Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Sunday, July 28, 2019

These are the times that try men's souls.

If you let them. If you keep you ears attentively tuned to the Amateur Radio sages who say, "Why, there are NO sunspots. QRP can't possibly work! You are wasting your time!", then you will find yourself downcast and downtrodden.

If on the other hand, you say, "Nay, doomsayers! I will not listen to your pronouncements of doom and gloom!", and keep an upbeat and positive attitude, and practice the virtues of patience and perseverance, you will prove the soothsayers to be full of nothing more than hot air.

Take today for instance - the Flight of the Bubmblebees.  From the crack of the starting gun, it looked like it was going to be "one of those days." There was NOTHING on 40 Meters, and while there were a few stations heard on 20 Meters, they were all pretty weak and in the noise. Except for NK9G. I don't know what magic Rick has going for him, but I would swear that I don't think there's ever been a time that I've heard him worse than 559. Most times he's near the upper end of the RST scale. He must have an "in" with the propagation gods.

But this is when you can't pack it in. Patience and perseverance .......patience and perseverance will get you through.  In a bit, propagation improved, more stations got on the air and jumped into the fray and before I knew it, call signs were starting to fill up my notebook page.

When 20 Meters fizzled out, I jumped down to 40 Meters. Nothing heard, so I decided to call CQ and the floodgates opened! It was like I was the DXpedition and I was running a pileup. Of course, that lasted for all of about five minutes, but you get the idea.

When 40 Meters got quiet, I jumped back to 20 Meters and whom should I hear but John K3WWP calling CQ as N3AQC at about 579/589 ............ on 20 Meters! Holy cow, short skip! I don't think I've ever heard Pennsylvania that loud on 20 Meters - after all, it is the next state over. After John, I worked Joe W2KJ down in Carolina and then Bob W3BBO, who is also in PA. And Bob sounded like he was in the room with me! Color me astounded at the instance of short skip. So even when there's no sunspots, there can always be pleasant surprises in store.

In the end, I made 32 FOBB contacts and one SOTA QSO with a peak in South Dakota. Not bad for an afternoon when the ionosphere is supposedly dead, eh?

It's always good to hear the familiar calls of friends such as Bob W3BBO and Jim W1PID, Dave K1SWL, Tim W3ATB, Greg N4KGL, Joe W2KJ, Kelly K4UPG, John K4BAI, Gene N5GW among a host of others. It was great to work Mike KC2EGL as N3AQC on 40 Meters and John K3WWP as N3AQC on 20 Meters.

It was a good day on the radio - a very good day. So you QRP Newbs out there ...... don't be discouraged by the lack of sunspots.  Use the best antenna you have at your disposal and remember "patience and perseverance".  Those two words are for us QRPers, are like what "location, location, location" means to Realtors - they mean everything.

For the Skeeter Hunt in three weeks (yes, ONLY three weeks) I am thinking of changing tactics a bit. I may forgo using the PAR ENDFEDZ this year in favor of a W3EDP. I can get that sucker up close to the 50 foot level at Cotton Street park here in town if I plan it right and the EDP has always been a good player for me here at home and at Field Day.  Maybe I can break the 40 or 50 QSO mark that day, if I'm lucky. Or better yet, if I'm just patient and persevere.

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

Friday, July 26, 2019

FOBB this Sunday

Don't forget that the Flight of the Bumblebees is this Sunday!  I believe you still have time to sign up for a Bee number if you intend to operate from the field, so if that appeals to you, go for it!

I had originally intended to operate from Washington Rock State Park in Greenbrook, NJ for the event. It's one of my favorite portable ops sites. The trees are TALL and there are plenty of picnic tables. However, since last Monday, I've been battling a flare up of tendinitis in my right knee. I've actually been hobbling around with the help of a cane the last three days. Talk about "Ol' Man W2LJ"!

This morning, I awoke to marked improvement. It's gone from downright painful to almost "only annoying". With the pain so fresh in my memory, I don't think I want to risk my progress towards recovery. With that in mind, I'll probably just set up in the backyard, using my Jackite as a support for my PAR antenna.  So if you work W2LJ, I'll be sending '5W" instead of  "NR 13".  It's not quite in the spirit of the rules of FOBB to use a Bee number from your backyard.

