Friday, August 07, 2020

Idiot !!!!!!!!

 Of all the bone-headed, idiotic things that I have done ....... I realized that I have missed the deadline to send in my Field Day results to the ARRL!  I feel like such a moron.

I've let down my fellow SPARC members. Argh!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Dreams

Ever since this COVID-19 thing has been front and center, my friend Marv K2VHW has been running what has been come to be known as the "Middlesex County Chat Group Net" each evening at 8:00 PM on the Middlesex County OEM repeater.

It's a Health and Welfare Net with local Hams keeping in touch with each other. If anyone needs something, it's our chance to help out. But beyond that, it's also a general discussion net, where any and all topics can come up. It's also been kind of an Elmer net. We've discussed radios, antennas, how to route feedlines, etc. 

Over the past few weeks, our discussions have been drifting towards the International Space Station, tracking satellites, the stars, planets and astronomy.  Tonight's session seemed to linger particularly on astronomy.

When I was a mere youngster, that was my dream - to be an astronomer. As a product of the "Space Age" I was thrilled by all things connected to space and space flight. I built a 6" Newtonian reflecting telescope when I was about 13 -14 years old. I wanted to spend my life unraveling the mysteries of space.

That was when math hit, and my dream died. My Mom often told me how my great grandfather (or was it my great, great grandfather?) was a professor of mathematics at the University of Kiev. That gene missed me completely. Mathematics might as well have been Greek to me, as I comprehended neither. Mathematics, however, IS the language of astronomy. Without the proper affinity for mathematics I was reduced to never becoming anything more than an avid stargazer.

Such are the things of life, but I guess I'll always wonder "how it could have been."

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

Isaias

It's been all over the news. A little storm blew through here on Tuesday - Tropical Storm Isaias. 

Fortunately, the W2LJ household fared very well. We lost power a couple of times, maybe for about a 1/2 hour each time, but no more than that. My weather station recorded only about 1.3 inches of rain at my location and a maximum wind gust around 20 MPH. The lot on which my house resides is surrounded by some pretty tall trees, so I'm sure they break up and affect the wind coming at my weather station.

I say that because while I only had some twigs and a few minor branches fall out of my two trees, the greater part of South Plainfield saw more damage than my block received. There were roads closed with major limbs down in the streets and taking down power lines. Many homes are without electricity and the local power utility is saying it may not be until next Monday that power is restored everywhere.

Somerset County, which is our neighboring county and the one I travel through to get to work fared much worse. Lots of trees down and many traffic lights on State Highway 22 are out of commission. In fact, the highway (eastbound) was closed Tuesday afternoon because of downed trees and power lines. My commute home was a lot longer that evening as I was forced to take several detours throughout the county.

My son Joseph texted me at work when power went out for the first time. He also told me there was a wire coming from the house that was down in the driveway. I immediately thought it was the mains wire from the house that had snapped from the utility pole. Power came back on shortly, so that proved my initial thought was incorrect.

When I got home in the evening, it turned out that the wire was an old length of cable TV cable that was left hanging on the house from when we switched from Direct TV to Verizon FiOS service. I cut it down and discarded it. Interesting stuff - it looked like regular 75 Ohm TV coaxial cable, but it had an extra wire running down the length of it. You could see and feel a raised "hump" where that extra wire was placed.

Both Amateur Radio antennas made it through unscathed. In fact, the Butternut came through all the better. There were some overhanging branches from my neighbor's yard that were coming close to the vertical and would brush against it from time to time. It seems they didn't make it through the storm and must be laying somewhere in my neighbor's back yard. Except for one grabby vine, my Butternut is free and clear. I'll snip that vine with my tree pruner this evening, if it's not raining when I get home. Otherwise, that will go on the "To Do" list for this weekend.

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

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Cool stuff!

I just watched a pass of the International Space Station, as it passed in the Northwest to Southeastern sky. It was cool to be talking a bunch of local Ham buddies on a local repeater while watching. We also saw two dimmer satellites pass over, as well. I wonder if either of those two was perhaps an OSCAR.

This afternoon, I watched the splashdown of Dragon Endeavor as it gently landed in the Gulf of Mexico, While it reminded me of Mercury/Gemini and Apollo days, it was also apparent how far we've come since those days. The live TV from the communications airplane circling the recovery area made watching the deployment of both sets of parachutes possible. And after splashdown, it wasn't the US Navy responsible for recovery, it was a private commercial operation. As the spacecraft was bobbing in the ocean, there was live, high definition TV from inside, showing the two astronauts working on their touch screens going through their checklists. In days of yore, tbe first glimpse we got of the returning astronauts was when they were maneuvered into a raft by Navy scuba divers.

On the Amateur Radio front, I got more done on the QCX today. I installed the diodes and about 75% of the resistors.


In my younger days, I'd have had this done by now - but I'm taking my time. Plus ...... there's Harold, my faithful Beagle. For some reason Harold will not come down the basement steps. When I go down the stairs to work on the QCX, he sits at the top stair, waiting for me to come back up. It may seem stupid or overly sentimental , but I don't like to leave my buddy alone for too long on days when I'm home from work. So I go for small bits of time. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but I know I won't have Harold forever, so I like to spend as much time with him as I can.

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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Reminiscing

Last night, I installed the last of the capacitors onto the QCX 40 printed circuit board. I got those new magnifying glasses the other day and they really helped make things easier. I was able to read the capacitor nomenclature without resorting to the "microscope". The added light form the magnifying lamp helps tremendously.

A word to the wise (for what it's worth). I saw the magnifying headset in an ad on Facebook. Almost everything I view on Facebook is somehow Amateur Radio related outside of posts from friends, so the ads that pop up are mainly related to electronics. I liked them as soon as I saw the ad, but was not enamored with the price, so I did a search for the same type of headset on eBay. Got one for less than half of what the company on Facebook was charging. Moral of the story - always look around.

As I finished soldering in the last cap, i was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I got to thinking of my Heathkit "Glory Days" back in the 80s and early 90s. I built so many Heathkits, I was able to join their Master Builder Club which came into being very close to their demise. In no particular order, these are the Heathkits that I can remember building. There may have been a few more:


My very first Heathkit was one of their VTVMs.

Then came a flurry of Amateur Radio Kits:


The HR-1680 was my Novice receiver.


Who didn't have a Heathkit Cantenna Dummy Load (filled with toxic PCBs)?


The HW-8, my first QRP rig.


The Heathkit HD-1410 Keyer - VERY popular


My Amateur Radio coup de grace build. The SB-104A with macthing speaker/power supply and auxiliary VFO.

And there were also some non-Amateur Radio builds of neat stuff:



Had this alarm clock for many, many years.


The GR-70 scanner which had all the local repeaters programmed in.

And then, in my audiophile years - rack mounted stereo equipment:


Graphic equalizer


125 Watt per Channel Power Amplifier

Stereo Pre-amplifier

I spent a lot of money in those years - hey, I was working, single with no commitments at the time. I melted a lot of solder, got a lot of solder burns (along with the scars to prove it). But most of all, I had a blast building each and every kit.

