Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year - 2018

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all who read this blog; and share the hobby of Amateur Radio a very Happy New Year!

May 2018 always be in VFO A.
May 2017 always be in VFO B.
May you get all those ATNOs that 2018 has to offer.
May you get that new piece of gear that you've been dreaming about.
May the bands favor you with the most agreeable conditions.
May your friendships and your enjoyment of the hobby always increase.
May your worries and cares always decrease.

But most importantly, may your friends and loved ones be favored with good health, prosperity, happiness and joy. That is my most sincere wish for you all!

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I have to pick up a space heater!

For the shack. I didn't participate in the 40 Meter QRP Fox Hunt last night as it was only 56F (13C) in the basement. Years ago, in my youth, that wouldn't have bothered me. Now it's just too uncomfortable and I confess that I've become a creature of comfort.

We're experiencing a blast of Arctic air here in NJ and whenever the outside temperature ventures into the "teens",  the basement becomes very chilly. Once it gets below 60F (15C) down there, it just gets too chilly for me to spend any significant amount of time behind the radio.

As it is, I typically wear three shirts at home during the winter months - a long sleeved T as a first layer, followed up with a golf type polo shirt as a second layer, with a heavier sweat shirt as a third layer.  In order to keep the gas bill at a manageable level, we keep the thermostat at 66F for the day and 64F for the night.

I need to move to the Carolinas, or Tennessee or somewhere like that. Or buy a space heater for the shack - which I think I will do.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least (and your fingers aren't frozen)!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

OK - new project

Since Santa didn't bring the Arrow antenna that I wanted in order to try my hand at the FM satellites (and possibly get more Field Day points this year), and my homebrew magloop turned out so well - I've decided to try my hand at another:

And it comes complete with a video!

Doesn't look too expensive to build and I think we have enough coat hangers in various places around the house where I wouldn't have to go out and buy any.

The Arrow antenna is nice and all, but the cost was around $140, if I remember correctly. That's a lot to pay for something that I just want to play with from time to time and not be really dedicated to. This will probably serve me just as well; and I could use whatever $$$ I manage to save in the future towards more QRP and CW stuff.

And the last benefit ..... there's NOTHING like homebrewing something and have it work. I know I'm jumping the gun here; but KG0ZZ certainly makes look "do-able".

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

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I know, some of you are probably saying, "Wait, what? Christmas is over!"

But it's really not ...... remember the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"?  Christmas is more than a day, it IS a season.  So don't throw out or put away those Christmas trees just yet. Enjoy the Season!

I hope Santa was good to you and left a key, radio or some neat accessory under your tree.  I got some shave soap (I wet shave - an electric razor just tears up my face and especially my neck!), a shirt and that personal weather station I had been wanting.

It's not a Peet Brothers unit, rather one of the more inexpensive ones. And that's fine by me. I just want something that I can hook up to WeatherUnderground and play around with. This will do just fine and I am grateful for it.

We did not get a white Christmas this year. But it was very windy and cold. in fact, our daily high temperatures for the next week or so are not to exceed the high 20s F (-3C).  And the NY NJ PA Weather Guy, who I follow on Twitter, is saying something about the possibility of a major winter storm for our area next weekend.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I hope to get on the air a few evenings this week to see how the 160 Meter band is doing and to see if I can squeeze out a contact or two.  It's been a long time since I got on the air looking just to chew the fat for a bit.

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

Monday, December 25, 2017

THE Gift - Christmas Day 2017

I came that you might have life and live it more abundantly.
I came to make all things new.
I came that you might have Eternal Life.

Merry Christmas!
May you be surrounded this day, and all the year through
by family, friends, warmth, joy, peace, happiness and health!

From the W2LJ household to yours!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Gift

Daniel was proud of his daughter, Kaitlyn. At 17 years old, she was a senior in High School. Her grades were excellent; and her future looked bright, indeed. Although not considered to be one of the popular kids at school, Kate had her share of friends, all “good kids” as Daniel thought of them. Kate had a relatively normal social life for a teenager, and was even involved in a couple clubs at school.

The one she was most enthusiastic about was the West Valley High Amateur Radio Club. Kate had earned her Ham license early on as a 9 year old. Even back then, she knew the high school had a club and she eagerly anticipated becoming a member one day. It was a natural fit and she joined in her Freshman Year. She blossomed under the tutelage of the club’s Faculty Adviser, Mr. Jackson. By her Sophomore year, Kate was elected Vice-President and then President in her Senior year.

All the equipment in Kate’s shack at home had either been donated or had been built by hand. Daniel regretted not being able to purchase any fancy or exotic radio equipment for his daughter. Due to a workplace accident, he was on disability and its resulting fixed income. A legal settlement provided enough to allow them to keep their house and live relatively worry free, and the monthly disability check provided for food on the table and clean clothes for his wife and their three children. “Niceties” like vacations, or expensive gadgets were out of the question, though. But the family didn't live in the Stone Age, either. They had a computer and access to the Internet, just the same as every other average American family.

It didn’t matter much to Kate as she actually enjoyed “homebrewing” her own gear. She did have one wish though, and that was for an HF all band, all mode transceiver that would allow her more freedom to explore the Ham bands than her homemade gear would allow. So she set about earning it. Serving as a life guard at the community pool during the summers and tutoring school kids from the neighborhood had allowed her to earn just enough money for what a lot of experienced Amateurs would consider a “beginner’s rig”. Even though Kate was a veteran Ham, this would be her very first piece of commercial gear that she could consider to be her own. Finally the day came, and Daniel had offered to drive Kate to the closest Amateur Radio store closest to them. They set out for the “Ham Radio Depot”, on a cold but sunny Saturday December morning. “Ham Radio Depot” was a chain of stores located in several states, and the closest one was just over the state line.

Daniel told Kate that first he had to stop for gas for the trip. Kaitlyn offered to pump the tank full while her dad went into the store part of the gas station in order to buy them both some sodas and snacks to tide them over while they made their way to the store. As Kate was pumping the tank full, a disheveled man wearing old, beat up clothes walked up to her. Even though he was unkempt and had long shaggy hair and looked like he could use a shower and a shave, he had a kind face and a gentle voice. “Hey there, young lady, you got any change you could spare?” Kate was about to answer the man when the owner of the gas station chased after the old man.

“Get away from here you old boozer! I’ve told you never to come back here again!”

With a sigh, the man shrugged his shoulders and then thrust his hands deep into his jacket pockets and left. It was obvious that he didn’t want to make too much trouble As the man was walking away, Kate asked the gas station owner who the man was.

“I dunno. some old boozer who lives underneath the underpass over by the Interstate. Says he's a veteran, but I think he’s just an old panhandler just looking for handouts from my customers.”

Kate finished filling up the tank; and placed the nozzle back on the pump. When her Dad returned he told him what happened, Daniel told Kate to get into the car so they could get started. As they made their way onto the road, Kate spotted the man who had been chased away, just ahead of them a little bit.

“Dad, stop the car and let’s talk with this guy for a bit.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Kate. We don’t know who this guy is.”

“ I don’t know much about him, either, Dad. But I don’t think he’s bad. He just had a way about him that tells me there’s more to the story than what the guy who owns the gas station said about him.”

Knowing his daughter had a big heart; and against his better judgment, Daniel headed towards the stranger. As they pulled up to him, Daniel slowed the car and Kate rolled the window down.

“Hey mister, remember me?”

