Monday, October 18, 2021

On this date


Where would we be without transistors?  Definitely one of the major technical advances of our time.

No Hill Toppers, no Mountain Toppers, no LNRs. no KX's, no QCX's (just to name a few) and a whole lot more!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP _ When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Working POTA stations

 I did something this Sunday morning that I haven't done in a while ..... I got on the air!

I decided to go down to the basement to hunt some POTA stations. I ended up working five in a very short time amidst working on a hardware issue. More on that later. 

If you like working POTA stations but haven't downloaded the POTA Spotter app, you're doing yourself a great injustice. I have mine on my cell phone and was going from spot to spot to spot.

I tried working Tom K4SWL and John AE5X. I think Tom had gone QRT and I heard stations working John, but could not make out AE5X himself. But it was fun working the five that I did and the POTA Spotter made it easier than it would have been just twiddling the dial. To some purists, that might be "cheating", but I don't have the PX3 panadapter, so the POTA Spotter makes life just a bit easier.

Getting back to the hardware problem. It was solved by making up a new power cord for the KX3, because as I was working K8P, my KX3 shut itself off (or lost power) twice. Hoping that there was nothing wrong with the rig itself, I hurriedly hooked it up to my Field Day battery only to find that everything was OK. Whew!

The power supply was still powered on and putting out the proper voltage. I unhooked the power cable that runs from the power supply to the KXPA100 and stuck some VOM probes into the Anderson power poles. No volts!  I checked the inline fuses and they were OK, so the problem has to be at the power pole end. The wires seem to be attached fine, but since there's no voltage present, there has to be a loose connection, or something, at the power pole end.

I don't have any spare power poles on hand, or the crimping tool, but I did have a spare 3.5mm power connector. I took some heavy gauge speaker wire on hand and SOLDERED myself up a good old fashioned power cable. That solved that problem and I went on to work a couple more before going QRT myself.

I had forgotten how much fun POTA hunting is. I'll have to do lots more in the future!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Zombie Shuffle time!

 The return of a favorite! Here's the announcement from Paul NA5N:


Zombies,

Halloween is at the end of the month ... must be Zombie Shuffle time.

The ZOMBIE SHUFFLE will be held on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021 from 1600 through midnight, your local time.  Hopefully 15M and 20M will be open for a bit.

2021 RULES and SUMMARY sheet are here:

http://www.zianet.com/qrp/ZOMBIE/pg.htm

Pretty much the same pointless rules and scoring as always.

2020 Summary Sheets and soap box comments indicated the spooky and goofy names used by the bonus stations last year were a real hit and fun to copy on the air.  This year, EVERYONE is invited to choose some bogus, goofy name to send in their exchange for something different and fun.

If you'd like to be a bonus station this year, please email me. Bonus stations will send "2021" as their Zombie number.

The Zombie Shuffle is always a good excuse to get on the air for a couple hours or more, with a goofy exchange for a big score, and have some QRP fun regardless of your skill level.  Very informal with code speeds generally 20 wpm or less.  So if you're new to CW or a bit rusty, or a seasoned Zombie, this informal event is made to get you on the air and have some Zombie fun.

See you Oct. 29.

72, Paul NA5N


Thanks once again, Paul, for putting this together! It's always a lot of fun.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Encouragement

 For those of you who have to live with less than ideal antenna conditions - I saw this post on QRP-L and the author, John N6HI granted me permission to publish it here.  It says a lot about how being stuck in a place that doesn't allow full blown antenna situations does NOT have to keep you from having fun - even if you're "just" a QRP operator.

His story:

Exactly one year ago today, I brought home my new IC-705. My QTH in Arizona is "life in the big city". I live in a HOA environment that allows no antennas. My ONLY station antenna is a 20-foot piece of wire with a rock tied on the end, thrown into a tree out my window. At its highest point, it's about 15 feet above ground. I use this 20 foot end-fed wire on all bands, 160 to 6 meters. The antenna is fed via an LDG tuner, and NO ground system is used. Most of my QSOs are at 1/2 Watt, my favorite power level. I never use more than 5 Watts.

Using only the 20 Foot wire, here are my first year statistics with the IC-705:

------ IC-705 1-Year, Running 5 Watts or less ------

Completed W.A.C. in first 17 days.

Contacts made on all bands: 160-80-60-40-30-20-17-15-12-10-6 meters.

Total hf QSOs:  3021

Countries worked:  58

------ IC-705 1-Year, Running 1/2 Watt ------

Contacts made on all bands: 160-80-60-40-30-20-17-15-12-10-6 meters.

Total hf QSOs:  2319

Countries worked:  20

85% of my IC-705-first-year QSOs were CW.  None were FT8 or similar enhanced modes. I have been a ham for 57 years, and 100% QRP for the last 20+ years. I enjoy rag-chewing, DXing, and contesting with QRP.