There's a lot of great kits to be had today.  Some are questionable, some are downright excellent and come with instructions that actually outshine the Heathkit manuals - but there will never be an equal to what we knew as Heathkit.

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




Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Coming up in August

and something you might really like to pre-register for - Eric Guth of "QSO Today" fame is sponsoring a virtual Ham Radio Expo the second weekend of August.


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

Monday, July 27, 2020

Some good news ..... some bad news

First the good news. I got more capacitors soldered in to the QCX 40 Meter kit.


They're almost all in. Just a few more to go and then I move on to other passive components.

The other good news is that this arrived in the mail today:


The 20 Meters QCX+ kit arrived!

The bad news is that I ordered a QCX enclosure from BaMa Tech over the weekend. The bad news is NOT that they are no longer available. The bad news is that DHL has suspended shipping outside of Europe because of Covid. So I will get the enclosure ...... eventually, but only God knows when at this point.

Lastly, the magnifier lamp arrived from Banggod last Friday. I hooked it up today before soldering tonight and it really made a big difference for me during my build session tonight. It's great to have the extra light and the magnifying lens does a fantastic job.

72 de LarryW2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Looking forward to the weekend

No progress on the QCX last night. I have a Bible Study group that meets on Zoom on Thursday evenings, where I help to facilitate. That took up a good chunk of the evening. Afterwards, I did run down to the shack to see if I could hear either of the 20 Meters QRP Foxes last night. I am batting 1000% failure on that, this summer.

On the bright side, three nice things happened. The first is that the magnifying lamp that I ordered from Banggood arrived yesterday. I'll get that installed either tonight or tomorrow - I really, really, REALLY need the extra light. The other nice thing was that, while I couldn't hear either 20 Meter QRP Fox, during a switch to 40 Meters to make sure my antennas were working, I heard and worked K1ZT who was activating a park for POTA. I was kind of surprised that someone would be in a park close to 9:00 PM, but then it dawned on me that he was probably camping.

The third nice thing that happened is that I got an e-mail from QRP Labs yesterday that my 20 Meter QCX+ kit shipped yesterday from a "USA Source" and that I should have it in a few days. Yay!

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Pig Out! If this was a baseball game

you'd hear the following over the public address system:

"Ladies and Gentlemen - stepping up to the plate to pinch hit for the Flight of the BumbleBees are the Flying Pigs!"

Yes ...... there IS something happening this Sunday to satisfy you avid, outdoor QRP enthusiasts. The Flying Pigs Amateur Radio Club International has hastily put together an event - called the "Pig Out"

Here are the basic rules as posted by Brian KB9BVN on Facebook. The official rules will be posted tomorrow - most likely on the Flying Pigs website and/or http://www.qrpcontest.org

Preliminary rules and info: This is a 4 hour fun event on Sunday July 26 2020.

Object: Work as many CW contacts as possible; Multiplier points for working Flying Pigs and working Flying Pigs not at their home QTH.

Contest period: 1700 to 2100 UTC

Bands: 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters CW only.

Exchange: If FPqrp member using normal Home QTH station, send RST and FPqrp# and X2; i.e. 559 NR1234 "x2" else if FPqrp member using Field station, send RST and FPqrp# and "X5" ; i.e. 559 NR2345 "x5" else send RST and Power; i.e. 559 5W Entry

Categories: None

There is only one power levels: QRP - no more than 5 watts

Scoring: Score is number of QSOs per Band with/without FPqrp# and Field multipliers

Special bonus points: None

To Enter: Post your score via the AUTOLOG (at qrpcontest.com) within 15 days of the event (July 26, 2020).

Gotta hand it to the Flying Pigs for putting together something at the drop of a hat!

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

It's a start

 Confucius opined that every journey begins with a single step. I took my first step tonight. In between running the South Plainfield ARES/RACES Net and participating in the NNJ ARES/RACES COMMEX Net, I soldered in the 28 pin IC socket, a 14 pin 74ACT00N quad NAND gate, and six LM 4562 op-amps on my QCX 40 printed circuit board.


No big deal, but at least I'm going in the right direction. 

I can't wait for that magnifying lamp that I ordered from Banggood to get here. A bit of extra light and some magnification will be just what the doctor ordered.  I received an email that it was shipped today.  If I'm lucky,  maybe it will be here by the weekend.

I also bought one of these from eBay today:


I have a very simple one, like you see for sale at Hamfests all the time (in fact, that's where I got it). However, it just doesn't do the trick for me. This version has different diopters and has two LEDs, and this one is designed to be used with glasses (which I already have). It should be here Monday.

On another note,  blogging via a phone is a pain in the posterior. 

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

Cleaning up the Blogroll

I spent a little time cleaning up the blogroll. I've a few more to move, but basically ..... anything that's been dormant for a year or more gets moved to the bottom list of "Dormant, But Not Forgotten" blogs.

The active ones still outnumber the dormant ones, but it's getting close.

What saddens me as I go through these are the number of friends who are now Silent Keys. I'll keep their blogs listed as long as they are still available on the Web, in part to honor their memory; but also to be able to share their words and wisdom to the next generation of Hams.

Some of the others are from Hams who have either lost interest in blogging; or have lost interest in Amateur Radio in general. While that concept is foreign to me, I understand that it happens. People move on.

It takes a certain amount of dedication to do this for a prolonged basis. It also a challenge to try and keep the ideas somewhat fresh and not a rehash of the same ol', same ol'.  I am probably guilty of that to the nth degree, myself.

Currently, we're in the middle of a heat wave here in Central NJ, as are many other parts of the country. The coolest space in the house is the basement. While it's remarkably chilly down there in the winter time, it's a refreshing oasis right now. If things go well and no unexpected events turn up, I hope to start melting solder on that virgin QCX printed circuit board tonight. I may not get a lot done each night, but like the turtle in that famous fable, "Slow and steady wins the race".

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

Monday, July 20, 2020

This thing is a life saver!

I began the process of building my 40 Meter QCX kit tonight. It's been a while since I have attempted to build a complex kit. One thing that became apparent is that my eyes are not what they used to be. Granted, the light here in the dining room table is not the best. One chandelier hanging above the dining room table really isn't up to the task, but I went with what I had. While the main build will be done down in the shack, I wanted to inventory the parts up here because there is more space and less of a chance that anything would get lost.

Another big difference is the manual. No doubt that Hans Summers went out of his way to produce a SUPERB building manual .........but. It's on the computer and not a printed out hard copy. I do not have the ink to print out a 141 page manual. So I am going to have to get used to not "checking off" each step as I go along, like I used to in Heathkit and Elecraft Manuals.

Welcome to the 21st Century, W2LJ!

The good news is that everything that's supposed to be there, is there. There were a few extra capacitors of values that were not listed in the parts manual, but they're not going anywhere just in case.

And speaking of capacitors ....... the print on them is infinitesimal! It was not too long ago that I was able to read those tiny characters with only occasional help from a magnifying glass. That's not the case anymore, so thank God for the person or persons who came up with this concept:


Due to the glare, you can't see the capacitor on the surface of the white board, but look how nicely the numbers printed on the cap pop out on the screen of the magnifier. This made a potentially frustrating chore a relative breeze!