The old guy looked at him, “Oh, you’re the kid from back at the gas station. I'm sorry if I scared you. I meant no harm.”

Daniel stopped the car and the two of them got out. “Not at all, Mister. I was wondering if we could do anything for you?”

“I’m sorry young lady, I was just looking for some spare change. I wasn’t about to buy beer or drugs or anything like that. I wanted to buy some food for me and my friends.”

Daniel chimed in, “Hi there, Old Timer! I’m Daniel and this is my daughter, Kate. Just who are you and your friends that you need to buy food for?”

The old man answered, “The name is Robert. I’m a Viet Nam vet. I’m a bit down on my luck and have no home. I lost my Maggie in '06 to breast cancer. Then in 2008, I lost my job in the recession. Before I even realized, the bank foreclosed on the mortgage and I was out on the streets. Nobody wants to hire an old guy like me, Now I live with some other vet friends – one from the Gulf War, another like me from “Nam.”

“Where do you guys stay? Do you really live under the underpass up the road?” Kate asked.

“Yep. Me and my friends built a few shacks out of cardboard and some old sheet metal we’ve come across. It’s not the Waldorf, but it keeps us dry and decently warm.” Robert answered.

“What branch were you in? If you don't mind me asking, that is.” asked Daniel”

“I’m a Navy man, sir. I was posted on a surveillance ship off the coast of North Viet Nam. I was a radio intercept technician”

Kate couldn’t contain herself “Radio? Really?”

“Yes, ma'am! I served on the USS Jamestown AGTR-3. We were parked off the coast of North Vietnam to monitor Viet Cong communications.”

Kate explained her own interest in radio and how she had been a Ham since her younger days They talked for a bit. When Daniel felt that Robert was on the up and up and wasn’t scamming them, he handed him a twenty dollar bill.

“It’s not much, but it’s about all the spare I have on me, Robert. Sorry I can’t offer you more.”

Robert shook his hand, “I’m much obliged to you, sir. I thank you for your kindness.”

Daniel answered, “No sir, not at all. Thank you for your service. I only wish there was more I could do for you. Well, we better head off. I’m taking Kate here to but a Ham radio that she earned for herself.”

“That’s OK.” Robert said. “You’ve done more than most. You’ve treated me like ordinary folk and didn’t just chase me away. Have a good trip and maybe we’ll meet up again, some day. I’d sure like to see that shiny new rig of yours, Kate.”

Daniel and Kate got in the car and drove away. Kate watched Robert walk away in the rear view mirror. She was quiet for a long time.

“You OK, Kate?” Daniel asked his daughter.

“Yeah, Dad. I’m OK. But it’s not right, Robert being homeless and all. He did his time in the Navy, he made a sacrifice for us. Somebody should do something for him now.”

They drove a little longer.

“Dad? Would you turn around?”

“Why, Kate?” he asked.

“I want to go to the Camp-More store and buy some stuff for those guys. I want to use my radio money.”

“Kate, you’ve worked so hard and long for that! If anyone deserves that new radio, it’s you! Are you sure, Honey?”

“I'm sure Dad. I just can’t go spending on myself, when I know there are men right here in our own town who need our help”.

Daniel reluctantly agreed. He knew his daughter’s heart was in the right place. He also knew her determination. Once she set her mind to something, that was it, so he knew better than to try and talk her out of her decision. They stopped at the sporting goods store on the way home and bought some warm sleeping bags and some other camping gear. Then they went to the local big box store and bought some blankets and some non-perishable food stuff.

“You want to take this stuff over there now, Kate?”

“Yeah. Let’s go”

They group of vets weren’t hard to find. There was only the one underpass in town that ran under the interstate. Robert saw them pull up, he had recognized their car.

“Kate, Daniel! You’re back so soon! What radio gear did you buy?”

“I didn’t, Robert. We went and got some stuff for you and your friends.”

Daniel opened up the trunk and started to unload all the items they had bought.

Robert was stunned. “Why thank you so much! God bless your souls. You didn’t have to do this, Kate!”

Kate answered, “I know I didn’t have to, I wanted to”.

“But your radio! Your Dad told me how you worked so hard!”

“There’s some things more important than radio, Robert. You sacrificed for this country. It’s time somebody did something for you.” The teenager said.

Robert and Daniel looked at him and then at each other. Both had misty eyes.

“That’s some daughter you have there, Daniel”

“Don’t you think I don’t know it, Robert?”

They all shook hands again and Daniel and Kaitlyn left for home.

“This isn’t over by a long shot, Dad.”

That night, Kate got on the family computer and started a Go Fund Me page. She explained the need the homeless veterans had. She sent the link to all her high school and Ham friends. She posted the link on social media, and it went viral. Before long, the Go Fund Me page had raised over $5,000. Kate’s social media posts had been seen by a local newspaper reporter and the story got spread even farther and wider.

As Christmas approached Kate was approached by a hotel owner who was touched by the story and was willing to put up the three veterans in some of his rooms until they got on their feet. Some local business men also got in touch with Kate to offer employment to the three Veterans.

On Christmas Eve, Kate, her Dad and her closest high school friends drove out to the place where the homeless Veterans were camped out. “Hi Kate! Hi Daniel! Good to see you! Who are all those people?” Robert asked, warily.

“Just some good friends, Robert. We wanted to come out and see you – we have some Christmas gifts for you and your buddies.”

Kate explained the Go Fund Me page to Robert and handed him the cash they had raised. Then the local hotel owner, Mr. McCutcheon explained to Robert that he had warm rooms to offer, and they could live there for a few months until the Veteran's got back on their feet.

“I don't know what to say.” Robert said. “I don't know how we'll ever be able to pay you back for all this.”

Then from the back of the crowd, a man stepped forward. “I think I can help with that. My name is Dave Taylor. I'm the manager of the local Home Handyman Outlet store. From the looks of the way you gentlemen built up your shelters here, it's obvious you're pretty handy and know a thing or two about building things. I came to offer you jobs at the local store in town, if you want them.”

Robert and his two comrades were flabbergasted. Never before had anyone ever gone out of their way for them they way Kaitlyn and Daniel had. A reporter from the local newspaper, Sherry Edwards, stepped forward and asked Robert and Kaitlyn and Daniel if she could interview them for a story for the paper. They agreed and the four of them agreed to meet at the diner in town in an hour for some coffee and conversation. As the little crowd started to disperse, Robert have Daniel and Kaitlyn a big hug. “God bless you both! You've been so kind. How can I ever repay you?”

Daniel replied, “Robert, you paid it forward, by your service to our country. Now it's time we re-paid YOU! You know, if you want to really repay us, though, then join us for Christmas dinner at our house tomorrow. I can't promise you anything fancy, just some hot food, a warm house and my the company of my family."

That Christmas was one of the best ever for Daniel and his family. He appreciated all the gifts he had. Even though life had dealt him some hardships and tough times, he had a family who loved him and who he loved back. He was proud of his daughter for her big heart, and for the fine young woman she had grown up to be.

The day after Christmas, the family was sitting around the table after breakfast when the door bell rang. Daniel looked at his wife and kids, “Are we expecting company?”

“I'm not expecting anyone, dear. You're brother is coming for a visit, but that's not until the weekend.” she said.

Daniel went to answer the door. There was a man there with a box under his arm.

“Is this the Walker residence?” he asked.

“Yes, I'm Daniel Walker. What can I do for you?” Daniel asked.

