one. It just doesn't get much better than that!

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

Friday, March 21, 2014

80 Meter fun and disappointment

Last night was my last stint as a Fox in the QRP Fox hunts for the 2013/2014 season. I served as the 80 Meter Fox last night, and I was chomping at the bit, all ready to have a fantastic night handing out pelts. I've been having very good success nabbing the 80 Meter Foxes this season as a Hound, so I was expecting reciprocity last night as Fox. When I turned the radio on at about 0045 UTC and heard a very low noise floor, I was happy. I was also a bit surprised as we're now officially in Spring and I was expecting it to be way noisier. I should have know something would be "off".

I started right on the mark and was off to a running start, but then about 0120 UTC, it seemed like the bottom of the band fell out. I went from a decent pileup to calling CQ over and over. Switching between the vertical and the wire seemed to not make much of a difference. I was surprised that the QSB was so deep and sharp. My buddy, Bob W3BBO joined the fray last night, and using him as an example - when he called me, the W3 was a good and honest 579 - the BBO was ESP!

And so it went for the last hour - calling CQ over and over with takers here and there. A very short mini pileup at about 0150 UTC for a few minutes and back to calling CQ. In all, I handed out 41 pelts. While I had a ton of fun, it was also a huge disappointment to me as I had set a personal goal of handing out 60. After the hunt, I took a look at my spots on RBN. I was heard by skimmers up and down the East coast and out as far as Illinois. My best DX for the night was working Dale WC7S in Wyoming and Tim KR0U in Colorado.

Afterwards, I was reading e-mails on the Q-FOX reflector, where most of the Hounds were reporting very high noise levels on 80 Meters last night. I guess that added to the misery for the night. My fellow Fox, Jim KG0PP handed out only two more pelts than I did, so it's obvious that he had to face the same obstacles in Colorado that I faced in New Jersey.

It's funny how perspective can change. Last month, when I was serving as 40 Meter Fox and band conditions were excellent, it seemed that 90 minutes for the hunt was nowhere long enough. Last night, with lousy band conditions, that same 90 minutes was interminable.

Ending the season as a Fox on a low note was not what I had in mind, but as the Brooklyn Dodger fans used to say - "Wait 'til next year!"

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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another good day!

Two for two Thursday, let's call it!

Second day back to lunchtime QRP operating, and another good day.  The higher bands were alive again. This time I worked Russia R2014ME (I had worked R2014E yesterday), Belarus EW8O and Mexico XE2I.  And .... for the heck of it, I wanted to see if I could break the monstrous pileup that was foisting itself upon W1AW/5 in New Mexico. 15 Meters was hot and the band was long. The amount of European stations calling W1AW/5 was huge and LOUD!  Would it be possible for a QRP station, powered at 5 Watts to break that melee?

Not only was is possible, but it happened.  I made it into the log.  But it took some listening and some figuring. The W1AW/5 station set up a pattern. He was working split, and was announcing "U", which of course meant that he was listening up.  But he was listening "in an race track pattern" as it were. By carefully listening for a while, I was able to determine a pattern:

1) W1AW/5 works a station
2) W1AW/5 moves the listening frequency up a few Hertz
3) W1AW/5 works the next station
4) W1AW/5 moves the listening frequency up a few Hertz
5) W1AW/5 works the next station

But he did this only to a point. Once he reached a point known only to him, he reversed the procedure.  He would work a station and then listen a few Hertz DOWN from the last station he worked. He kept doing this until he reached a "lower UP frequency" that he determined and then started the whole business over again.  

If I didn't make myself clear (sometimes I have a problem doing that), what he was doing was changing his listening frequency in a circular pattern, even though he was always listening "UP".  For example - W1AW/5 was on, let's say 21.030 MHZ - he was working stations between 21.031 and 21.034 MHz.  And he was ping-ponging between the two. He would start listening up at 21.031 Hz and would keep moving his listening frequency until he hit 21.034 and then work back down to 21.031 and then back up to 21.034 and so on and so on and so on.

After determining what he was doing, I adjusted my transmit frequency to "get in his way". After about three or four minutes of trying, I was able to make myself heard. Now I suppose that if I didn't listen as much as I did, I might have made it into the log anyway, just by sheer dumb luck. But by determining what he was doing, I shortened the time (considerably, I think) that it took to get into his log. And during these lunchtime QRP sessions, time is a precious commodity, so saving time is a very good thing.

As I've stated before, I'm not going out of my way to take the pains to work all 50 W1AW stations.  However, today I sensed a challenge that I felt like taking on.  It's good practice for the Fox hunts and those pesky DXpedition pileups.

Speaking of the QRP Fox hunts, I am one of the two 80 Meter Foxes tonight. This is my last stint of the 2013/2014 season.  It's been fun and I hope to hand out a lot of pelts tonight.  As a Hound, this has been a particularly exhilarating season!  According to the last tally - I have worked 25 out of 32 Foxes on 40 Meters (78%). On 80 Meters, I have worked 24 out of 30 Foxes (80%).  This has been my best season - ever! The season ends in just a few weeks, and I hope to continue with a strong finish. Wait a second, I probably just went and jinxed myself!  Then again, I guess I can't really jinx myself as I owe all my success to the extraordinary ears and antennas of the Foxes.