Again, due to failing eyesight and less than ideal lighting, I had to resort to using a VOM to measure the resistors. The colors were hard to distinguish and the meter made that chore relatively painless, as well. The magnifier/microscope thing would probably have worked well here also,  but I didn't think of bringing it upstairs until faced with identifying the capacitors.

I filled four egg cartons with parts in the order as they appeared on the parts list of the manual. Of course, being as OCD as I am, I will re-check each value before I install it. But I am looking forward to melting solder - maybe as early as tomorrow evening!

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

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Inspired

I was inspired by Bob W3BBO's success in completing his 20 Meter QCX+ kit. So much so, that I am going to start my 40 Meters QCX kit that has been sitting in the shack for over a year now. But before I begin that, I wanted to get my O'scope completed and running. Mr. Procrastination (yours truly) started this a long time ago. I only had a few components left and decided to finish it today.


The only thing I had to solder in today were the slide switches, the signal input jack and the headers on the LCD Board and on the main board. When I got to soldering the headers on the LCD Board, I came to realize I was shorted two male 2-pin headers in the parts count.

So what do you do? You go to the junk box, of course! I had a spare six pin header that was extra and left over from some previous kit, and I was able to break off two 2-pin sections, trim them to the proper length and install. Worked like a charm!

Another lesson learned ...... don't EVER throw anything extra away. You never know when it will become useful.

One thing I noticed though. In the testing procedure, you are asked to measure for a test voltage at a test point - and then, if it reads OK, solder a short on two points on the board.  How come I can make a solder bridge when I don't want to - but can't seem to WHEN I HAVE TO?

I ended up soldering a discarded component lead across the two solder pads in order to create the necessary short.

With this little kit completed, I think I will start inventorying parts on the QCX tomorrow night. I think I have enough egg cartons to hold everything.

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

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Home again.

 We're back from our Lake George vacation. Before we left this morning,  I was able to grab a neat photo (at least in my mind).

I call it,  "The Lake,  First Light,  the Moon and Jupiter. "


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

Friday, July 17, 2020

This is not an advertisement

as I don't do advertisements. But this is something I saw mentioned on-line and purchased from Banggood:

https://www.banggood.com/DANIU-Flexible-Desk-Large-33cm33cm-5X-USB-LED-Magnifying-Glass-3-Colors-Illuminated-Magnifier-Lamp-Loupe-p-1592702.html?rmmds=myorder&cur_warehouse=USA


The one I had down in the shack finally gave up the ghost a couple of months ago. The bracket holder part gave out and the lamp crashed to the floor and the magnifying glass part shattered into a couple different pieces.  

I looked for a replacement on Amazon, but was not impressed with the prices. This one came in at under $30 and seems to be a good deal. This will come in way handy in order to build my QCX 40 Meter kit and my QCX+ 20 Meter kit.

As I get older, the old peepers ain't what they used to be. This will help.

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


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

COVID-19, the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, Common Sense and You

I was initially surprised today, when I read on QRP-L that Rich Fisher KI6SN has decided to postpone the date for the 2020 Flight of the Bumblebees. After some consideration, I guess I should not be surprised. COVID-19 does seem to be making a rebound in some states, and Rich's home state of California is one of them.

In some ways, the Skeeter Hunt and FOBB are very similar. But in some important ways, they are not. And I think those differences are what is leading me to keep the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt on schedule for August 16th, 2020.

As with FOBB, the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt encourages portable operations. For the Skeeter Hunt, portable operations also include working from the safety of your own back yard. If your state, county or town has parks that are open and you're comfortable with going to one of them - that's great.  If you prefer the safety and seclusion of your own back yard - as long as you use a temporary antenna that's not part of your regular home shack antenna system - the Skeeter Hunt classifies that as a "portable op". I set up on my patio in my back yard back a few years back when there was a threat of rain. I used my Jackite to support my PAR END FEDZ and spent the whole four hours at my patio table.

However, if you do choose to operate from a public venue, then it is expected that you will follow all the safety dictates requested of you by your local government. If that includes masks where social distancing may not be possible, then you are expected to comply with those requests.

The bottom line is that I expect all Skeeter Hunters to use common sense. Have a good time, but at the same time do everything you have to do to curtail the spread of the Corona Virus. Wear face coverings if you need to - maintain proper social distancing where needed and bring along hand sanitizer if equipment is going to be shared in groups.

If the current crisis disturbs you to the point that you want to operate from home using your everyday shack - that's fine too. The idea behind this little sprint is to have fun - that's it ........ have fun. And you can easily do that while adhering to all the safety rules we are under during these current times.

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Not much activity

I took the KX3 and the AlexLoop to one of the picnic tables here at the place we're staying here at Lake George. The view is nice; but the airwaves weren't as nice as the view.


I sat at the table for what felt like an eternity, twiddling the dial, changing bands, looking for someone, anyone to work. Calling CQ netted nothing. Finally on 20 Meters I heard YV5DTJ, Carlos from Venezuela who was booming in, I called him several times; but this was one of those instances where propagation was not reciprocal. You send your call and you get a "CQ" in your face enough times, you take the hint.

A little further on down the band I heard LZ3ND calling CQ. Nowhere as strong as YV5DTJ, but calling and calling with no takers. So I decided to give it a shot and ....... BINGO! Got answered on my first call. Go figure.

Nikolay was the only QSO of the day. I figured with it being summer time and some people on vacation, the bands might be a bit busy. Nope, they were deader than a door nail. Maybe more towards evening time they get busier? I remember during my Novice days that it seemed like finding an empty spot on the bands any time during the day was a chore. Back then, if the band was a dead as they are now, we would have attributed that to an intense solar storm.

So with the bleak outlook of activity looming over my shoulder, what did I do? I did the only thing a sensible Ham would do - I purchased another HF rig! I went online and ordered a 20 Meter QCX+ to go with my 40 Meter QCX (which is still in the box). Someday, I'm going to have a lot of solder melting to do. Hopefully soon. But for now, this week at least, I'll ply the bands every afternoon - looking for someone to QSO with.

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

Monday, July 13, 2020

Alex Tune

Earlier this year, I bought my Alex Loop from Peter NN9K. I've brought it along to Lake George and have used it both Sunday and today. There was not much going on, on the bands this afternoon, but I did work Anthony KB8BBK who was activating K-1955 Guilford State Park in Ohio.

The purpose of this post is to talk a little bit about the Alex Tune, which I purchased a bit after I got the Alex Loop. It was reviewed in a recent issue of QST, so I'm not going to go into this deeply.


The idea is that the Alex Tune unit clips onto on of the PL-259 connectors of the AlexLoop coax of the main loop. You tune the capacitor for max receive noise and then hit your tune button (or otherwise generate a carrier) and fine tune the capacitor while watching the LED for maximum brightness. When you hit that, you're in like Flynn.