“Is your daughter, Kaitlyn home, Mr. Walker?”

“What's this all about?” Daniel asked. The two men talked quietly for a bit. The rest of the family in the kitchen were bursting with curiosity. Daniel finally walked into the kitchen along with the man from the front door. “Hi Honey” he said to his wife, “This is Ted Baker and he came to see Kaitlyn.”

Kaitlyn had a puzzled look on her face, “Me?” she asked.

Ted Baker spoke up, “Hi Kaitlyn! I'm the manager of the local Ham Radio Depot store. We read on Facebook about what you did for those Veterans in town here. We were especially touched by your selflessness and that you sacrificed the money you had saved to buy what was going to be your new rig. To us, that exemplified the Spirit of Ham Radio. So on behalf of Ham Radio Depot and all your fellow Amateur Radio friends, worldwide, we'd like to present you with this brand new Icom IC-7300.

Kaitlyn looked like she was about to faint. It was the last thing she ever expected and when she recovered, all she could squeak out was, “Really?”

Ted laughed and answered, “Really, Kaitlyn. You've showed us what Ham Radio is all about and what we can all be, if only we aspire to it. Merry Christmas to you and your family!”

Daniel and his wife beamed. This was truly the best Christmas they had had in quite a long time.

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thinking about SKN already

Even though Christmas hasn't come yet, I'm already thinking about what to do for Straight Key Night.  I've decided to put the KX3 into mothballs for the evening and will give the HW-8 the place of honor on the shack desk.

I will use either my W2WK straight key; or maybe I'll break out the ol' Vibroplex Original and will make some ears bleed.

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's enough to ruin your Christmas Spirit - almost!

A miscellaneous blog post, having not much to do with Amateur Radio, other than the fact that my shack is located in our basement..

The weekend was going pretty well. I was looking forward to a nice quiet, Sunday.  I had come home from Mass that morning and was taking a bite out of my sandwich that I was having for lunch. All of a sudden, from the basement, my XYL, Marianne, uttered those seven dreaded words that no one ever wants to hear:

"There's water all over the basement floor!"

Like the fellow in the poem "T'was The Night Before Christmas", I ran down the stairs to see what was the matter!

Yes indeed, there WAS water all over the basement floor.  It appeared that the mud sink that we have down there had overflowed.  The water level in the sink itself had gone down; but was still pretty high.  I figured that maybe some lint from the washing machine exhaust had clogged the sink, so I tried plunging it.  No dice.  To make matters worse, one of the two kids upstairs had run one of the sinks and I saw the water level in the sink rise before my eyes. I'm no plumber, but to me that indicated one thing ....... the main sewer line was clogged. Ugh!

Let's see we've had the house for almost 20 years now and in 2020 the house will be 100 years old. The town switched over from septic systems to sewers somewhere around the 1940s or 1950s, I think - so about 70 years worth of buildup had accumulated on the inside walls of those pipes.

I called a "24/7 emergency plumber" and thankfully, he came to the house within an hour. And to my dismay, he confirmed my diagnosis.  As he went to remove the cap from the sewer line cleanout, I braced for more water to come gushing forth - after I had already wet-vac'ed up what had come out of the sink.


That meant the clog was between the sink and the cleanout. So I left him to do his thing and after a while he said he was finished.  We ran the sinks, the toilets and the tub and everything seemed to be in good shape.

Not so quick, grasshopper.

After he left, Marianne put in a load of wash and sure enough, when the clothes washer drained, it filled up the sink again. Only this time, it didn't overflow and was draining very, very slowly. This resulted in a call back and the plumber returned to re-snake the pipe.  Again, we ran all the water we could think of and nothing was backing up in the sink.  But this time, I made the mistake. It was getting late in the evening and I didn't want to keep the guy as he had other calls to go to before going home - so I didn't run the washing machine until he left.

Big mistake!  It was still backing up, almost as bad as the first time. The problem was that it wasn't evident under normal "trickles" of water. But when you dumped a massive amount of water in the sink, all at once, like the clothes washer does, it then became evident that there was still a nasty clog.

At that point, exasperated and frustrated, I decided to take a sick day on Monday and I called the plumbing company back in the morning.  This time, the plumber's manager  was very apologetic and promised  to speak with the technician regarding everything he had done to this point.  Between the two of them, they came up with a slightly different solution.  His manager instructed him to put an attachment on to the snake that allowed him to actually push out the offending built up sludge instead of just making a drainage hole through it. He snaked that bad boy all the way from the sink, past the cleanout, all the way to the street - some 200 feet.

This time, he stayed while we ran a short, but full load cycle from the clothes washer. Eureka! Success! It drained without backing up, whatsoever!

As bad as Sunday went, I thank God that this didn't happen Christmas weekend. I'm thankful the plumber was able to finally get the clog unclogged, and I'm VERY thankful for vacuum cleaners that will pick up water!

And finally, I am very grateful that no Amateur Radio equipment was harmed in the events described in this post.

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

New Year's Day Sprint

Thanks to Jim W4QO and the NoGA QRP e-mail reflector for bringing this to my attention:


Date/Time: 1500Z to 1800Z on 1 January 2018.

Mode: HF CW only.

Exchange: Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, ARCI member number
Non-Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, Power Out

QSO Points: Member = 5 points Non-Member, Different Continent = 4 points Non-Member, Same Continent = 2 points

Multiplier: SPC (State/Province/Country) total for all bands. The same station may be worked on multiple bands for QSO points and SPC credit.

Power Multiplier: >5 Watts = x1 >1 - 5 Watts = x7 >250 mW - 1 Watt = x10 >55 mW - 250 mW = x15
<55 mw="x20<br">
Suggested Frequencies: 80m 3560 kHz 40m 7030 kHz 20m 14060 kHz 15m 21060 kHz 10m 28060 kHz

Bonus Points: If you are operating PORTABLE using battery power AND a temporary antenna, add 5000 points to your final score. (You can NOT be at your shack operating from battery power using your home station antenna to qualify for this bonus.) This is to help level the playing field for contesters who work from the field against contest stations with 5 element yagis at 70 ft.

Score: Final Score = Points (total for all bands) x SPCs (total for all bands) x Power Multiplier + Bonus Points

Categories: Entry may be All-Band, Single Band, High Bands (10m-15m-20m) or Low Bands (40m-80m)

How to Participate: Get on any of the HF bands except the WARC bands and hang out near the QRP frequencies. Work as many stations calling CQ QRP or CQ TEST as possible, or call CQ QRP or CQ TEST yourself! You can work a station for credit once on each band.

Log Submission: Submit your entry online at Log sheets are not required for entry, but may be requested by the Contest Manager if required.

Deadline: Entries must be posted on or before 15 January 2018.

Results: Will be published in QRP Quarterly and shown on the QRP-ARCI website.

Certificates: Will be awarded to the top five scoring entrants.

This is a great way to kick off 2018 (besides Straight Key Night, of course!) and it's only 3 hours long - so if you have company over for the Holiday, or are perhaps recovering from a bit of a New Year's Eve hangover, this won't occupy your entire day!

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

So, what do you want to see under YOUR tree?

The W2LJ family room

As we get closer and closer to Christmas, I'm wondering what all of you out there are hoping that Santa will leave under your tree?  I always find it interesting to seet what other Hams are wishing for.