With QRP power and a short wire antenna, I certainly don't expect to make the DXCC Honor Roll any time soon ... but I love the challenge and rewards of operating QRP. I feel that results like this, during this last year of poor solar conditions, certainly proves what can be done with QRP power levels and simple wire antennas. I encourage you all to give QRP a try!

-73- John N6HI

Thanks, John - well stated and I think this could be a badly needed shot in the arm to those of our compatriots who are saddled with less than ideal operating conditions. You never have to go off the air!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Down the shore


 In New Jersey, it's "a thing". We don't go to the beach - we go down the shore. Once we're at the shore, we may or may not go to the beach. Like I said, it's a Jersey thing.

Last weekend, Marianne and I went down to the shore to spend our wedding anniversary weekend together. The weather was nice, and there were people on the beach. We sat on a bench on the boardwalk and soaked up the sun and did some people watching. We enjoyed the rare opportunity to do "not much".

I took this short video to capture the sight and the sounds. And I have to admit that ever since I became a Ham seeing the ocean has been a different experience for me, than probably for most "civilians". I look at the water and it seems endless. If you look it up, at sea level, the visual horizon is only about 3 miles away. That is mind boggling when you consider how vast the ocean actually is. It seems endless - and "endless" is only 3 miles away!  The water actually stretches for thousands of miles beyond that!

And what makes it even more amazing and magical, is that my 5 Watts of RF energy can easily hop right over that ocean and even further - at the speed of light! My radio signals, which can reach Europe, Asia or anywhere in the world for that matter, traverse the oceans as easily as I walk from my kitchen to my living room. It's truly mind boggling. How often do we take those QSOs for granted?  How many times does a QSO to a different country seem like "no big deal"? "Oh, it's only Spain." or "Oh, it's only" Germany or Italy, or England, or wherever.

Mass communication - radio, TV, satellites have seemingly shrunk the world. We take instant communication as a given. The Earth, our globe, our home, is tremendously huge! We forget how huge it is compared to us. The concept and magic of radio is so much a part of me; and yet I have to  admit that I fall into the trap of taking it for granted.  Taking in the ocean and contemplating the vastness of our planet, and how easily radio can conquer that makes it even more special and wonderful again.

Those QSOs ARE a big deal. A very big deal, each and every one! Don't ever become blasé about them!

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

Friday, September 24, 2021

Egads! It's Autumn! Where has the year gone?

 


At least in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway. It's time to say good-bye to longer days, warmer temperatures, and hopefully soon - lawn mowing.

But on the other side of the coin, Winter will soon be approaching, making it's presence felt long before Autumn is officially over. I'll be going to work in the dark, coming home in the dark, and soon I'll go back to wearing three layers of shirts/sweaters as the cold temperatures return. And the Farmer's Almanac (if they're to be believed) is no help. They are prognosticating a "colder, snowier and longer lasting" Winter for my part of the Eastern Seaboard. As you can guess, I am hoping they're wrong.

The bright side is that the bands should become noticeably less filled with QRN from Summertime thunderstorm activity. Both 160 and 80 Meters should be welcome refuges of night time activity in the weeks and months to come. I haven't decided as to whether or not I'll be participating in the Winter QRP Fox Hunts this season. They start at 9:00 PM local time here in the Eastern Time Zone. It's hard for me to stay up much later than that these days. I wake up for work in the morning at 5:30 AM, and my job has been very demanding on this 64 year old body. I'm definitely no Spring Chicken anymore, and I'm not embarrassed to admit that, as I guess I've earned it. I do find I need as much sleep as I can get, so it comes down to whether I fall asleep in bed - or whether I fall asleep in front of the radio in the shack.  

At least I won't be falling asleep in front of the TV like my Dad used to do. I remember asking my Mom once, when I was just a tyke, as to why my father did that so often. That's a hard thing to understand when you're just a kid. She said, "Someday you'll know why.". You were right, Mom - you were right.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Sunday, September 19, 2021

Crap!

 I was reading some stuff on the internet this morning when my phone chirped to let me know that my friend Bob W3BBO was on the air calling CQ. I saw that he was on 30 Meters, and I thought the band might be conducive to a Pittsburgh to Central Jersey QSO, so I ran downstairs to fire up the KX3. I flipped the switch on my Astron 20 Amp power supply and there was no hum and the rocker switch didn't light up.

Not good.

I checked to make sure the power strip that I have it plugged into was working and that showed to be fine. My Astron 7 Amp power supply is plugged into the same surge protector and it fired up just fine. I replaced the fuse and powered up again. This time, there was a hum and the rocker switch lit up - all for about a second. Then the new fuse blew.