So remember, when FOBB comes around - that means only three weeks until the Skeeter Hunt!

Hope to hear a lot of you on the air this Sunday!

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

Monday, July 22, 2019

Hot, hot, hot!

Like many places around the country, this past weekend in Central New Jersey was pretty brutal. The high on Saturday (according to my weather station) was 98F (37C) and with the humidity factored in, the "real feel" was around 112F (44C). Sunday it reached 99F with a real feel of about 118F (48C) as it was a bit more humid.

Due to the excessive heat and the associated demands on the power grid, there were a couple of instances where we lost power, but for only a few seconds. Those are unnerving, because when the power goes out, you have no idea how long it will last. Public Service Electricity and Gas quickly re-routed electricity to our part of the grid, so the disruptions ended up being minor.

Earlier in the day, Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU and I were on hand at the South Plainfield CERT building for a HamCram.  I really don't like HamCrams very much, as my experience is that a fully structured class yields much more positive results. HamCrams are only successful if the participants studied faithfully on their own and use the Cram as a review session and as an opportunity to clear up any remaining quandaries that they may have.

I have to admit, this one was successful. It was held by Eric KD2ONY and SPARC's responsibility was to provide the meeting space and to conduct the VE exams. There were 11 participants and 8 walked away with their Technician class licenses, including a 7 year old girl who is the daughter of one of our members.

Eric put on a good review session and it became obvious to us right away that most of the people in the group had dome some serious study on their own. The answers to the review questions, for the most part, were answered correctly with no hesitation. As always, the toughest parts seemed to be the sections on decibels, metric numeric conversion (kilo, mega, micro, pico) and the frequency privilege boundaries.  Despite that, the new Techs did well on their exams with no "close shaves". Those who passed, passed with few errors.  Only one of the three that didn't earn a license came so close, missing by only one question. We assured that person on how close he was and assured him with just a little more study, that he will be a Tech in no time. Just so you know, we did offer him the chance to take another version of Element 2, but he declined.

Shortly after I got home, after preparing and eating dinner, my cell phone started going crazy with alerts that our area was under a severe thunderstorm alert until 10:30 PM. I went down the basement to disconnect the antennas and around 7:30 PM, we had a brief but strong storm pass through. We must have had another at around 10:30 PM, as my weather station indicated that we got about a 1/2 inch of rain around that time. By then, I was out like a light and dead to the world. If there was lightning and thunder, I sure didn't see or hear any of it.

Looking at the long range forecast this morning, next Sunday looks (at this point in time) to be sunny with a high of 87F (37C). I hope so, as next Sunday is the Flight of the Bumblebees. The plan is to go up to Washington Rock State Park in Greenbrook and operate from one of the picnic tables that is shaded by one of the tall antenna supports (trees) that are located there. I am looking forward to a fun and relaxing afternoon of outdoor QRP fun. There haven't been enough of those, lately.

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

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Happy 50th Anniversary!

It's so hard to believe that it was 50 years ago today that men landed and walked on the Moon. I was 12 years old and was definitely a "space age kid". Alan Shepard made his sub-orbital flight four days after my 4th birthday, and I can remember watching that on TV.  All the subsequent Mercury and Gemini missions kept me spellbound.

July 20, 1969 was no different. From the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16th to Sunday the 20th I was glued to the TV and Walter Cronkite, in particular. I'll never forget the landing and the moonwalk, Those were heady days, like we felt we could accomplish anything.

Here are photos of the newspapers from that day - I still have these safely tucked away.

Today I was able to work four of the Special Event Stations. W4A, N0M, K2M and N1A. I almost worked K9MOT, the Motorola Amateur Radio station, but that was a busted QSO. He had me as W2LO before he gave up, saying there was too much QRM and QSB.

I must say, the HamAlert app works quite well. I programmed the SE station call signs in to trigger alerts and it kept me advised, all day. If it weren't for HamAlert, I would have spent more time twiddling the dial than I had to. I would heartily recommend using HamAlert to anyone who desires to be kept abreast of the activity of particular stations.