Marianne has asked me for a list of items, so I gave her one.  In no order of preference I listed:

1) A Bayou Jumper kit from the 4 States QRP Group
2) An Arrow handheld 144/440 MHz antenna for working the FM satellites (Yes, I'd like to get back into that, again.)
3) A personal weather station that I'd like to connect to the Internet.

It will be interesting to see which one (if any of them) shows up under the tree. I would imagine that it might be much more likely to find that Santa brought a couple shirts or something similar.

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

New offerings

Some offerings:

The uBITX, or micro BITX - being offered at $109 for a limited time.

The uBITX is an HF transceiver capable of 10 Watts output on CW and SSB. It features a general coverage receiver, digital tuning, dual VFOs, RIT and a built in CW keyer.  It comes pretty much assembled, except for a housing and the user would have to hook up the controls knobs, speaker and antenna connections, etc.  Details can be found here:

It comes with open firmware and is designed to be hacked and experimented with. The original software is available online, so if you mess up you can go back to the default, easily enough. The programming language is Arduino C language.

The QRPGuys have also announced some new products:

1:1 and 4:1 voltage Baluns -

K8TND's 40 Meter Direct Conversion Regenerative Receiver based on a heavily modified Kitchin, N1TEV design. -

Note: W2LJ is NOT connected in any way with any of these companies - just trying to offer the latest news I come across to the QRP community.

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

Friday, December 08, 2017

In keeping with the Season

and the band conditions during our diminishing sun spot cycle, I will post a graphic that I saw on Facebook, courtesy of Jim Stephens NX8Z:

Last night's 80 Meter QRP Fox hunt was a tough go.  I finally managed to nab Randy NC4RT  in North Carolina for a single pelt.  Dave K5IX in Texas was a mere whisper, although my relatively close by neighbor Steve WX2S managed to squeak in a QSO in the closing minutes of the hunt.

QSB was tough, rapid and fluttery, and there was a low, whooshing noise across a part of the band that made things very difficult.  I'm not sure whether that was just local noise or some kind of over the horizon radar; but it was not pleasant to deal with.  I thank God for the Butternut, as it allowed me to snag the pelt.  Going against conventional wisdom, the vertical was giving me less noise than the horizontal wire!

Unfortunately, I think we have a few more years of this before things get better.  Maybe Santa will bring us some sun spots if we're all good Amateur Radio ops?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least1

Thursday, December 07, 2017

QRP ARCI Holiday Homebrew Sprint this Sunday

No, not for guys who make their own adult beverages - for you guys who brew up your own equipment!

This sounds like it would be right up the alley of my good friend, Bob W3BBO - he's got more homebrewed equipment than you can shake a stick at!

The rules are here -

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Fermi Labs Special Event

Fermi Labs celebrating their 50th Anniversary

Don't get too close to the collider!

On a side note, one of the finest, most sleek looking Special Event certificates that I ever earned was when I worked the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee during one of their milestone anniversaries. That one is framed and hangs on the shack wall to this day.

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Attention KX2 owners / users!

From Wayne N6KR on QRP-L this morning:

The latest KX2 field-test firmware allows power output to be set as high as 12 watts on 80 through 20 meters. (Max out is still 10 watts on 17-10 meters.) Supply voltage must be 12.8 V or higher on key-down. ~14 V supply recommended.

Yes, this is only about 1 dB, but it did help me snag XF1IM this morning on 20 CW.

We consider the change experimental at this point. Not all KX2s are guaranteed to hit 12 W on all of these bands, and this level is recommended for low duty-cycle use, i.e. hunt/pounce.

If you’d like to give it a try, please email me directly. (Editor's note:

73, Wayne N6KR

So there you have it from The Man, himself!

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

SOTA, POTA, NPOTA ??? Now there's NOTA

AND ....... if you're a space buff like me - this one's a goody!  NASA On The Air!

From the ARRL Website:

The Amateur Radio clubs at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) centers around the US have invited the Amateur Radio community to join the NASA On The Air (NOTA) special event. NOTA gets under way in December 2017 and continues through December 2018. In addition to being the agency’s 60th anniversary, 2018 will mark 50 years since NASA orbited the first human around the moon, and 20 years since the first elements of the International Space Station (ISS) were launched into low-Earth orbit.

Starting on Monday, December 11, 2017 (UTC), Amateur Radio club stations at various NASA centers and facilities will be on the air with special event operations to celebrate these monumental achievements, as well as current milestones. Some clubs will offer commemorative QSL cards, and a special certificate will be available indicating the number of NASA club stations worked on various bands and modes.

“We plan to have a web-based system for you to check your points total and download a printable certificate at the end of the event in December 2018,” the NASA announcement said. “Points will be awarded for each center worked on each band and mode (phone, CW, digital, and ‘space’ modes — satellites, meteor scatter, EME, ISS APRS).” That would, of course, include contacts with any of the Amateur Radio stations on the ISS.

Key anniversaries during NOTA include the 45th anniversary of Apollo 17 on December 11, 2017, which kicks off the event; NASA’s founding on July 29, 1958; the 20th anniversary of the ISS first element launch on November 20, 1998; the 20th anniversary of the ISS Node 1 Launch on December 4, 1998, and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8 — launched on December 21, 1968, and returned on December 27 — marking the end of the event.

Ham radio clubs at various NASA facilities will sponsor their own special events to commemorate and celebrate specific events.

“We hope to be on the air for casual contacts and contests as well. All contacts with NASA club stations will count toward your total,” the announcement said. “QSL cards can be requested from each club you work and details will be on the individual profile page for each club call sign.”

I can imagine the pileups now!

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

I had second thoughts

about replacing the W3EDP this past weekend. While it's not the greatest or most efficient wire antenna I've ever had, for some reason it's the best wire antenna for 160 Meters that I've ever had. In the past, my 88' EDZ and G5RV were very poor performers on Top Band, if I could get them to load at all.  Contacts with those netted me QSOs in New Jersey and New York could have been considered DX. On the other hand, the W3EDP has taken me up and down the East coast and gotten me as far as Illinois with 5 Watts.

I know, no great shakes, but even a small trickle of water is like a river to a man dying of thirst. For the coming season of shorter days and longer nights, I decided that instead of replacing it for now, I'd just try to get it up higher, and I did.  I managed to shoot a line over the tree and the apex of the W3EDP is now at about the 40 foot level.  Unfortunately, as it slopes down to meet the mast on the far side, it's a zig-zag affair within the tree limbs.  But it will do for now, while I do some more research to figure out what to swap this out with next Spring, before the leaves return.

I didn't play much in the CQ WWDX this weekend.  I only made 1/2 dozen contacts or so on Saturday afternoon, as I got busy with other things. But it was apparent that the absence of sunspots is doing QRPers no big favors.  QSOs with locations that were easy pickin's just a few years ago were still able to be accomplished - but took a lot more effort. I was a surprise that the Caribbean stations weren't hearing me as well as they used to.  It's amazing how quickly you get used to great band conditions and good propagation when the sunspot numbers are up, and how quickly you notice it when they're not there anymore.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Today, in the United States of America, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The day was set aside as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln, in order that we, as a people, might take time to reflect upon and be thankful for the bounty that Almighty God has bestowed upon us.

Where do I begin? Of course, I am thankful for the "things" we have. A warm house, clean clothes and enough food to keep us well fed. But even more than the "things", which are just things, I am so grateful for all the people in my life, past and present.  My loving family, friends, associates, acquaintances, teachers and professionals who have been part of my life and who helped shape me into the person that I am.