This unit is ideal for QRP radios that do not have an SWR readout as part of their display. For some of the monoband kits, the minimalistic kits, the HB1B and others, the Alex Tune unit is ideal. If you're using an Elecraft radio, like the KX2 or KX3, it is actually easier to tune the capacitor for max noise and then watch the SWR display on the KX2 or KX3 and fine tune for minimum SWR. Yesterday and today, I was able to tune the Alex Loop for a 1:1 or 1.2:1 SWR pretty easily by keeping an eye on my KX3's display.

I don't regret purchasing the unit as it will come in handy when I use something other than my KX3. But if you're radio has a built in SWR meter, and you don't intend to ever use anything else, then you can save some money - use what you already have in your radio.

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

Sunday, July 12, 2020

This is too good not to share

Words posted by Wayne Burdick N6KR to the Elecraft KX email reflector. They are too good not to share:

"On second thought, I think I'll take the stairs."

by Wayne Burdick, N6KR


I have a friend about my age who got into amateur radio only a few years ago. Like many of us, he was enthusiastic about the technology. Intrigued with DX.

I showed him my station; we talked endlessly about gear. Later, I helped him put up a simple wire antenna.

Then, when his license arrived, he dove straight into FT8 and didn't look back. Within days, he'd worked all states, then DXCC. He'd bag a few rare ones over a light lunch, then pat his laptop on the back and congratulate his software app for its near-mythical ability to extract weak signals out of noise.

Within weeks, he'd mastered everything there was to know about this glorious new hobby.

Point. Click.

In this new world order, those of us who took the longer, slower path to ionospheric enlightenment -- and who still occasionally enjoy making waves by hand -- often fail to explain why.

I had failed to explain it to my friend. Even as hints of his boredom crept in, creating an opening, the best argument I'd made for trying CW was that he could do it without a computer. Coming in a weak second was the notion that CW was the original digital mode. For obvious reasons, I didn't bother with the classic argument about CW's signal-to-noise advantage over SSB.

I had all but given up.

Then, in a moment of delayed clarity, I decided on a different approach. I invited him to a weekday brunch. A bit of an escape. He willingly took the bait.

On the appointed day, arriving at his workplace, I bypassed the lobby's glistening elevators and climbed the four flights of stairs to his office. I insisted we take the stairs down, too.

"Why?" he asked. "And how'd you get up here so fast?"

I pointed out that I always chose stairs, when possible. That's why I wasn't out of breath. We hustled down, jockeying for position, and emerged on the ground floor invigorated by the effort.

"So, where are we going?" he asked. We'd been to every overrated twenty-dollar burger venue at least twice.

I replied that we'd be going someplace we'd never tried. My kitchen.

When we arrived, I put him to work chopping onions and broccoli and squeezing oranges while I whipped eggs into a froth and grated Swiss cheese. We ate our omelettes outside, in full sun and a cool breeze.

"What's for dessert?" he asked. "Isn't there a frozen yogurt place a two-minute drive from here?"

I had something else in mind. Back in the kitchen, I handed him a water bottle, then slipped on a small pack I'd prepared earlier.

We walked a mile or so through my neighborhood, admiring the houses' varied architecture, ending up (as planned) at a local park festooned with blackberry bushes. The most accessible branches had been picked clean, but with teamwork and persistence we were able to gather several large handfuls of fat, ripe berries, which we devoured on the spot.

We'd been poked and scratched but didn't care.

"Doesn't brunch usually end with champagne?" he wondered aloud, admiring his wounds.

Not this time. I pulled out two bottles of craft beer that I'd obtained from a neighbor in trade for repairing his ancient home stereo. Carlos had spent years crafting an American pilsner to die for, sweating every detail, including iconic, hand-painted labels.

My friend accepted the bottle, then tried in vain to remove the cap. Not a twist-off.

"Opener?" he said.

I handed him a small pocket knife, an antique without extra blades. He soon discovered it could not be used to remove the cap directly. He looked at me with a bemused expression, no doubt wondering what I had up my sleeve this time.

I pointed out that we were surrounded by white oaks, a species known for its hard wood. He got the message, smiled, and began hunting. Within seconds he'd collected a small fallen branch. I watched as he used the knife to fashion a few inches of it into a passable bottle opener. We popped the caps, toasted his new-found skill, and traded stories of misspent youth.

"Oh, one more thing," I said.

I pulled a KX2 out of my pack, along with two lengths of wire. Of course he knew everything there was to know about Elecraft, and me, so he wasn't surprised when I also pulled out the rig's attachable keyer paddle. We threw one wire in the closest tree and laid the other on the ground.

He didn't have to ask whether I'd brought a laptop.

We listened to CW signals up and down 20 meters, open to Europe at the time. As he tuned in each station, I copied for him using pencil and paper. He'd learned Morse code, but only at very slow speeds.

After making a contact, I set the internal keyer speed to 10 words per minute and dialed power output to zero, for practice purposes, then showed him how to use the paddle. He smiled as he got the hang of it. Sending the full alphabet was a challenge, but he got there. The KX2 decoded and displayed his letters, providing confirmation.

We'd blown through his allotted lunch break by a factor of three, so it was time to go. We coiled up the antenna wires, packed up, and walked back. As I drove him back to his employer, we made plans to get together again for a weekend hike.

I could have just dropped him off, but we went back into the lobby together. Out of habit, he stopped in front of the elevator. We watched the illuminated floor numbers flash: digital and predictable eye-candy.

"OK," he said. "I get it. This CW thing. It's slow, doesn't always work, and takes years of practice."

"Like hunting for your own food, or carving your own tools," I added.

"Or cooking from scratch. Or brewing your own beer. Or building your own radio. But you use more of your senses. Not just your eyes, but your ears. Your sense of touch."

I nodded. Listening; feeling. That was the radio I'd grown up with.

"Of course it's harder to work DX with CW than with FT8," I reminded him, playing devil's advocate.

"Is that what matters, though?" he asked, with a sideways glance.

A longer discussion for another day.

"Your call," I said.

He gripped my shoulder and smiled, then aimed a forefinger toward the elevator's glowing, ivory colored UP button, gilded in polished brass.

The path most taken. The easy way.

Point. Click.

"On second thought," he said, "I'll take the stairs."


*************************************************************

Geez, not only can this guy design superb radios, he can write really darn well, too!

On a personal note, I operated in the QRP ARCI Homebrew Sprint this afternoon. While most would not consider my KX3 to be a kit radio, it was, in as much as a KX3 can be considered a kit - it was not factory built - so ...... whatever.

Anyway, I used the AlexLoop. We are up here at Lake George. I also brought the Buddistick along in a last second impulse move as I was packing the car. Yeah ...... I brought the whips, the coil, the base ..... and no coax. So the AlexLoop it is for the week.

I made 6 QSOs. Not great, but actually more than I expected. There didn't seem to be a ton of activity that I was hearing. I was hearing more SKCC Weekend Sprinters than I was hearing QRP stations, but I'm glad that I got what I got. The AlexLoop tuned pretty easily to a 1.2:1 or better SWR on both 20 and 40 Meters. I made five contacts on 40 and one on 20 Meters.

According to RBN, I was being heard pretty decently when I called CQ.