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

Friday, July 19, 2019

Bucket list

If any of you have kept up with the news; or are active in social media, then you've heard about the new app for cell phones that will allow you to see what you'll look like 30 to 40 years from now. It takes a "selfie" (I hate that word!) and will age your features so that you'll know what you'll look like when you're 70 or 80.  I guess Millennials get a big kick out of that.  I don't, and I definitely don't need the app.. I turned 62 this year, so I know where I'll most likely be 30 to 40 years from now.

So what's this post all about?  It's not about being maudlin, or morose, or being a "Gloomy Gus". No, this post is about the things I want to do in Amateur Radio before leaving for that big DX Contest in the Sky.

The good Lord willing, I may actually get to retire somewhere within the next 5-8 years. After that, I'm hoping He will allow me to live long enough to do some of the things that I just don't have the time and opportunity for right now; work and keeping up the house being the necessary evils that they are. But when I do get some time, here are some Amateur Radio things (in no particular order) that I want to accomplish before I leave this rock that we call Earth.

1) Do an honest-to-goodness SOTA operation
2) Attend FDIM and Hamvention (I'm hoping to do that in 2020 - fingers crossed, we'll see)
3) Get back on the satellites.
4) Do more POTA activations - particularly ones that require a bit of travel.
5) In general, just get on the air more than I have been able to.
6) Build stuff - oh, how I miss building stuff!

So why is it so hard to do these things now? Most of you probably know. Between work, house chores, doing things for the family, community and church obligations, there really isn't a lot of time for projects, or self indulgence. The fact that I manage to lock away enough time for events such as FOBB and the Skeeter Hunt amazes me enough, in and of itself. Even those rare times are dicey. It seems whenever I have some event for myself penciled in, something comes out of left field to spoil the best laid plans of mice and men.

And that 'work" thing ..... it seems that by the time I get home around 6:00 PM everyday, I'm just too tired to even think about doing much of anything with the rest of the day. I remember when I was in my 20s and 30s, how I could come home from work and stay up until 1:00 or 2:00 AM doing things and wake up the next morning and feel ready and raring to go. I got a lot of stuff accomplished when I was younger. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. So I dream the dream of some day, being able to accomplish things that I want to do - again.

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"That ain't no sunspot, Mabel!"

"That's the International Space Station!"

Photo courtesy of NASA - no freckles on the sun as far as anyone can tell.

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

If you have a bug ......

please take a "re-look" at my Morse Code page on "How To Adjust a Bug".  Benny Owens K5KV, who had purchased a lot bugs from an SK's estate, and spent a lot of time adjusting them all, and graciously made some suggestions/corrections to what I had written.

His remarks are in red type and are easy to see. I think it's a more complete and comprehensive treatise now, from which many neophyte (and maybe not so neophyte) bug users will benefit from.

Thanks Benny for the editorial assistance!

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

Contact Sport

While we were on vacation last week, I finally got the chance to read the book that my sister gave me for Christmas - "Contact Sport" by Jim George N3BB. I held off reading it with the intention of bringing it along on vacation. I was not disappointed. This book is his recounting of N3BB's experiences as a driver for the 2014 WRTC Championship, which was held in New England that year.

I enjoyed the book on several levels:

A) It is a book about Amateur Radio, to which I can totally relate. It was an easy read. N3BB is a talented writer and the book was written in a manner so that someone who is totally foreign to Amateur Radio could pick this book up and enjoy reading it. In the same vein, it was not overly simplistic. It held my attention throughout and was a relatively quick read

B) As pretty much a non-contester, I was impressed - VERY impressed with these "Top Guns" who qualified for the Championships. I could never do what they do. I don't have the resources or the devotion to plant my butt in a chair for 24 hours almost every weekend during contest season. These guys can do that and their experience and abilities are just amazing to me. That being said ........

C) As an avid participant in Field Day, on some levels I can relate. I can relate being to being "locked up" in a hot tent for 24 hours trying to make as many CW contacts as possible.  For the first few years of SPARC's Field Day efforts, the CW duties were left pretty much to Marv K2VHW and myself. This year we had a lot of help with that. I am hoping that continues in the years to come. Reading about these guys doing what I do once a year (of course on a much more advanced level than I could ever hope to do - Uber Field Day) was neat, because I totally "got it".