No man is an island, and I am so grateful to God that He put all these wonderful individuals into my life. I am particularly grateful for Amateur Radio and because of it, for the friendships and associations that I have been able to make with you through this blog.  I thank God for each and every one of you, and I thank you for your continued reading of this little blog. You are in my prayers, today and every day, and I hope that I will be in yours.

"Give thanks to the Lord our God, His mercy and love endure forever!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I just can't do it!

I hate it when someone on Facebook; or some other visual media decides to get "cute" and spell out Morse Code characters.  For instance this morning, I saw several:

....   .-   .--.   .--.   -.--      -   ....   .-   -.   -.-   ...    --.   ..    ...-    ..     -.   --.

which of course, translates to "Happy Thanksgiving".

I stared at that for minutes, and finally made the connection because of the holiday tomorrow.  I just cannot, for whatever reason, very easily translate visual Morse. I have to HEAR it.  I sit or stand there for minutes, slack jawed and mouth agape, trying to figure out what I'd be able to decode in a nanosecond, if I could just HEAR it!

I guess it's just me, becoming a curmudgeon in my old age.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

No line up over the weekend

My plan was to hopefully get a line up over the maple tree in the backyard as a prelude to building and installing a new wire antenna over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Again, it was not to be.  By the time I got home from the FLDigi/NBEMS seminar that a bunch of us attended Saturday morning, it was already raining.

Sunday was a no-go here because it was extremely windy. It was so windy, that as Harold (my Beagle) and I sat on the couch in the living room, we could actually hear the wind "howl" as it blew up and down the street. If I had attempted to shoot a line in that wind, I would never have gotten good placement.

So that leaves next weekend. I kind of hate to take down the W3EDP as it served me decently well on 160 Meters.  It really shouldn't have; but with 5 Watts, I was able to routinely get out as far west as Illinois.  For a small suburban lot like mine, that's no small feat. I know that any doublet that I put up will not be nearly long enough to get me any kind of signal on 160 Meters.

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

Friday, November 17, 2017


Coax is on the way. A new LDG 1:1 Current Balun is on the way and Dave VE7EZM is planting seeds in my brain:

Not only is this do-able, it's not all that far away from the configuration that I had in mind, anyway. 46.8 Feet on the short side may be tight, but I think I'll be crossing the back yard on a bit of a diagonal and not straight across, parallel with the property line. That may just give me the few extra feet of space that I'll need.  

This weekend looks to be busy, getting the house ready for Thanksgiving guests and all (plus I'm attending a seminar on FLDigi and the NBEMS messaging system for AUXCOMM tomtorrow)- but maybe, just maybe, I can find time to shoot a line up into the tree so that I can be ready for the long Holiday weekend next week.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All WX Solar Powered Amateur Radio Field Station

Julian OH8STN is featured on my blog roll, to the right. Just a few days ago, he made a video about operating a field station totally from solar power, off the grid.  The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club does this every Field Day, by using solar power to charge up our batteries. Our radios run from this power source for the entire 24 hours.

Last year, I purchased a portable, brief case type of solar panel, along with a charge controller in order to accomplish the same goal.  I haven't taken it out to the field yet, but I have used it from the back yard; and I know it will work if needed in an emergency situation.

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

Going back to basics

Next weekend is the long Thanksgiving Day Weekend here in the US.  After the holiday on Thursday, that leaves me with three days off.  If the weather is not bitterly cold (which it is not supposed to be), I am thinking of taking down the W3EDP and putting up a random length doublet in its place. Of course, this is all depends on no surprises coming out of left field that could possibly occupy the entire weekend. You know what they say about "The best laid plans of mice and men ......"

The main objective would be to get the wire higher than it currently is. I am going to follow the old rule of thumb - "Get up as much wire as you can, as high as you can." This is the antenna that I used for so many years as a Novice and it served me well.  I think I still have a Ten Tec Antenna T kicking around in the basement.

Basically, I would get that up as high in the maple in the backyard as I possible could, and then run as much wire as I could to each anchor point.  I will feed it with 450 Ohm window line to the ground, to a balun (A few years back, Bob W3BBO made me a beautiful 4:1 that I still have), and then RG213 to the shack.

Off the top of my head, I am thinking I'd have about 50 feet of wire to one side and about 70 feet of wire on the other. The main thing, though, is that I'm hoping I can raise the wire level from about 25 or so feet to about 40 feet.

This would be my customized version of "The 4$ Special" antenna.

Ah, the joys of living on a small, suburban lot!

You might be thinking, "Why did he wait until now? Why not do this in the Summer, when the weather is more comfortable?"

I'll tell you why - most of the leaves are gone now. Hopefully there will be less snags and fewer #$*&! words uttered.

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Morse Code - still relevant today Part Deux

Kudos and tip of the straight key lever to Jeff K1NSS (and he, in turn,  thanked The K9YA Telegraph) for pointing this one out on Facebook today:

As Jeff says, "Morse always makes it through!"

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least1

Morse Code: A Staple in the Navy IW Toolkit

IW is an abbreviation for Information Warfare.

It would appear that Morse Code retains its relevance (outside of Amateur Radio) even in this day and age of computers and digital communications.

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Big shoes to fill!

After a "year off" the ARRL announced in the December issue of QST, it's newest operating event.

The 2018 ARRL International Grid Chase follows on the heels of the successful Centennial operating event and the even more successful National Parks On The Air operating event.

The idea is work as many different Maindenhead grid squares as you can, on any band (expect for 60 Meters) using any mode. Contacts made through satellites will count; but contacts made through earthbound repeaters will not.

So how will all these contacts be kept track of?  Through Logbook Of The World, of course! So it is imperative that you have an LOTW account as well as the station you are working. When you both upload your logs to LOTW; and you get a match, you get credit for a valid QSO for the ARRL IGC.

While total cumulative results will be posted at the end of the year, the clock will "reset" so to speak, at the beginning of each month. So each month of 2018 will be like a new operating event; or competition. (I hate to use the word "contest", as we all know that contests are forbidden on the WARC bands.)

Should you not know your Maidenhead Grid Square locator, it's easy to find out. You can either look yourself up on, or go to What's interesting about these two methods is that you might get different results. QRZ tells me that my grid square is FN20to and Levine Central tells me that it's FN20so.  No matter ...... for the purposes of the ARRL IGC, you'll only need the first four places.  In addition, exchanging the grid square during the QSO is not required. LOTW will keep track of that.  I suppose that for those who will go out and activate rare grids, there will be some provision made for identifying what grid square was operated from when uploading contacts into LOTW.

Will this be as successful as the last two events?  That remains to be seen. The Centennial Event was huge success and NPOTA was a monster success. In any event, kudos to the ARRL for continuing to come up with ideas to keep Amateur Radio life a little on the spicier side.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Field Day 2017 Results

The resuts are in; and just as we suspected, the South Plainfield Radio Club, operating station NJ2SP had the best Field Day outing so far of our brief 4 year history.

Operating as a 3AB station, we placed 2nd in our category, nationwide.

We also placed 2nd in our ARRL Section - NNJ.

Kudos to all the mebers of SPARC. You had a great Fied Day and you have every right to pleased with your peformance. And once again, to the doubters .... I think this shows that QRP can compete well with the rest of the pack - even in the death throes of a solar cycle.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Veterans Day Weekend 2017

A Happy Veterans Day to all who have worn the uniform. Your dedication, and the time and treasure that you sacrificed while serving our country can never be adequately repaid.

