Saturday, March 28, 2020

Stuff coming up.

For those of you who are sheltering in place and are looking for some activity, NEXT weekend has a bonanza of activity.

It all starts next Friday with a QRP sprint, the Sasquatch Stomp, which is sponsored by the Pacific Northwest QRP Group - it runs from 2100 UTC on Friday to 0300 UTC on Saturday. My Sasquatch number is 910. The rules can be found here. Hopefully, I'll hear you on the bands. With no where to go, why not get on the air?

Next weekend has a plethora of State QSO parties:

Nebraska QSO Party: Exchange is simple - your S/P/C (state, province or country)

Louisiana QSO Party: Exchange is RST and S/P/C.

Mississippi QSO Party: Exchange is RST and S/P/C.

Missouri QSO Party: Exchange is RST and S/P/C.

I will definitely be on the air.

Today I got on the air for a little bit and worked Tom EA8YV on 20 Meters. There was a lot of QSB and band conditions were not the best, but we got a valid contact made. I hope to get on the air tomorrow afternoon and see if anyone's on the air - you would think with all this social distancing going on that the bands would be wall-to-wall busy ........right?

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Another one bites the dust.

I apologize for my snark, but yet another event that's near and dear is changing due to our current situation. This was posted to QRP-L by Paul Harden NA5N:


QRP To The Field (QRPTTF) will be held this year on Saturday, April 18, 2020, the usual daylight hours in the U.S. time frame.

To comply with the isolation and travel restrictions most of us are now living under, there will be no theme this year, just a HOME and FIELD category.  There is no special emphasis to operate from the field with most parks and areas closed, isolation concerns, or to not violate local restrictions.  We'll operate from HOME in "Take-Out" mode; FIELD operations are allowed only if you're comfortable traveling to a location without violating local guidelines (or from your back yard).

April 18 also coincides with the annual SOTA S2S Trans-Atlantic QSO Party.   So, SOTA stations (most are QRP) will be on the air for the added bonus points, some from EU, and all SOTA station contacts also qualify for QRPTTF contacts.  If you're a SOTA op who prefers to stay home, then participate in QRPTTF instead.

I really struggled with this.  Some communities are now imposing fines for being caught out and about; we all know the isolation and self-quarantine guidelines imposed on us and the uncertainties come April 18.  So the emphasis this year is operate from HOME so we can all remain safe and still
have fun.

Ham radio is the safest activity on planet Earth right now.  We can associate with all our QRP friends on the bands without having to wash our hands after wards! :-)  See you for QRPTTF on April 18 from the comfort and safety of your HOME.  It might help your "Cabin Fever" just a bit.

I'll be updating the QRPTTF website shortly.

72, Paul NA5N

Sigh ............

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

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Almost forgot!

I almost forgot to check for State QSO Parties for this weekend - and there is one! The Virginia QSO Party is being held this weekend. Went down the basement this morning to get my two QSOs in the log to continue with my personal State QSO Parties Challenge (getting at least two QSOs in all of them).

I've been so busy with other stuff that I plumb forgot about checking before the weekend. Work has been super busy. Most of the employees are working from home; but I am in every day as my job can't be performed remotely. The building is like a ghost town. The good thing is that I'm pretty isolated where I sit and I don't come into contact with a lot of people, so social distancing is a pretty easy thing to do.

I had to take my daughter Cara back to University yesterday to help her pack up and bring home everything from her dorm room. All classes are on-line for the rest of the year and all student have to have their belongings removed, and their keys turned in by April 4th. So we got that done. She brought so much stuff home for Spring Break that it made packing up and bringing the rest home a snap.

The silver lining of this COVID-19 thing, Amateur Radio-wise, is that I seem to be hearing more activity on the bands. Maybe it's just my imagination, but there seems to be a "Spring time" of activity on the HF frequencies. That is a good thing in an otherwise bleak time.

The funny thing is that the days are getting longer, the flowers and trees are blooming and the temps are getting warmer; but it feels like a blizzard in the dead of Winter, as we are being told to pretty much stay in place as much as we can, limiting our exposure to one another in order to flatten this COVID-19 contagious curve.

The one thing that seems certain is that as this curve gets flattened and the danger of infection decreases with time, this coming Summer will be a glorious time of getting back to normal! Hopefully.

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

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Some stability, but chaos continues

On the job front, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have been offered a position with the new contractor. There will be little change from old to new - I lose two weeks of paid vacation, but to me that's minor compared to seeking employment with another company at my age. Now begins the tedious process of on boarding. When I was a young pup, fresh out of college, you interviewed and if you were offered a position and accepted, there was a handshake and you started working. Now there's all kinds of hoops to jump through, forms to fill out, etc, etc, etc.

That aside, there's this COVID-19 crisis. SPARC meetings have been cancelled for the time being, CERT classes offered by the county have been cancelled for the time being and the new just came down that Hamvention has been cancelled for 2020. I pray to God that this passes quickly and that all of my family, friends and you, my readers, get through this unscathed.