D) It turns out I actually know one of the major players in the book.  John Laney K4BAI is a familiar call sign in just about all the QRP Sprints in which I participate. I have always looked at John with major respect for his talent and abilities, and his sterling character and reputation for fairness and honesty. To read about someone I know being eminently qualified to act as a WRTC referee made the book somewhat more "personal" and brought it home for me.

E) Chapter 17 was devoted to Morse Code. A relatively short chapter, Jim attempted to explain the "magic of Morse" to those not familiar with the mode. IMHO, this was the best chapter of the book - but then again, I AM biased!

If you get a chance to pick this up in your local library, or order it from Amazon, I would recommend it. It's a fun read about something that all the readers of this blog enjoy - Amateur Radio. I had no idea this book was out there. I thank my big sister many times over for gifting it to me.

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Quest for 30

That new ARRL/Vibroplex Code Proficiency Certificate has renewed my quest for 30 - WPM, that is. After comfortably loafing around at 23 -25 wpm for years now, I have been able to stretch myself to 30 wpm for events like Field Day and such, but it IS a stretch. A conversational rag chew at 30 would probably not go well for me at this point.

So I am resolved to hit the 30 wpm mark within the near future. I'm hoping with some dedication, that can be within the next six months or so. Learning Morse was never easy for me, as I've detailed more than a few times. It was a big struggle, but ended up being my salvation in being able to operate without interfering with the family TV.

Once I learned it, raising my speed was a much easier affair. The 13 wpm test for General and the 20 wpm test for Extra were both a breeze for me. Getting to the point where 30 wpm is easy copy shouldn't be that difficult. It will just take time and dedication.

My plan is to use my CW Trainer app as my weapon of choice.

This app will allow me to listen to code sent as high as 60 wpm. The routine that I have taken to is to listen to code practice twice a day. I start with a session at 40 wpm, and I just listen. I do not consciously try to decode the Morse, just relax and listen. If I get a word here and there, so much the better, but the main goal is just to listen to the rhythms of the dits and dahs. When that session is over, I lower the speed to 30 wpm. after listening to the 40 wpm session, the 30 wpm session becomes almost decipherable. At this point, I can correctly copy about 30 to 40% of the session.  I'll keep this up for a week or two and gradually increase the speed of the first session, while seeing how much my comprehension of the 30 wpm session increases.

My thinking is that if I keep this up, I should be pretty comfortable at 30 wpm within six months or so. I doubt I'll ever become comfortable at 40 wpm, but it's a goal worth reaching for and besides, there's a side benefit of keeping the old gray matter exercised.  Maybe "Some Morse Code each day will keep the Alzheimer's away".  That would be a good thing, wouldn't it?

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

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Some Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Special Event Stations

Courtesy of the ARRL:

07/01/2019 | Eagle Has Landed
Jul 1-Jul 28, 0900Z-2359Z, GB5EHL, Leiester, ENGLAND. Leicester Radio Society. 14.250; 160 to 10, 4, 6, and 2 meters; 70 cm, on all popular modes. QSL. Mr. M. Harriman, 70 Station Rd., Thurnby, Leicester LE79PU, ENGLAND. https://www.g3lrs.org.uk

07/06/2019 | PA11APOLLO - Remembering Apollo 11 mission 1969
Jul 6 - Aug 2 Standard HF bands - See QRZ page for details

07/08/2019 | 50th Anniversary of First Moon Landing
Jul 8-Jul 24, 0000Z-2259Z, N8A, West Chester, OH. Midwest VHF/UHF Society. 10368.100. Certificate. Tom Holmes, N8ZM, 1055 Wilderness Bluff, Tipp City, OH 45371-9221. Plan to work 10 GHz EME when moon at best position for good DX. Contact for schedules and exact frequency. n8zm@mvus.org

07/14/2019 | 50 Years - First Man on the Moon
Jul 14-Jul 28, 1700Z-2000Z, N1A, Milford, OH. Milford Amateur Radio Club. SSB: 28.350 14.260 7.240 3.840; CW: 14.045, 7.045, 3.545; FT8 standard frequencies. QSL. Milford Amateur Radio Club, P.O. Box 100, Milford, OH 45150-0100. Email qsl@w8mrc.com for QSL requests. www.w8mrc.com