It's a decent antenna .... I'll give it that. I'd still rather have a full sized dipole or even a shortened end fed wire, but it met my expectations. I wanted to travel light with out a lot of "stuff" and I want to be able to set up and take down quickly. I didn't want to ask permission to toss a wire into a tree, either.  It is what it is. I'll play around with it some more. Maybe there's a few surprises in store.

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

Friday, July 10, 2020

Sent in my log

To Ken Villone KU2US for my 13 Colonies certificate. Actually, I like the way they have it set up. Fill out a form, generate a pdf, print it out and mail it in. What can be easier than that?

If I was a coding genius, or even a coding simpleton, I'd figure out a way to do something similar for the Skeeter Hunt. But alas, my computer skills are only rudimentary. I can surf the Web, send and receive e-mail, work and manipulate spreadsheets and a few other things. Other than that, I'm a fish out of water.

This spring and summer have been dry. In fact, the lawn has gone brown and crunchy in spots and has for the most part gone dormant. Today may make up a bit for that. We've been visited by Tropical Storm Fay and we've gotten a whopping 2.80 inches of rain today. That's probably more than we've had in the last couple of months.

On another note, I've decided that for when we head up to Lake George this year, I'm going to go minimal. Instead of dragging the knapsack along with everything in it, I'm just going to bring my day bag along containing the KX3, battery, ear buds, extra key, and clock. The antenna will be the Alex Loop. Maybe I can give it a real workout that week and really see what it's capable of.

My good friend Bob W3BBO received his QCX+ kit yesterday. I think I'm going to be putting in an order for one myself, soon. I'm pretty sure I'll be ordering one for 20 Meters to go along with my 40 Meter QCX kit. I don't have much time for melting solder lately, but I need to make time.

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

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Not the Clean Sweep I had hoped for

I came home from work last night and was sitting and watching the daily reports of mayhem and calamity on the TV ....... you know, the evening news broadcast, when HamAlert chimed off on my phone. K2B had been spotted!

My heart sank a bit when I saw it was 40 Meters all right, but up in the phone band. Thinking that it may be a case of "now or never" I reluctantly plugged the microphone in and waited for a "QRZ?". As soon as I heard it, I threw out my call and much to my surprise, I heard my call sign coming back to me. The YL op at K2B and I both exchanged "59+". I made it - the 13th Colony worked; but I still wanted to bag Virginia using CW, just like all the others.

A few hours later, my phone chimed again. K2B was on the air in the CW portion of the band on 20 Meters. I ran down to the shack and plugged in the ear buds. I could hear some of the stations working K2B, but not K2B itself.

A little while later, K2B was finally spotted on 40 Meters. Here was my chance! I ran downstairs, went to the frequency spotted and heard K2B all right - at about an RST of 339, 449 if I was feeling particularly generous. I tried calling several times; but no dice. It seemed every time I called I got another "CQ" right in my face.  I even boosted the power to QRO levels. Still nothing,

It's funny how propagation changes on a band over a short time  Earlier in the evening, my QRP SSB contact earned me a "59+". A few hours later, even 85 Watts couldn't make myself heard - to the same state on the same band!

Just when you think you have it figured out ..... you realize that you don't. To paraphrase that song from the 90's. "One night on 40 Meters makes a hard man humble ........".

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

Sunday, July 05, 2020

I gave it a shot.

As I stated in an earlier post, I started hunting Colonies on Thursday night. I did not chase on Friday, which was probably a big mistake; but it couldn't be helped as we had thunderstorms for most of the day. The antennas sat disconnected. With a day to go (and I have to work tomorrow) I find my self still needing K2B Virginia.

So I did a few other things. I must be one of the world's biggest procrastinators. I got some certificates that I had sitting in a file folder framed and hanging on the shack wall.

My !3 Colonies Clean Sweep certificates from 2015 and 2017.

My NPOTA certificates from 2016

Battles of Trenton and Princeton QSLs and certificate from 2020.

Notice the progression of years? I may not be the quickest to get things done, but I get them done eventually!

I have set Ham Alert to notify me if K2B comes up on CW, and if I'm home, I'll run downstairs to try and nab them. I didn't intend to try for another clean sweep, but I guess I've gotten caught up in it.

As an aside, whomever was the op at K2C, Rhode Island, thanks for the "Hi Larry" that was a pleasant surprise.

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

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Independence Day 2020

Happy Independence Day! The birthday of our Nation. Not perfect, by any means, but our Home. 244 years ago, a group of Patriots banded together to do something no colony had ever done before - break the stem tying it to its founding country. That act has been replicated since by many countries throughout the world.

It may be unpopular in this day and age, but thank you Founding Fathers, for your courage, your foresight, and your wisdom. And thank you, to the men and women throughout the ages who have striven to keep the flame of their vision burning brightly - in good times and in bad. May God continue to bless these United States of America.


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

Friday, July 03, 2020

Recharging

I have the day off today for a little expanded Independence Day weekend. So in addition to recharging myself, I'm also topping off my deep cycle battery after Field Day.


That's Harold, stretched out on the grass, enjoying a little sunshine as well.

I didn't work either Fox in the 20 Meter QRP Foxhunt last evening. Steve WX2S, who is just 18 miles away from me was just too close for 20 Meters. Brian K0DTJ in California was a whisper all evening - perhaps 229 at best. He wasn't loud enough to send my call and perhaps QRM someone who had a legitimate shot at working him.

So I twiddled the dial and worked 5 Colonies in the space of about 20 minutes. K2K in New Hampshire on 160 Meters, K2E in Delaware on 40 Meters, K2I in New Jersey, K2H in Massachuesetts, and K2D in Connecticut all on 80 Meters - and I wasn't even trying real hard. And all with 5 Watts.

Don't know if I'm going to continue to hunt down the remaining eight. We'll see how the weekend progresses.

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

Thursday, July 02, 2020

13 Colonies Special Event

It's on once again!


For those of you who have never operated in this event before, please make sure to give it a try. In the years it has been around, it has grown to become one of the most popular non-contest operating events of the year. Details can be found here - http://www.13colonies.us/

Notice I kind of highlighted the words "non-contest". It's supposed to be a fun operating event. You know, a low stress, have fun kind-of-thing. I've participated several times and always had fun. Even had a "clean sweep" two times.

Unfortunately, and way beyond the organizer's control, there are those who turn this into a competition, to see who can complete the task the fastest. Immediately, "What's the fun in that?" comes to my mind, but that's just MHO. The event last from July 1 to July 13 - there's ample time even for casual operators.

Then, in the past few years, there have been the regrettable instances of jamming and people just acting like butt holes in the pile-ups. and yes, there ARE pile-ups! The baddies are hard to ignore, but you can. When someone starts acting like a jerk, go chase one of the other Colonies until things calm down. Some people feel the need to spoil things for everyone - and unfortunately this event gets its fair share. This year, with a lot of folks working from home, maybe the activity will be more spread out with less of a reason for the jerks to act jerky.