Thank you!

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

I've become such a creature of routine!

Last night was the opening session of the 2017/2018 QRP Fox Hunt season.  I had a modicum of success with a "one-fer".  Our two Foxes last night were John K4BAI and Todd N9NE.  I found John easily as he was 599 in New Jersey and I worked him rather quickly, getting a 579 report back from John only 12 minutes into the hunt.

The balance of the 90 minutes was spent listening for Todd.  I knew where he was (or rather, had a good guess as to where he was) by listening for his Hounds. Once I found them, I equalized the VFOs on my KX3 and then moved VFO A down a kHz and just listened, twiddling the knob little bits in an effort to hear something .... anything..  Todd never materialized and that was kind of odd. Usually, there's a virtual pipeline of HF signals between New Jersey and Wisconsin.

Not last night.

No Wisconsin Fox for W2LJ !!!

Anyway, I stayed up until 10:30 PM, hoping against hope that I would score some WI Fox fur; but it was not to be. Boy, am I paying for it this morning!  That meant staying up past my normal bedtime and now today feels all "out of kilter". I slept 15 minutes past the alarm and if it weren't for morning coffee, I'd be shuffling around like a Zombie from NA5N's sprint a few weeks back.

I've become such a creature of routine.  If you told me this back when I was in my 20s, I'd probably have laughed right in your face.

I'm not laughing now - chuckling a bit (and wishing I could take a nap), but not laughing.

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


Disappointed .......VERY disappointed.

Last night, I got the rare opportunity to actually park my carcass on the couch in order to enjoy a little television.  No meetings, no having to drive the kids anywhere, no chores - just a chance to relax. I was tuned into TVLand and was watching an old episode of M*A*S*H, because quite frankly, there isn't much on TV that satisfies me these days.

I had my tablet in hand and was half-heartedly scrolling through Facebook, when all of a sudden, I was made aware by several Amateur Radio ops and the ARRL that our hobby was going to be featured on "NCIS" on WCBS TV.

It was already about half way through the show's time slot when I noticed this, so I quickly changed the channel.

What a disappointment ....... what an utter, abject disappointment. To be honest with you, I was glad I didn't see this from the beginning. That probably wouldn't have dome my blood pressure any good.

The only thing the writers got correct was to use authentic Amateur Radio gear in the show.  Other than that, everything was bogus.  I don't know what formula they used for call signs; but it wasn't anything remotely close to what we use here in the US.  I know, maybe they didn't want to take the chance using a real call, but the format they used was ridiculous.

Then, they made special effort to involve "handles".  My goodness, I was swept immediately back to the '70s and Citizens Band radio.  Every now and then you'll hear a Ham refer to his first name as his "handle" or "personal" (which makes me cringe), but even those folks actually use their names in a QSO.  Nobody gets on the air and uses names like "Ricochet" or the garbage they put into last night's episode.

The final straw was how they portrayed the Amateur Radio ops that they featured in the show. To put it bluntly, the Amateur Radio characters were portrayed as losers.  I know that the world of Amateur Radio is a microcosm and that we have our share of kooks and odd balls, but the Hams portrayed on "NCIS" were ridiculous.

What steams me the most is that all the good press that Amateur Radio has garenered lately due to our involvement in assisting with or providing communications during the hurricanes and wild fires could be potentially nullified by this portrayal of Hams as nerdy, unkempt individuals who are nothing more than social misfits ...... at best.  I doubt I've seen a better instance of stereotyping in a long time.

I can only hope the show got lousy ratings last night.

A much better critique has been offered by Don Keith N4KC, who is a light years better wordsmith than I. His opinion piece on this debacle can be read here: The only consolation is that if N4KC thought last night's episode was a piece of ........, well then, it was.

Thanks NCIS and WCBS .... for not much.

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Viva la CW!

The following is a copy of a copy.  Originally posted on the K3 e-mail reflector, to which I do not subscribe, it was then posted to the CW Ops reflector by Bob, N7WY.  It is so good and meaningful to us Morse Code fans, that I am re-posting here.

A post by Wayne Burdick - N6KR

I find that CW has many practical and engaging aspects that I just don’t get with computer-mediated modes like FT8. You’d think I’d be burned out on CW by now, over 45 years since I was first licensed, but no, I’m still doin’ it :)

Yes, FT8 (etc.) is a no-brainer when, despite poor conditions, your goal is to log as many contacts as possible with as many states or countries as possible. It’s so streamlined and efficient that the whole process is readily automated. (If you haven’t read enough opinions on that, see "The mother of all FT8 threads” on, for example.)

But back to CW. Here’s why it works for me. YMMV.

CW feels personal and visceral, like driving a sports car rather than taking a cab. As with a sports car, there are risks. You can get clobbered by larger vehicles (QRM). Witness road range (“UP 2!”). Fall into a pothole (QSB). Be forced to drive through rain or snow (QRN).

With CW, like other forms of human conversation, you can affect your own style. Make mistakes. Joke about it.

CW is a skill that bonds operators together across generations and nations. A language, more like pidgin than anything else, with abbreviations and historical constructs and imperialist oddities. A curious club anyone can join. (At age 60 and able to copy 50 WPM on a good day, I may qualify as a Nerd Mason of some modest order, worthless in any other domain but of value in a contest.)

With very simple equipment that anyone can build, such as a high-power single-transistor oscillator, you can transmit a CW signal. I had very little experience with electronics when I was 14 and built an oscillator that put out maybe 100 mW. Just twisted the leads of all those parts together and keyed the collector supply--a 9-volt battery. With this simple circuit on my desk, coupled to one guy wire of our TV antenna mast, I worked a station 150 miles away and was instantly hooked on building things. And on QRP. I’m sure the signal was key-clicky and had lots of harmonics. I’ve spent a lifetime making such things work better, but this is where it started.

Going even further down the techno food chain, you can “send” CW by whistling, flashing a lamp, tapping on someone’s leg under a table in civics class, or pounding a wrench on the inverted hull of an upside-down U.S. war vessel, as happened at Pearl Harbor. Last Saturday at an engineering club my son belongs to, a 9-year-old demonstrated an Arduino Uno flashing HELLO WORLD in Morse on an LED. The other kids were impressed, including my son, who promptly wrote a version that sends three independent Morse streams on three LEDs. A mini-pileup. His first program.

Finally, to do CW you don’t always need a computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, or software. Such things are invaluable in our daily lives, but for me, shutting down everything but the radio is the high point of my day. The small display glows like a mystic portal into my personal oyster, the RF spectrum. Unless I crank up the power, there’s no fan noise. Tuning the knob slowly from the bottom end of the band segment to the top is a bit like fishing my favorite stream, Taylor Creek, which connects Fallen Leaf Lake to Lake Tahoe. Drag the line across the green, sunlit pool. See what hits. Big trout? DX. Small trout? Hey, it’s still a fish, and a QSO across town is still a QSO. Admire it, then throw it back in.

(BTW: You now know why the Elecraft K3, K3S, KX2, and KX3 all have built-in RTTY and PSK data modes that allow transmit via the keyer paddle and receive on the rig’s display. We decided to make these data modes CW.)

Back to 40 meters....