07/16/2019 | Apollo 11 , The 50th Anniversary
Jul 16-Jul 24, 1332Z-1650Z, K2CAM, Garden City, NY. Long Island Mobile Amateur Radio Club. 15.340 14.240 7.240 3.840. Certificate & QSL. LIMARC, P.O. Box 392, Levittown, NY 11756. K2CAM is the callsign of the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island, NY. Long Island is considered the birth place of aviation in America. Grumman Aerospace was the primary contractor for the LEM, Lunar Excursion Module. QSL card please end SASE. Certificate, please enclose $3.00 for mailing. Info available for K2CAM on QRZ.com www.limarc.org
07/16/2019 | Apollo 11 50th anniversary

07/16/2019 | Apollo 11 50th anniversary
Jul 16-Jul 25, 1400Z-0000Z, N4A, Huntsville, AL. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center ARC. 14.273. QSL. MSFC Amateur Radio Club, NASA/MSFC c/o Don Hediger, ES35, Huntsville, AL 35812. Various bands and modes will be used. Check spotting cluster or @NASARadioClubs for details. Numerous other NASA radio clubs will be on the air during this period. SASE is required for QSL card. nn4sa.wordpress.com

07/18/2019 | W3A Apollo 11-50th Anniversary-Live TV from the Moon
Jul 18-Jul 23, 1300Z-2200Z, W3A, Baltimore, MD. The Amateur Radio Club of the National Electronics Museum (K3NEM). 14.250 14.050 7.250 7.050. Certificate & QSL. W3A-Apollo, PO Box 1693, MS 4015, Baltimore, MD 21203. Amateur Radio Club of the National Electronics Museum (ARCNEM) will operate W3A to commemorate the live television transmission of the first moonwalk using a camera designed and built by Westinghouse. While the flight camera remained on the moon, a duplicate unit manufactured at the same time is on display at the National Electronics Museum where W3A operations will take place. Primary operation will be July 19-July 21 with additional operation possible during the July 18-23 period as operator availability permits. Operation on 80M (3.550, 3.850) and digital modes possible during event. Frequencies +/- according to QRM. QSL and Certificate available via SASE; details at www.W3A.space

07/18/2019 | Apollo 11 Moon Landing 50th Anniversary
Jul 18-Jul 21, 2300Z-2300Z, N5A, Springdale, AR. Razorback Contest Club. 14.250 14.040 7.200 7.040. QSL. Razorback Contest Club, 3407 Diana St., Springdale, AR 72764. www.qrz.com/db/ke5xx

07/16/2019 | K2M, Honoring the Men and Women that built the LEM on Long Island 50 years ago.
Jul 16-Jul 24, 0900Z-2359Z, K2M, Babylon, NY. Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club. 14.321. Certificate. GSBARC - K2M, PO BOX 1356, West Babylon, NY 11704-0356. www.gsbarc.org

07/19/2019 | Apollo Moon Landing 50th Anniversary at Space & Rocket Center
Jul 19-Jul 21, 2000Z-2000Z, W4A, Huntsville, AL. Huntsville Amateur Radio Club HARC. 14.290 7.225 7.044 3.945; SSB CW FT8. QSL. M.D. Smith, WA4DXP, 307 Clinton Ave. W,, Suite 100, Huntsville, AL 35801. No overnight. Celebrating Man's first steps on the moon 50 years ago. SASE for QSL. www.qrz.com/db/W4A

07/20/2019 | 50th Anniversary of the 1st Manned Moon Landing
Jul 20-Jul 28, 1300Z-2359Z, K1M, Ansonia, CT. Stratford Amateur Radio Club, Inc.. 14.275 7.225 3.825. QSL. K1M , 32 Benz Street, Ansonia, CT 06401.