But all that aside, getting all 13 Colonies and the bonus stations can be a ton of fun, and you can feel good about the accomplishment.  My advice would be to just have fun ...... period. If you find yourself smacking your forehead at some of the idiocy you may encounter (hopefully you won't) ....... then it's time for an ice cream break, because we all know, ice cream makes everything better!

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

Monday, June 29, 2020

Field Day ...... Post Mortem


There's nobody like Philip "Gil" Gildersleeve !!!

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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Field Day - it's like Lays Potato Chips

You can't eat just one - you can't make just one QSO.

As I stated before, I was not really hepped up for this Field Day. For me, Field Day is way more than just the operating event. The planning, the set up and tear down, the being with good friends who understand your passion end enjoy doing what you do. It's a social event - not just an operating event; and that's what makes it so special - and for 2020, COVID-19 blew all that right out of the water. So no, I was not very eager about Field Day 2020.

The plan was to set up the station out on the patio, operate from the table we have out there under the big market umbrella. I took care of all my chores early with the intent of setting up around 1:30. It doesn't take long when your equipment is designed with portable in mind. While I was mowing the lawn, my phone chirped with an advisory from NWS - severe thunderstorm watch until 8:00 PM local time. That torpedoed my outdoor plans, which in turn made set up even easier. I decided to take my portable KX3 down to the basement, hook it up to the deep cycle marine battery and operate there as W2LJ 1E NNJ. Set up would be even easier, 5 minutes max.

After I mowed the lawn (final chore of many), I set down on the couch. BIG MISTAKE!  Next thing I know, it's 2:30 PM and Field Day had begun without W2LJ. When I awoke, I took everything downstairs and WAS operational within 5-10 minutes. I worked until I had 20 stations in the log and came upstairs for a stretch break and something cold to drink. That's when I heard my AcuRite lightning detector chirping. I rushed downstairs, disconnected the antennas and shut everything down. And to be honest with you, I wasn't sure if I was even going to bother getting on again. It's just not the same as being in the field. To that point, about a three hour break ensued which included dinner and being with the family.

Around 8:00 PM, I decided I'd give it another go - maybe I could get to 50 stations worked before turning in,  Conditions on both 80 and 40 Meters were fantastic! 20 Meters was good as well, but for some reason, the SWR on 20 Meters was like a roller coaster, up and down, up and down. I had to hit the ATU button on the KX3 quite often - something I never had to do before. Not knowing what the problem was, I stayed on the W3EDP and when I looked at the clock, it was Midnight, I worked two more stations to bring my total to 100 QSOs and hit the sack for the night at 12:15 AM.

When I woke this morning, I was pleased with my total and was kind of ambivalent about getting on again. But like the post title says, once you're into it, for better or worse, Field Day is like Lays potato chips - "You can't eat just one."  I took a shower, made some coffee and headed down to the shack again, Before I knew it, I was at 150 QSOs when I decided to take another break. 15 Meters had been open and surprisingly, the HF9V played well and behaved itself, To me, that meant any problem was not at the feed point or with the feed line, It had to be something with the antenna itself. I knew that I would investigate some time after 2:00 PM.

I sat down on the couch again, took another short snooze and when I woke up, I headed down to the shack for one last time. "Maybe I can make it to 175 QSOs", I thought to myself. 175 became 185 and the 185 became 190 and finally reached 200 when I shut down with about 20 minutes to go, In that last session, I actually ran a frequency for a little while on 40 Meters and actually had a tiny pile up. Not bad for 5 watts, eh? Here's the statistical break down:


Not the best Field Day effort I've ever put forth, but considering the circumstances, not a terrible one, either. I'm pretty happy with it,

As a whole, propagation was weird. Severe QSB plagued both days, and for me at least, most of  my RF was blocked by an invisible RF shield located at the Mississippi River.  Colorado, North Texas and Saskatchewan were the only locations in the West that intercepted my RF.


I worked all the US Eastern Sections except for North New York, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands ...... and Indiana! Hey, Indiana Fireflies - where were you guys? LOL!

To complete the day, I discovered and rectified my 20 Meter SWR problem, I hadn't noticed that ivy had grown into and wrapped itself in the HF9V's coils. I cut the vine at the base and removed the offending foliage. A quick run to the basement seems to indicate (for now) that the ivy was indeed the problem. Some "TEST DE W2LJ VVVVV" transmissions on 20 Meters and the SWR remained rock solid at 1.2:1. I hope that's all this was - I don't need bigger antenna problems.

Thanks to all who worked me and put me in their logs!

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


Friday, June 26, 2020

Ubiquitous start

Last night was the beginning of the 2020 QRP Fox Hunt Summer season. I did not end up the outcome that I would have hoped for.

The Foxes for the evening were N7CQR in Oregon and N4FP in Florida. I spotted both easily by locating the packs of baying Hounds calling each. Alas, while I heard the Hounds, not the slightest scent on the Foxes themselves. Well ......... that's not totally true. I did hear N4FP for a few minutes at ESP levels. I could tell he was calling "CQ FOX", but he was not strong enough to justify sending my call and perhaps spoiling someone else's chances by generating unintentional QRM. N7CQR on the other hand was as silent as a tombstone to me.

The evening was not a total loss, however. I was fooling around with upgrading my version of N3FJP's AC Log to the newest version. I turned on the DX spotting function and my mouse accidentally clicked on CO8WN who was spotted on 40 Meters. Sure enough, the KX3 automatically changed bands and landed on his frequency. He was pretty loud, so I decided to give him a call. Sure enough, I landed him on the first try and got a 579 report without revealing my power output.

It wasn't a couple of Fox pelts hanging out to dry, but it took away some of the sting.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Gearing up for Field Day

Actually, there isn't that much to do. We had our last South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club meeting on Zoom last night to go over details.

Most of us will be operating from our respective homes as 1E NNJ (low power) and we're all going to denote the club affiliation with the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club.  I think most of us, if not all of us have bought a Field Day copy of N3FJP's Amateur Contact Log.

Dave KD2FSI reminded everyone to look at the rules and not to forget the bonus points - such as copying the W1AW Field Day Bulletin. I reminded everyone about bonus points for social media posts.

We're going to lose a lot as a club this year for not being in a public location, having municipal officials visit, etc. But the weather forecast for the weekend is for temperatures in the 90s (33C), so being in a tent while wearing a face covering isn't something that's all that attractive, anyway.

Conversely, NOT being in a tent and operating from home leads to more ....... shall we say ..... distractions? For me, at least, being close to the fridge, the bathroom and all the conveniences of home makes sitting in the chair pounding out Morse for hours on end all that much harder. I know for a fact that once those 80 Meter and 160 Meter contacts dry up at night, I'll be hitting the sack instead of going to the Jeep for a short snooze. I think this year, there will be no such thing as a "short snooze" - LOL!

I was mulling over setting up the KX3 and the PAR END FEDZ in the backyard and operating that way - and I may still do that. All operating will be accomplished using my PowerWerx deep cycle battery which has been charged up via my Harbor Freight solar panel.  Thinking about it as I type this, I probably WILL set up that way for daytime operations and once the evening hours come, I'll just slide down to the basement (with the battery) so I can use the W3EDP for 80 and 160 Meter contacts.