Wayne N6KR

The best sentiments I have seen or read about CW in a very long time.  Thanks, Wayne, for putting into words what a lot of us feel!

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

QRP Podcast

This episode of the ARRL's "The Doctor Is IN' is semi-devoted to QRP. I am listening to it right now.

Sponsored by DX Engineering, "The Doctor Is In" is a bi-weekly podcast offered by the ARRL. You can get it from the iTunes store, or through Blubrry or Stitcher.  I use the free Stitcher app for my Android phone.

So far, it's a pretty vanilla discussion on QRP. Nothing isn't being talked about that a seasoned veteran QRPer wouldn't already be familiar with.  However, it seems to be a decent primer for someone just getting interested in QRP.

And lo and behold, we went from a discussion of QRP to a discussion of fan dipoles.

Oh, well, so much for that!

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

New club in town

There's a new QRP Club, or new Yahoo Group, if you will. It's the California QRP Club and membership is open to any QRPer. Residence in the Golden State is not a prerequisite. is the link.  And as Doug Hendricks KI6DS, posted:

"The purpose and goals of the California QRP Club is to promote QRP. We don't have dues, we don't have officers, and we don't have business meetings. We do have monthly get togethers in San Jose, and we will be a co-sponsor of the qrp activities at Pacificon next year. The club will have two caretakers, Steve Smith, WB6TNL and Doug Hendricks, KI6DS. They will be responsible for the running of the club. We will not do anything that involves the exchange of money to the club. If there are expenses, Steve and Doug will pay them.

We will also issue membership numbers, only upon request. You may get yours by sending an email to directly to Steve. Do not send your request to this list. It will not be acted upon. To get your California QRP Club membership number send an email to Steve Smith at with "CalQRP Membership number" in the subject line. Steve will assign a number to you.

I plan on doing more issues of QRPp, but it will not have a regular schedule and will be posted as a downloadable file in the file section of this list.

The first announcement that we would like to make is that the club has an Amateur Radio Club License, and the call sign is WA6GER. We are dedicated to preserving the memory and legacy of Jim Cates, and plan on activating his call at least once a month. More on that later. This was formerly the club Vanity Call Sign of NorCal but it was allowed to expire and was not renewed. When the 2 year grace period for renewal had passed, the FCC cancelled the license and WA6GER was returned to the available call sign database where anyone could have claimed it. Steve Smith did the leg work to secure the call and I want to thank him publicly for it.

Everyone is invited to join the California QRP Club, and you may do so by going to (Ed. note - see link above). and signing up."

So there you - new group in town.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Pardon me .......

........ but what exactly are you doing?"

That was question from another person here at work who passed by the picnic table where I was set up at lunchtime.  This time, however, the person knew what Amateur Radio was when I mentioned it. She asked me if I had contacted anyone, and I was able to tell her, "Yes. Hungary and Italy. Both contacted using less power than it takes to light up your average nightlight."

She seemed duly impressed, and I was able to give "The Schpiel" once again.

The stations I worked today on 20 Meters were HG500L, in Hungary. A special event station commemorating Martin Luther and his 95 Thesis - my Protestant friends will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next week.

The other station I worked was IK6FWJ, Alessandro in Corridonia, Italy Al was running 5 Watts, too and he was loud! Definitely 599 and perhaps some over. it was nice to have a 2X QRP QSO - haven't had one outside of a sprint in a while.

The magloop continues to work and surprise me.

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Zombie Shuffle post-mortem

I was glad to have been able to participate in the Zombie Shuffle this past Friday evening. Oh, the reason it was last Friday and not this coming Friday (which is actually closer to Halloween) is that this coming weekend is the CQ WW DX Contest.

The bands were not friendly.  In fact 20 Meters was so dead that it didn't even support any "undead" Zombies.  That left 40 and 80 Meters.  I've seen on QRP-L that for many, 80 Meters was fruitful, but for me it was not.  Right around the QRP watering hole of 3.560 MHz, I had S7 to S9 noise.  Not sure what is causing it, but the lower parts of 80 Meters were as they always are. Even so, I did manage one QSO on 80 Meters with my not so far away neighbor, W2SH.

The rest of my QSOs were made on 40 Meters, all five of them.  A grand total of six QSOs in the span of about two hours.  Pretty dismal, huh?  Yeah, pretty dismal.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

JOTA 2017

On Saturday, members of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Clun were invited to join with members of the Tri-County Radio Association, in their presentation of Amateur Radio to local Boy Scout troops.

The guys from W2LI had quite an impressive set up. An IC-7100 was tethered to an OCF dipole and a VHF/UHF station was activated as well.

After a brief presentation of what Amateur Radio is and what you can do with it, the kids were given a chance to actually get on the air and make contacts.

The Scouts had fun, none looked or complained of being "bored". While the older Scouts got busy on working towards their Radio Merit Badges, the younger ones got on the air. After some initial mic fright, there were plenty of exchanges with other Scouts around the country about ages, hobbies, locations, etc.

The team from the TCRA also brought along a code practice oscillator and some printed out Morse Code sheets.  This part of the afternoon seemed to have garnered as much attention as the HF station.  The kids were fascinated by the Morse Code.  It got to the point where some of the Cub Scout den leaders had to remind their charges that they had to share!  The kids got a kick out of sending code while we translated what they were sending - mostly their names.  It was tough duty, as spacing was all over creation; but when we were able to decode someone's fist, the kids thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And of course, the adults were amazed with regard to the Morse Code, that Amateur Radio operators "still do that".

I had to leave before the official end of the event; so I'm not sure of any mention was given about possible future licensing classes. One thing is for sure, though .... seeds were planted in what is hopefully fertile soil. Maybe there were three our four (or more) potential Hams recruited last Saturday.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Zombie Shuffle Tonight!

4:00 to Midnight, local time.

Rules are here:

See you on the air tonight!

72 de Larry W2LJ - Zombie # 858
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

More loopiness

Another sunny day in NJ, so that meant another lunchtime QRP session.  I decided to stay put on 20 Meters for a change. I did a bit of CQing as well as a bit of hunting.  I stayed near the QRP area and heard many stations working a SOTAteer.  I heard the chasers, but not the activator.  I twiddled the dial and went up a bit to hear a very loud OM3KAP in the Slovak Republic calling CQ at around 14.063 MHz.

So I answered.

And I was heard!  But then, when the guy on the other end has antennas like this, how can you NOT be heard?

Miro was conducting a test between two yagi systems for the upcoming contest season. He wanted to know if I was able to detect a marked difference between the two.  I wasn't.  He was a solid 579-599 on both, depending on QSB.  Maybe a younger sprout with better ears could have detected a difference -  but I couldn't.  What I should have done was to ask him to conduct the test a second time, while I relied on the S Meter for an indication. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and my brain didn't think of that in real time. This is how he was being heard around the world:

Pretty good, eh?  But then, with all that aluminum in the air, I'd be disappointed if I weren't getting RBN reports that looked like that.  I didn't tell Miro that I was running 5 Watts to a magloop.  After I gave him the report he was looking for, we signed.  It was more than your typical DX "5NN TU" QSO, but not quite a rag chew.  I was happy, though, to snag a bit more of DX.