07/20/2019 | Honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing
Jul 20, 1400Z-2000Z, K8QYL, Wapakoneta, OH. Reservoir Amateur Radio Association. 14.250 7.250. QSL. Rich Spencer, W8GZ, 05925 Vogel Rd., Saint Marys, OH 45885. From the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum

07/20/2019 | Man on the Moon First Communication to Earth – 50 Years
Jul 20-Jul 21, 1300Z-1700Z, K9MOT, Schaumburg, IL. Motorola Amateur Radio Club. SSB within 10KHz: 3.83, 7.23, 14.245, 21.435, 28.465; CW 3.543, 7.043, 14.0. Certificate. MOTOROLA AMATEUR RADIO CLUB, PO Box 59701, Schaumburg, IL 60159. To commemorate Motorola’s contribution to the Apollo program and lunar communication. www.qsl.net/k9mot

07/20/2019 | SEMARC celebrates the 50th anniversary of the US manned Moon Landing
Jul 20-Jul 22, 1300Z-2300Z, N0M, Saint Paul, MN. South East Metro Amateur Radio Club. 18.075 14.040 7.260 7.040. QSL. B. F. McInerney, 2523 Cochrane Drive, Saint Paul, MN 55125. Special QSL with SASE www.semarc.org

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

Fishing at the Lake

When we come up to Lake George for our annual Summer respite, we notice that a lot of folks come up here for the fishing.  Throughout the day, you see people going to their boats; or coming back from their boats, with rods, reels, tackle boxes and other sundry items in hand.

I like to fish while I'm up here, too. My kind of fishing is different however. Instead of plying the waters of the lake, I ply the layers of the ionosphere. Instead of looking for blue gills, bass, carp and sunfish, I look for call signs. In a way, the two activities are a lot alike.

Instead of rod and reel, my equipment is my KX3 and my home brewed magloop.  I could set up an EFHW or perhaps the Buddistick, but the magloop offers rapid set up and take down while maintaining relative stealth. I try to stay in the good graces of our host here, and don't wish to do anything that he might deem as "not permissible".  Throwing a wire into a tree would definitely be pushing the envelope, all though I have done that in the past. The owner has never complained, but some of our fellow cabin dwellers can be a bit "catty" if you will, at times. Why press your luck if you don't have to?

I got on both 20 and 40 Meters yesterday. Activity wasn't the greatest; but I did make some contacts. I worked a W8/G station that I thought might be visiting the States on holiday. He was calling CQ with no takers and I just wanted to assure him that his signal was loud, and was getting out. Turns out he was in fact, in England, in Newcastle. But he was remoting through a station in Michigan via the internet. Sigh - DX that doesn't count.

I switched to 40 Meters and worked several CW Ops that were participating in the 1900 hour CWT, one of their weekly CW Sprints. I worked four stations, all in Virginia. For whatever reason, I seemed to have a pipeline to VA. I worked all on the first try - a testament to their antennas and ears - but also a testament to the magloop. It works, and pretty well at that.

Then I heard my buddy W3BBO working K3TF.  Bob was a solid 559/569 with some QSB. I waited for their QSO to end. Bob said he had to run at the end of his conversation with K3TF. He really did have to QRT! I called him a couple of times with no joy. A subsequent e-mail revealed that Bob had been told that dinner was ready, so that was that. Maybe another day.

Getting back to the analogy of fishing and Ham Radio. I have often commented on how the two are so similar. They both involve skill, smarts, knowing your equipment, but most of all, perseverance, especially for QRPers. If all you know is QRO, and then switch to QRP, you have to switch your mindset as well as your power setting.

Patience is not only a virtue, it is a necessity if you decide to become a dedicated QRPer. The contacts will come, but it will definitely be different than making them with brute force. You'll need to intimately understand propagation, timing, your equipment and yourself. And most of all, you'll need to understand the importance of listening and how that plays into the scheme of things.

Yeah, it's way easier to make those contacts with 100, 500 or 1,500 Watts. But IMHO, at least, it's nowhere near as satisfying.  When you get to the point where you can bust a pileup or make that contact with Japan or Australia the first time you try with 5 Watts, that's Ham Radio heaven.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Flight of the Bumblebees

The Adventure Radio Society's annual Flight of the Bumblebees is on! This year, it will be held on Sunday, July 28th.

The Flight of the Bumblebees, or FOBB as it is also known, is without a doubt, THE premier Summertime QRP operating event. It's been around for two decades and is still going strong!

All the rules can be found at http://arsqrp.blogspot.com/.  Here you will not only find the complete rules, exchange, reporting information, but also how to apply for a Bumblebee number. The roster can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yy96zywm

W2LJ is Bee # 13 and I plan to operate from Washington Rock State Park, which is also a registered POTA entity. Anyone who works me gets "a two for one".