I wasn't all that juiced up for Field Day this year, but after last night's meeting, I'm feeling a bit more excited about it. However, it is my deepest wish that for 2021 Field Day, we can go back to "normal". The thing I will be missing the most is the social aspect of it - toughing it out for 24 hours with my SPARC compadres.

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


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Overwhelming!

The amount of e-mails that I have received requesting Skeeter Hunt numbers has been a bit overwhelming to say the least! And I could not be happier! Is this little Summer QRP Sprint beginning to become a favorite? I certainly hope so!

In the first 24 hours, since I started handing out numbers, I have received 136 requests.  In the past, that didn't happen until way closer to the event. Thank you all so much for your support and participation - does my heart good. And who knows? Maybe we'll actually have some sun spots this year. Could Ol' Sol finally be awakening from his slumber?

The Roster can be found at:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1quCECsmE_cgHexgQhpkHeltX2cIlveSqI_tVqK1z0GM/edit?usp=sharing

Keep those requests coming in, folks - plenty of Skeeter numbers to be had!

On another note,I have been reading a little book that I re-discovered on my kindle. I must have downloaded it a long time ago - I don't even remember when. It's titled "The Brasspounder" and the author is D.G. Sanders.


If you own a kindle, or have the kindle app on one of your devices, you can download this from Amazon for free. The time period the author tells of is the early 1900's - specifically around 1915 when he first started working for the railroad. It's not Amateur Radio related, but the word "ham" does make an appearance early on, in what I thought was, an unexpected way.

It's light reading and goes pretty quickly. In just a few evenings of pre-bedtime reading, I'm already half way through the book. Some of the language is railroad lingo, but it's easy enough to get through, and figure out what he's writing about.

If you get the chance, download it - it's free and is an interesting read of the life of a professional railroad telegrapher.

72 de Larry w2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Sunday, June 14, 2020

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt 2020

Skeeter Hunters!

The Ninth Annual NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is set for Sunday, August 16th.

A word about Skeeter Hunt numbers as I'm already receiving e-mail requests. Tradition is that Skeeter Hunt numbers are issued as of the First Day of Summer - which this year is NEXT Saturday, June 20th. ONLY e-mail requests sent as of 12:01 AM Saturday EDT will be honored.

"Why/ What difference does it make?" you may well ask yourself. The answer is simple - it gives everyone an equal opportunity to acquire a lower number. To some that's no big deal, but to others it's a very big deal - so everyone gets the same chance. And it also adds another level of participation that keeps YOU in the game, and this is all about keeping you involved.

Why new numbers every year and not the same one year after year like other QRP contests? Because not everyone can participate each year - family commitments or vacations or other things come up that prevent people from participating.

So folks, start pouring in those e-mails to w2ljqrp@gmail.com AFTER Midnight when this coming Friday turns into Saturday, here in NJ. And as always, please, please, PLEASE include your call sign, your name (that you will use when operating) and the State or Province that you will be operating from. It makes it way easier to update the roster if you supply me with all the correct info.

Hope to hear from you all real soon!

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

Saturday, June 13, 2020

A Successful Day

Today, the ETS of NJ VE Team that I belong to had our first successful exam session since this COVID crisis erupted last winter. A session was held in February, but I could not make it as I was stuck in an interminable check out line at our local grocery store. The sessions for March, April and May were canceled.

Governor Murphy had recently relaxed some of the restrictions that were in place, so we were able to hold a session today, albeit with Covid precautionary measures in place.  Our session was held outdoors and not indoors. We had to have two sessions because we had 20 candidates on our "waiting list". Sounds kind of daunting, doesn't it? Actually things went quite smoothly thanks to the actions of our liaison, Drew W2OU.

We had the candidates line up their vehicles on one side of the parking lot. Directly across from them were the vehicles of the VEs. One on one, directly across from each other, facing each other. The candidates were given some restrictions - no passengers, the front of the car had to be totally clear of any printed materials. They were given the option of taking the exam inside their vehicle, or if they wanted, they could bring a chair and clipboard and take the exam in front of their vehicle. If they decided to remain in their vehicle, their cell phones had to be placed on the dashboard where we could see them. Each vehicle was checked for compliance as we collected exam fees and checked photo IDs.

Social distancing was maintained whenever possible. Face coverings and gloves or hand sanitizer were mandatory equipment for the day. VEs were instructed to wear yellow safety vests. We communicated with the candidates via a low power FM transmitter tuned to 88.7 MHz, or thereabouts and they could hear us on their FM broadcast receivers inside their vehicles.








Thankfully, the weather cooperated by giving us a beautiful day and both sessions went off without a hitch. Well, almost. We panicked a bit when we thought we misplaced a candidates completed test answer sheet, but we quickly found it located in another folder. Everyone who came walked away (or should I say drove away) with either a new Technician license or an upgrade, we even had a couple folks come in with no license and went home as General Class ops.

The only sad part of the day was remembering one of our own, Bobby Cure W2REC who became a Silent Key due to this plague. We tried to honor his memory by making him present in spirit at today's session


We left a seat vacant for him and put a straight key in place to honor his years of dedicated service to our VE Team.  RIP, Bobby, you are sorely missed.

For a session this large and due to the unusual circumstances, our VE Team alone would not have been enough, We were assisted by other VE Team members from the Tri-County Radio Club, the Raritan Valley Radio Club, the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club and the New Providence Amateur Radio Club, and I believe even some members from the Fairlawn Amateur Radio Club. I met a whole bunch of VEs for the first time today, that I had never met before. It was a great thing to behold.

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

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Cookie Crumble 2020 was not crummy!

I had a good time, despite a few glitches.

First off, Emily WC3R contacted me during the week to ask me if I'd be interested in being either a Cookie Monster or a Burnt Cookie. I asked her which she needed more and she replied "Burnt". Hmmmmm ..... I was happy to volunteer, but I made up my mind right then and there that I would only call CQ. I would not hunt and pounce and go out of my way to give people negative points. That may not be what the organizers intended, but it felt like the way to go for me. After the fact, I have heard from a few people who have told me that they heard me rather well, but once they heard me give out "Burnt" as my name, they did not respond to my CQs. So my QSO total was probably less than it could have been, but so be it.

Then, in the middle of the contest, the KX3 began acting up. Whenever I went near the cable that connected the battery to the DC Power Socket, the rig shut down. Once it happened in the middle of a QSO.  So I took the rig apart, and took that half down to the shack to re-solder the connections of the jack to the circuit board.  Problem solved!

Oh yes, I ran down to the shack. That means I operated backyard portable from our patio table.



I think this was the first time that I have used my laptop DURING a sprint. I usually log on paper and transfer later. The QSOs were not coming hot and heavy, so there was time for this uber slow typist to add them to Log4OM in real time.

The antenna was the PAR END FEZ which was being supported by Jackite Pole in the bottom photo. I bungeed the Jackite to the swing set and then ran the wire down to the patio chair in the foreground (I didn't want the end touching the ground). It's funny, my two kids are in college, but I haven't gotten rid of the swing set as it serves as a very good support for the Jackite. That's going to change this summer, though. That structure has seen better days and needs to come down.