After OM3KAP, I went down to 14.0595 MHz, which was clear, and called CQ for a bit. I was answered by Mike KA5VZE in Tulsa, OK, who was also running 5 Watts.  Mike gave me a 539 and I gave him a 569; but then things went downhill.  Fading kicked in like nobody's business and we both dropped out on each other.  Oh, what could have been!  A potentially nice lunchtime rag chew kicked mercilessly in the behind by Old Man QSB. We heard each well enough for that final 73 and call sign exchange and the final, final "dit dit". 

Curse you, QSB!

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

Puerto Rico

It will be interesting to watch out for the stories coming out of Puerto Rico regarding the ARRL's "Team of Fifty" that was sent to help out with communications. I've seen snippets of stories on social media that suggest not everything was wine, chocolate and roses.

The whole subject got me to thinking about what kind of operator would have been the best to send there.  I'm sure all the volunteers were screened and only a certain type were chosen. If it were up to me, this would have been my criteria, a blend of the following:

1) Someone who lives a lifestyle other than "sedentary"
2) Someone who is used to staying behind the radio for a long period of time - i.e  a contest type of person ....OR a DXpedtion type of person.
3) Someone who doesn't mind operating solo, is accustomed to operating in less than ideal conditions, and who can improvise and adapt when necessary.  To me, this just screams of SOTA, NPOTA or POTA.

It seems to me, in a situation like Puerto Rico, you just can't hand your average "Joe Ham" a Pelican case full of HF and UHF/VHF equipment with a power supply and antenna and just tell them, "go to town".  Ideally, the people sent should have been (and may have been for all I know) experienced in toting their own equipment around (backpacking/hiking), and operating under adverse conditions. Small, portable but yet powerful enough radios with wire antennas, lithium batteries, foldable solar panels and associated  accessories would seem to have fit the bill, entirely. But all that would do no good if the operator him or herself were not familiar with passing third party traffic or at the very least, sending information at a fast pace in a short amount of time (as in contesting or running a DXpedition pileup).

I know a lot of people get miffed about all the contests on the air on weekends (and I'm not big into contesting myself) but it IS a somewhat primitive method of preparing someone to be able to handle a Puerto Rico kind of situation.  In that regard, I think that SOTA, NPOTA, POTA and DXpedition people are kind of an almost perfect mix - because if you've ever worked any of those people, they handle(d) hundreds of QSOs in a small amount of time, as rapidly and efficiently as they are able.  I know that the conditions that these people usually operate under aren't nearly as stressful as what's going on throughout that island, but I think they have the best mix of capabilities and demeanor to be able to pull it off.

Of course, YMMV.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Learning lessons

Today is a sunny and warm day in New Jersey, with a lunchtime temperature of about 66F (19C). This made it a good day for some outside QRP, as the sun made it feel a bit warmer than it actually was, thus providing a comfortable operating experience. The fact that the leaves on nearby trees are changing and are very colorful didn't hurt, either!

I set the station and magloop up in all of about 5 minutes. I seem to be getting better at this. 20 Meters was alive with some activity, but not overly crowded.  I worked Josef at DL0IL in Germany, and then a little later Alexei who seems to be on holiday in the Canary Islands EA8/UA4WW.  Both were decently loud here. I got a 559 from Josef and a 579 from Alexei, so they both seemed to be "honest" RSTs, as opposed to "cookie cutter" 599s.

I heard a French station around the 20 Meter QRP watering hole, but I couldn't quite make out the call.  He was also decently loud here, perhaps even louder than DL0IL and EA8/UA4WW. However, his fist was shaky, and his callsign was extremely hard to make out. F6VAT, or something like that? RBN showed him as F63AT, but that's not a valid call, either. Anyway, it mattered not, for as loud as he was, I wasn't able to get him to hear me, even after trying 4 or 5 times. So much for reciprocal propagation, eh?

So as I gain experience with the magloop, what am I learning?  This is all subjective as I have no empirical data to back me up, but I would say (IMHO):

1) Magloops work, as improbable as that may seem (to me, anyway - still seems weird to me).
2) They seem to work as well, if not better, than compromise verticals, such as the Buddistick or a Hamstick.
3) I have no way of proving this right now; but my hunch would be an EFHW in a tree would perform better. This would be an interesting experiment, to see if I could set them up side by side, for at least a listening comparison.
4) It would seem to me that a permanent "home station" antenna such as a dipole or full sized vertical would have a better performance edge.  This would seem to be only common sense, given the size and efficiency of these antennas.

So when is a small magloop antenna a viable solution?

1) When you are portable, and you are pressed for time and require a very quick set up and tear down.
2) When you are bound by an HOA or other agreement that does not allow for outdoor antennas at your home QTH.
3) When you are operating portable and using trees is out of the question because A) there are none, or B) it is prohibited.
4) When you are operating portable away from your vehicle, thus losing a very effective ground plane for a compromise vertical.
5) When it's all you've got!

My magloop will continue to remain as one arrow in my antenna quiver. I doubt I would ever rely on it, entirely, in an outdoor Sprint such as FOBB or the Skeeter Hunt, although it might be interesting to give that a try, some day.  I think I'm going to have to pull out my WSPRlite and do some more testing, in the mean time.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Disappointed last weekend

I did not have a walloping amount of success with the QRP-ARCI Fall QSO Party over last weekend. Granted, I didn't put in a lot of time.  I would have made a bigger time investment had my QSO rate been higher.

I got on the air both mornings, Saturday and Sunday, around 1400 UTC or so.  20 Meters seemed dead on Saturday and on Sunday, I was able to make out a few whispers of signals, but that was about it.  40 Meters was active as all get out on both days  ......... with Pennsylvania QSO Party participants.  It seemed like wall to wall  PA QSO Party'ers, as a matter of fact.  And don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, it's just that unfortunately, there didn't seem to be many QRPers on the bands.

In all, between calling "CQ QRP" and tuning around and pouncing (no panadapter here, guess I'm too 'old fashioned'), I made about seven Fall QSO Party contacts in the span of a combined total of about three hours operating time. I'd be more willing to glue my posterior to the shack chair for a larger turn out.  If band conditions and a low participation rate seem to be the dominant factor, well then ....... I have more useful ways to spend my time.

My fingers are crossed that The Zombie Shuffle, occurring this Friday night will see more QRPers on the air, and as a result, will yield a lot more fun.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Another rant ..........

Sometimes I make the mistake of going over to eHam or QRZ and reading the forums.  I say "mistake" because of one type of post that really gets my blood pressure elevated. Those are the ones by Amateur Radio ops who dismiss the value of Amateur Radio in Emergency Communications.

I understand that some Hams feel there is too much emphasis on EMCOMM by the ARRL and other organizations. They usually dismiss the people they are speaking with by saying something like, "Yeah, When All Else Fails ....... like that's going to ever happen!"

I don't want to hear that from anyone, ever again.  I think over the past weeks, we have seen that not only is "When All Else Fails" possible - it can happen at anytime, anywhere.  The power of Nature laughs at our infrastructure.  The sin of pride fools us into thinking that as human beings, we are infallible; and that our edifices are indestructible.

The hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, as well as the wildfires in California are showing us that humans are no match for the forces of water, wind and fire.  All our finest efforts in building and engineering can be laid to waste in a matter of hours.  As we have seen in Mexico, in the case of an earthquake, that could be minutes.

When a disaster occurs, Amateur Radio operators are poised to go into the breach, volunteering their time and talent, or even their treasure by donating to the ARRL's Ham Aid Fund. Our brother and sister operators (when asked) will always be running towards where other people are running away from.

God bless them and the First Responders that they support!

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