These outdoor operating events are what I live for each Summer. It is sooooo much fun to get out into the fresh air with a radio, battery and a wire. This is where the wonder and magic of radio becomes real again, making contacts all over with just simple equipment.  If you've never done this before, seriously consider it, especially if Amateur Radio has become routine and somewhat boring for you.  It doesn't have to be anything elaborate. Operating from a local park, or perhaps even from your backyard with a portable antenna will change how you think about Amateur Radio and QRPing forever!

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

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Code Proficiency - News from the ARRL

The ARRL Code Proficiency certificate has been around for decades. In fact, it's been around longer than the four decades that I have been licensed. But starting next month, there's a new twist. In addition to getting the certificate for successfully copying the W1AW Qualifying Runs, now you'll get your name published in QST.

From the ARRL:

Starting with the August issue, QST will list the recipients of W1AW Code Proficiency certificates. Key manufacturer Vibroplex now is sponsoring the certificates, which debut a new design. The Code Proficiency program has been an ARRL staple for decades. Participants who copy a W1AW qualifying run and submit 1 minute of legible solid copy and the $10 certificate fee can qualify.

Send submissions to W1AW Qualifying Run, 225 Main St, Newington, CT USA 06111. These are checked directly against the official W1AW text, and those demonstrating solid copy will receive an initial Code Proficiency certificate. Endorsement stickers, which cost $7.50, are issued for speeds up to 40 WPM.

The W1AW Code Proficiency Program is open to hams and non-hams alike. Those seeking to attain a Code Proficiency certificate can listen to W1AW daily code practice sessions, in which the text is taken directly from QST, as announced before each practice run.

Cynics will of course, think that this is just another means of the ARRL boosting income generation. They may be right, who am I to argue? But I do think it's kind of neat seeing your name in QST for persevering in acquiring a skill that is not the easiest to attain.

For some people with intrinsic musical talent, learning Morse Code is as easy as falling off a log. For the rest of us, it wasn't or isn't nearly that easy. Personally, it took a lot of hard work and dedication to get to the 25 WPM level that I am at. At least that's what my last certificate shows from some 20 years ago.  This newly designed certificate and the ego boost of being able to see my name in QST has me wanting to get at least to the 30 WPM level, if not higher.

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

Saturday, July 06, 2019

I did not 13 Colonies this year.

I'll not hesitate to say that the 13 Colonies Event has become a mainstay in the operating year. Amateurs from around the world try to work the 13 States that were the original 13 Colonies as well as WM3PEN and GB13COL for the sweep. You earn a very nice certificate which makes beautiful wall paper for the shack. On top of that, 13 operators and organizers do an outstanding job to pull this off, year after year. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make something like this work.

All that said, I did not join the hunt this year. More likely than not, my ambition level this year was left kind of flat after that bout of stomach trouble that I had experienced. That, and finding the time. Working full time makes it hard to find the time to work all 13 plus the bonus stations.

And I got annoyed by some of the comments I saw on social media. I know, I shouldn't allow morons to get to me, but some did. The whining, the complaining that this station wasn't on and this station wouldn't do my favorite mode, etc. It just made me weary.

The 13 Colonies event has certainly grown with more ops providing more modes than ever. A few years back, when I accomplished a sweep, not all the states were on the air with CW.  Instead of moaning and groaning, I picked up the microphone and worked the ones I needed on SSB. That was disappointing for me - but it was what it was. If you want something badly enough, you do what you have to do to get it done. Crying and threatening to take your ball home because the game's not being played the way you want it is a bit ridiculous.

And then, of course, there are the jammers and the pirates. These idiots just can't be happy with other people having fun. They have to make everything about themselves.

Maybe next year, I'll join the fray again. When you feel well, your level of BS Tolerance goes way up. I hope it will be that way next year.

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

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Happy Independence Day!

A Happy Independence Day to all!

I am very fortunate in that the home QTH of South Plainfield is rich with American Revolution Era history.

From our town's Webpage:

"The area that later became South Plainfield was included in the “Elizabethtown Purchase” of 1664 as a part of Piscataway Township. The name “Piscataway” came from the “Piscataqua” Indians of Maine.  (Remember the early settlers were originally from New England). Piscataway Township encompassed all of the land from Woodbridge to the southern most part of Middlesex County, including what later became New Brunswick, Spotswood, Millstone, Princeton and Cranbury. Most of the first settlers were of Scottish descent although some Quakers also lived here.