In all, I made 13 contacts. Nine were with other Cookies and four were not. I made three contacts on 20 Meters, nine contacts on 40 Meters and one contact on 80 Meters. Yes, to my great surprise the KX3 was able to load up the PAR on 80 Meters for one final QSO of the day with the Cookie Queen herself, Emily WC3R.  In addition to working Emily, it did this ol' heart some good to hear such familiar calls as Jim W1PID, John K4BAI, Marc W4MPS and John Paul AB4PP - but thank you EVERYONE for the QSOs - and I apologize for having to be the bearer of negative points.

There were bonus points for posting pictures to Facebook (which I did - the ones above), posting a picture of biting into a cookie on Facebook (which I did not do) and posting a limerick to Facebook (which I did do):

There was never a hobby as hip 
As allows us to chase the skip 
The waves they do propagate 
And to radios our ears do mate 
To hunt down the vaunted chocolate chip.

OK, OK ....... I know, I'm no great author or poet, but points are points! Easy enough to get for composing a bad limerick, but not enticement enough for posting a photo of my ugly mug chomping on a cookie. Between QSO points and bonus points, I ended up submitting a score of 9,354 points. I'm sure that will land me somewhere from middle to bottom. But that's fine because I had fun, it was a gorgeous day weather-wise AND ...... I was not at work!

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

Friday, June 05, 2020

Podcasts

I have to admit, I'm not all that much into podcasts. The four that I pay attention to are listed in the box to the right. I get particular satisfaction from listening to "QSO Today" by Eric Guth 4Z1UG. You can never really get bored listening to "QSO Today" as Eric makes sure to interview people that represent a wide variation of Amateur Radio interests.

That being said, I think the followers of this blog - if they don't already benefit from listening to "QSO Today", would get a kick out of these interviews (I think you'll notice some familiar names ansd call signs):

Episode 304 - Tim Carter W3ATB
Episode 295 - Bry Carling AF4K
Episodes 293 & 80 - Michael Rainey AA1TJ
Episode 245 - Joe Everheart N2CX
Episode 215 - Mike Bryce WB8VGE
Episode 173 - Preston Douglas WJ2V
Episode 158 - Don Minkoff NK6A
Episode 154 - Dave LeDuc N1IX
Episode 151 - George Heron N2APB
Episodes 149 & 11 - Wayne Burdick NK6R
Episode 148 - Rich Fisher KI6SN
Episode 147 - Rich Moseson W2VU
Episode 141 - Paul Stroud AA4XX
Episode 138 - Tony Fishpool G4WIF
Episode 125 - Hans Summers G0UPL
Episode 120 - Jim Stafford W4QO
Episode 117 - Gerry Jurgens N2GJ
Episode 113 - Bill Kelsey N8ET
Episode 110 - Tom Witherspoon K2SWL
Episode 102 - Rex Harper W1REX
Episode 101 - Graham Firth G3MFJ
Episode 99 - Jeff Murray - K1NSS
Episode 93 - Joe Eisenberg K0NB
Episode 84 - Peter Parker VK3YE
Episode 78 - Bob Hopkins WB2UDC
Episode 77 - Dave Cripe NM0S
Episode 72 - Alan Wolke W2AEW
Episode 67 - Nick Kennedy WA5BDU
Episode 58 - Chuck Adams K7QO
Episode 25 - Steve Galchutt WG0AT
Episode 30 - Greg Lane N4KGL
Episode 24 - Dan Walker WG5G
Episode 10 - Stan Lewandowski - WB2LQF

And these are just the ones with a special interest towards CW or QRP . There's a goldmine there, just waiting to be explored! Find it at https://www.qsotoday.com/

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

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

So maybe Field Day is not a goner after all.

By now, it's not news that the ARRL has amended Field Day rules for 2020 (only) in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, that news came out the day AFTER our last SPARC meeting, where we tossed out the idea of putting forth a Field Day effort for 2020.

Now that the rules have changed, and we can aggregate our scores, we just might do something as a group, albeit from our individual locations. We're going to discuss this at our monthly evening "activity gathering" tomorrow evening on ZOOM. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

I know our club President plans to be at his Pocono Mountain cabin retreat that weekend. I'll probably operate from the backyard like most of our other members. I'm sure that Dave KD2FSI will be operating from his home, too - as will Marv K2VHW. Marv and I anchor the CW leg of the effort, so I'm hoping he plans to operate!

One thing, though ....... Field Day participation or no, I haven't totally decide, but I don't think I'm going to purchase the T-Shirt this year. Even though I'm a Boomer, I'm not a big fan of the "concert tour" design.


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

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Wow ..... unreal!

Things have changed so much since I was a kid! To say that even sounds stupid in my head .... but things ARE so different. I've said this before, I'm a Space Age kid. I was born in 1957 and some of the earliest TV images that remain in my consciousness are watching the Project Mercury launches of Alan Shepard and John Glenn. I followed all three projects - Mercury, Gemini and Apollo like a rabbit in the middle of a carrot patch. I devoured every bit of information that I was able to.

Then came the Shuttle Program, and by then, I was a Ham. My 2 Meter HT was my constant companion as I would listen to the Shuttle audio re-broadcasts courtesy of the Goddard Spaceflight Amateur Radio Club.

But yesterday's launch of Dragon and Falcon-9?  Unreal! Awesome! Fantastic! And ....... so DIFFERENT!

Take for instance the space suits - I'm so used to the bulky things that were used in past times. Project Mercury and Project Gemini suits weren't so bulky, they had their own distinctive look. By the time we got to Apollo, the suits were pretty bulky. Look at the evolution:

Project Mercury

Project Gemini

Project Apollo

Dragon

The Dragon spacesuits are almost form fitting by comparison! Another thing that seems so unreal was to see live real time video of the crew in the spacecraft.


Back in the day, once the crew entered into the spacecraft, that was it. The only time you saw them again was if there was an in-flight video broadcast issued by NASA (or of course, the moonwalks). Yesterday, watching the launch, as Launch Control was talking with the crew, you could actually watch them give a "thumbs up" as they were given launch status reports. Then as the countdown was approaching its final seconds, you could not only hear, but you could actually see Commander Hurley say "Let's light this candle!".

This is the kind of stuff that I dreamed of and wished for as a kid.  A lot of the differences in the way this mission is covered is due to advances in technology. Instead of relying on the big TV networks for coverage, I can turn on my Roku streaming device and I can watch the NASA Channel via the Internet.

But the cameras aboard the spacecraft that allow you to see all the real time images ..... I have to think that a big part of THAT, is that this is a commercial venture. This is a Space-X mission, being conducted in partnership with NASA, as opposed to being a NASA only mission. And I think that as a public corporation, Space-X wants all the good publicity and coverage that it can get. To them, it's good business. And if that's the real reason, I don't really care. I'm enjoying every minute of this mission.

By the by, something to keep in mind - the Pilot of Dragon is Bob Behnken - who is also known as KE5GGX. Maybe he'll get a chance to use ARISS during his couple month visit aboard the ISS.

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