Fortunately, while Amateur Radio is by large and social activity, it can also be a solitary activity from the safe confines of one's shack. And so it was that I continued to chase my personal goal of participating in all the State QSO Parties in 2020.

This weekend we had the Oklahoma, Idaho and Wisconsin QSO Parties. I managed to get QSOs in all three. I thought that Wisconsin would be a cake walk and the other two a bit harder. Again, I was wrong. There were surprisingly a lot of Oklahoma stations on the air on Saturday and conditions were such that they were all pretty loud. I also scored a couple of Idahoans on 20 Meters. They turned out to be easier to find than expected. I really thought that Idaho was going to be tougher than it turned out to be. Sunday was the Wisconsin QSO Party and I was able to log stations on both 40 and 20 Meters.

The world may seem to be falling apart, but Amateur Radio continues to be an activity where you can find satisfaction, enjoyment and accomplishment - all from the comfort of home.

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

Friday, March 06, 2020

Slow down in posts

You may notice a slow down in new posts on "QRP - When you care to send the very least!". There's a couple of things going on that have diverted my attention for the time being.

I have a situation at work. I am a contract employee. In fact, I'm a contractor to a contractor. The contracted company that contracted my company cancelled our contract. That's so confusing! I hope it makes sense, but that's what happened.

The good news is that the new contractor "supposedly" wants to keep us all in place. There was no issue with the employees, but with the contracted company itself. I have been tentatively contacted, sent a copy of my current resume and am waiting for a firm offer of continued employment.

This is what has my attention so absorbed lately. Our contract runs our at the end of the month - so I either get that new offer real soon or I have to start looking for a new job, really quickly.

In addition, the person I worked with (this is a two person position - we have to cover two buildings) took a similar position with another company after all this hub-bub started. So in addition to all this uncertainty, I am trying to fill two pairs of shoes - AND we're in the middle of a HUGE project!

So all this has me running a bit ragged. Last night was the 80 Meter Fox hunt. The Foxes were Dave N1IX in NH and Wayne N4FP in FL. Dave was loud - I was certain (probably a bad idea) as soon as I  heard him that I would make it into his log.

I did. Yay!

Wayne N4FP was another matter. His signal was fluctuating up and down. My guess was, that if I hung around long enough, that I would make it into his log. I just did not have the willpower to do that. I listened for a few minutes and then just hung it up for the night.

Normally, I wake up a few minutes before the alarm goes off. Lately, it's been waking me up. I really hope all this uncertainty and confusion works itself out in quick order.  Until then, my attention will probably be diverted from radio for a little bit.

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

Sunday, March 01, 2020

3 for 3

If I was a Major League Baseball player, I could say I went "three for three" this weekend. I had three things that I wanted to accomplish and I got all three done.

The first and second were to get my QSOs in for my personal State Party QSO Challenge. The South Carolina QSO Party was yesterday (Saturday) and the North Carolina QSO Party was today. I made four QSOs in South Carolina and a half dozen in North Carolina. I don't know if it was the difference between Saturday and Sunday, or the number of Hams in each state, but North Carolina on Sunday was much easier than South Carolina on Saturday, Seemed like there were way more North Carolinians on the air.

I chased both states on 40 Meters and on Sunday everywhere I tuned on the band, there were stations calling "CQ NQP". On Saturday, I had to really twiddle and hunt for South Carolina stations. I worked both QSO parties during the 1730 to 1815 UTC time window on both days. Maybe a lot of South Carolina Hams get stuck working Saturdays - who knows?

Anyway, that was goals 1 and 2 accomplished.

Goal number 3 was to build a sample of one of the kits we'll be offering at NJ Makers Day on March 21st. At our South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club last Wednesday evening, I was handed a WHDTS Sound Light Controller LED Lamp Kit.

The instructions that came with the kit are clear and well written. The kit was not hard to put together at all, but it took me about 35 minutes. I'm thinking that a youngster who is inexperienced, and is just learning how to solder for the first time will take over an hour to build this - even with assistance. If you include the USB power cord, there are 28 components to solder, including a 14 pin DIP IC.

In addition to the regular resistors and disc capacitors, there is a 1N4148 diode, three electrolytic caps, 9 LEDs, two transistors and one switch - all of these being polarized components that you have to make sure are installed in the right direction before soldering. This is going to take time and we might have to recommend that this kit be geared more towards the older teens.

It works OK for what it is. You plug it into a USB power source and depress the switch. Then a loud noise like a clap or a whistle causes the ring of LEDs to light up. I put it near a speaker that was playing some music and that will cause the LEDs to flicker in time to the music as well - but the speaker has to be pretty loud. The microphone on this kit is not super sensitive.

Relatively speaking it was a good weekend and I'm happy that I accomplished the things that I wanted to. It was tough being in the basement this weekend, though. While it was in the 30s outdoors on Saturday and the low 40s on Sunday, the basement remained a "balmy" 57 degrees. Not the most comfortable. I just don't know how WG0AT and these other SOTA guys do mountain topping in the Winter. It's definitely not for me!

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