One last note.  If you get a chance, take a gander at the February 2014 edition of CQ magazine, if you can get your hands on one.  There's an article on my lunchtime QRP sessions that was written and submitted by yours truly. Rich W2VU felt it was worth including - hopefully by accepting my article, he's not scraping the bottom of the barrel too hard!

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Back in the saddle again!

You have probably noticed my lack of activity on the blog for the past little while.  It's been a hectic, topsy-turvy couple of months.  Let me explain.

On New Year's Eve, my co-worker left work early, telling me that he "might be back" in a few hours.  Turns out that he was having some medical difficulties and checked himself into a hospital.  Fortunately, he healed and got better.  Unfortunately, he decided not to return to work, at least not where we work anyway.. So, since the beginning of the year, I have been alone at work, and have been busier than the proverbial "one armed wallpaper hanger". One man doing the work of two made the possibility of leaving my desk for the car during lunch just a wistful desire.  Add to that, numerous snows, a colder than normal January and February, and I'm not so sure I would have headed out there, even if I could have!

A replacement co-worker was hired and started yesterday. So today, even though it's overcast, it is warm (comparatively). It was 40F (4C) at lunchtime and I took advantage of not being alone anymore and headed out to the car for some lunchtime QRP for the first time since last December.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but boy howdy, did it turn out to be great!

It seemed liked all the higher bands were just jumping with activity - 10, 12 and 15 Meters were alive with signals and I worked someone on each band.  I worked  CO6RD and R2014E on 15 meters. I worked HA9RT and OH4MDY on 12 Meters, and OK1DMZ on 10 Meters. I wish I had more time as it seemed like there were people from just about everywhere on the bands!

Rockin' to and fro
Back in the saddle again
I go my way
Back in the saddle again  

 And it feels so good!

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

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Like ..... only the best Birthday present evhur!

My question ....... how did he know?

QRPTTF Saturday May 3, 2014

A "heads up" announcement.

Due to concerns about the "Polar Vortex" still being around in April in some areas, both privately and on QRP-L, I have decided to move QRPTTF this year up two weeks to:

SATURDAY, MAY 3, 2014 1200-2359 UTC.

Hopefully, this will bring warmer weather to most of you.  Following weekends are Mother's Day and some RTTY, etc. contests.  Turns out, a good weekend for some great opportunities for some special QRP DX contacts.  That weekend is the 10-10 contest, which normally attracts many DX stations on the "wet noodle" band.  Also, it is the SOTA International Day, which puts plenty of EU DX stations on the air, many running QRP.  SOTA in Europe has already been alerted to participate in QRPTTF as well, as they have in the past.

I will ensure our exchange is compatible with these two DX events to avoid any lengthy discussions.  This information has already been submitted to Hornucopia (WA7BNM) Contest site and the ARRL for their Contest Calendar.

Frankly, I haven't even come up with a theme or the rules yet.  But will soon.  With the uncertain weather and predictions of late snows in some areas, nothing exotic to cause any hardships.  If you have an idea or two, please let me know.

Mostly, since May 3 is moving it "up" more than most would expect, I wanted to get the word out ASAP.
I don't know how much this will help us out here in the west (MDT and PDT), but it should really allow those in the CDT and EDT time zones to work some good EU DX, and hopefully give you a few new countries.

Rules will be posted in the usual place:

I hope everyone will find this change agreeable, and at least a bit warmer.

72, Paul NA5N

Thankls Paul, but you really didn't have to do this on my account! (grin!)

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

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Nancy, WZ8C/SK - It's a sad sad day

Msg from Dennis, K6DF follows:

To All FISTS Members: Early this afternoon I received a phone call from Tim, Nancy's husband. I am very sad to report that Nancy WZ8C, is now a silent key. Nancy passed away last night and will be missed very much by all FISTS members worldwide.

If you wish to send condolences to her family, please send them to the following address:

Tim Lange and Family
P.O. Box 47
Hadley, MI, 48440.

Please send this notice to any and all FISTS groups and members to disseminate this information as much as possible.

I sadly send 73, God's Speed Nancy, 88's . . . Dennis Franklin K6DF FISTS Awards Mgr /Webmaster


Nancy was only 58 according to her obituary. Way too young to pass. She will be missed by all FISTS members.

73, Nancy de Larry W2LJ
FISTS #1469- dit dit

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Snow is coming

And I certainly hope this is the last blast for the Winter of 2013/2014.  The Equinox is less than three weeks away, and I am ready - perhaps readier than I've been in a while.  The snow that is forecast to start this afternoon, and last into Tuesday morning my bring us 4 inches - and then again may bring us 14-18 inches. The meteorologists just cannot seem to agree on this one. So that tells you the situation is extremely volatile, and we'll just have to wait until after it's over to see who was right.

But in the meantime, here are some warm weather thoughts from the Buddies in the Caribbean from LAST Winter.  Barbados seems like a good place to be right about now!

I was able to get on the air for a bit yesterday afternoon. The CW portion of the bands were kind of on the barren side, as the ARRL DX SSB was going on.  I could swear I heard a tumbleweed or two blow through.  But I did manage to work W1AW/7 in Washington State on both 12 and 15 Meters - first call with QRP each time.  I also worked HK7/AL4Q - an Alaskan call in Colombia - that's different!  I also worked EA6BH in Mallorca.  That's probably another wonderful place to be this time of year.

Clear away those dishes after a delightful dinner - enjoy some wine and set up the KX3, throw an EFHW over the railing, and we're good to go!

I can dream ..... can't I?

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