Logging was a significant industry of the time and a major operation was established along the Cedar Brook where a sawmill and gristmill were started in 1732.

Two hamlets developed in the mid 1700’s. “Sampton” was located at the junction of what is now Sampton and Clinton Avenues, which was the main road from Elizabeth to New Brunswick.   In the late 1700’s, a tavern was established to serve travelers at what is now 746 Sampton Avenue  (the Drake house).

The second hamlet was called “Brooklyn” and it was located at Front Street and South Plainfield Avenue.  Brooklyn is where the families of the men who worked at the gristmill and the sawmill on the Bound Brook lived.   The remaining land in South Plainfield was occupied by what then was considered small farms of less than two hundred acres.

South Plainfield During the Revolutionary War

This area of New Jersey was occupied by the British from December 2, 1776 to June 22, 1777.  Much activity took place in this vicinity during the spring and summer of 1777.  There were continuing British and Continental Army movements between Perth Amboy and New Brunswick.  It is documented that General Washington and his troops had an encampment in the New Market section of Piscataway and it is believed that British troops led by General Cornwallis moved towards General Washington and likely crossed Spring Lake on an old log road.  In response, Washington sought a higher vantage point to view British troop movements and relocated his regiment to what became known as “Washington Rock”."

Maple Avenue, which is about a block away from my house is part of the Washington-Rochambeau trail, which is the actual path taken by Continental and French Troops on their way to Yorktown.

As I said, South Plainfield swims deeply in the waters of American Revolution history. It's a great small town and a great place to live.

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

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

A rather late Field Day report

Sorry for this late Field Day report - our Field Day effort was "different' to say the least. I can confidently say that while this was not SPARC's best effort, we learned some very valuable lessons in the process which will serve us in years to come. So all was not lost.

We first started having major problems with the SSB Beam antenna.

We put it together exactly the way we had in years past, but for some reason or another we kept getting wild SWR reading on the analyzer.  After 5 separate put ups and bring downs, we weren't able to get better than a 2.8:1 match on 20 Meters. When you're running the battery category with only 5 Watts out, that's way too much to let the autotuners handle. And to make matters worse, the SWR readings became unstable. They would change as we watched them. We thought perhaps it was a bad roll of coax, but we swapped that out with no effect. Must be something in the traps.

The Vadney brothers saved our bacon on this one, though. They brought their Hexbeam along and put it up to replace the Yagi, and it only took W2OIL and KC2YRC about an hour to put it up!

The match was 1:1 on 20 Meters - much better! And the hex performed flawlessly all weekend long.

The second problem reared its ugly head around 1:30 AM Sunday morning. The desktop we were using as a server, which was linking all our logging computers gave up the ghost. Bill W2AOF thought quickly enough on his feet to set up a new logbook file on One Drive and he directed all the laptops to the cloud.  The only bad thing was we had to rely on stations and memory to tell us if we were working a station as a dupe.  Fortunately, after the event, our tech wizards Ron N2LCZ and Drew W2OU were able to combine the two log files. I think we ended up with 4 dupes in total.

The problem is, you can't count on the cloud being there during a disaster. In fact, the internet is usually one of the first things to disappear in a large scale emergency. The internet rescued our butts this year- but we need to develop a more iron clad solution for 2020.

Our CW QSO total was WAY down this year. At around 3:30 AM on Sunday morning I was hit by either a stomach bug or a case of food poisoning (my Doctor thinks it was food poisoning from my symptoms), or something. It really wiped me out, I had a low grade fever for over a week. I stayed until the bitter end, but I have to admit I snoozed most of the last half of Field Day. Normally, I'm at that key like a fly stuck to flypaper. Not this year. In fact, almost a week and a half later, I'm just feeling human again.  I sure don't bounce back as quickly as I did when I wore a younger man's clothes.

Here's some photos to close out this post. Even with all that happened, we still had fun, we had lots of visitors and we definitely learned from our mistakes, and I'd rather learn them now than in the middle of some kind of disaster situation.

The signs were new this year - and I took this video before the stomach blues hit:

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