I unplugged it, took off the cover and gave it a visual inspection. Nothing burnt, nothing charred, no funny smells. I then took a meter to all the major semiconductors - pass transistors, diodes and SCR and the readings were normal - no shorts. The filter caps look ok - from my experience with repairing studio strobes, those big electrolytics tend to bulge a bit before they have a "non passive failure" so I doubt they're the problem. That leaves the transformer itself or something on the voltage regulator board. I'm thinking the voltage regulator board as transformers in and of themselves really don't go bad without some evidence of getting overly hot or burning.

I don't have the time or resources to go into deep trouble shooting right now, so I'll rely on the 7 Amp supply for the time being - too many projects, too many things to do. Besides, running 5 Watts shouldn't even make it raise a sweat. While I was down there, after getting things transferred over and squared away, I made a couple contacts on 15 Meters with some Texas QSO Party stations. I also had a brief QSO with Lazlo HA3NA on 17 Meters (and I got a 579)!  It was really nice to see 15 and 17 Meters alive for a change. Maybe the sun spots ARE making a comeback.

When I do get the time, there are some wonderful resources on the web for fixing these babies. One in particular can be found here - http://www.repeater-builder.com/astron/pdf/astron-troubleshooting.pdf

It's a nice step by step resource and as it's been over 14 years since I repaired circuit boards down to the component level every day for a living, my trouble shooting skills are a bit rusty to put it mildly. I'll take whatever help I can get.

On another note, I downloaded Hamrs onto my cell phone after watching Tom K4SWL use it on his POTA videos. It's a super easy logging program to use, even easier than Ham Log NG. I like that you can create specific logbooks for individual POTA activations or other events. Each log can be converted to an ADIF so that I can import them into my master AC Log logbook on the laptop. I also downloaded it onto my Android tablet which should be a bit easier on my fat fingers in the field. This, of course, assumes that I will give up on paper and pencil. That may be easier said than done! LOL!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Upcoming Events

 QRP Afield

QRP Afield 2021 is held on the third Saturday of September, which is September 18 this year; as in the past few years, it runs from 1500-2100Z (11am-5pm EDT). You can read the rules here: https://www.newenglandqrp.org/qrp-afield-2018/ (still mostly correct).

Our weekend always has a number of other operating events going on, perhaps because it's the final weekend of summer. Five QSO parties overlap some or all of our operating period: Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas, and Washington (the Salmon Run). There is also a major international contest, the Scandinavian Activity Contest (they were booming into NH last year; I worked a couple of them on 40 CW!), and this year we have Wisconsin Parks on the Air. There will surely also be some activations in programs including POTA, SOTA, and IOTA, and some special event stations. Here in MA there is one to commemorate the 100th anniversary of broadcast station WBZ; it will use the special call signs W1W, W1B, W1Z, and WB1Z. Also keep an ear out for the Chowdercon station, W1C; that will have NEQRP members operating portable from an island in Portsmouth NH.

This year, contacts with stations in other operating events are explicitly allowed. (If you can't beat them join them!) You are not required to complete the full QRP Afield exchange with those stations; instead, you should use the exchange required by the other event. (Their logging software probably isn't set up to record your power level or NEQRP number.) We encourage you to submit logs to any contests you make contacts in, even if you only make one or two contacts; the organizers use your data to check other logs.

I'm also introducing a new bonus. Any contact where both operators send a NEQRP number and submit logs that contain a matching contact is worth two points instead of the usual one. The normal power, location, and S/P/C multipliers still apply. That's meant to encourage people to make some QRP Afield contacts. (Don't have a member number? Membership in the New England QRP Club is free and open to all hams. Send email to kk1x@kk1x.net with the subject Join.)

You can work each station once per band per mode. For our purposes there are three modes: CW, voice (any voice mode including digital voice), and digital (everything else: RTTY, PSK31, JT65, FT8, SSTV, fax -- if it's not Morse Code and doesn't involve a microphone it goes here). All bands other than WARC bands and 60 meters are allowed, but you'll find most of the QRP Afield activity on 40 and 20 meter CW. (The only bands and mode that appeared in 2020 logs were 80, 40, and 20 meter CW.) Perhaps 15 will have an opening this year, and consider trying 80 to work some nearby stations, especially if you are in or near one of the states with a QSO party.

A field station must use non-permanent antennas and be powered by something other than the commercial power grid or a motor-driven generator. Usually that means batteries. No minimum distance from your house is required; operating from your porch or yard is fine. That said, we encourage you to get out and operate from a location away from home!

---------------------------------------------------

Last year's submissions included a mix of logs that only included full QRP Afield exchanges, and logs that also included QSOs with stations in other operating events. That made it hard to compare the results, and I procrastinated reporting because I wasn't sure how to handle that. But I have compiled a spreadsheet with the best available data. You can see that here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18nwip7vXWWj0-O8E9p2sIyQRO2xZHWmzvftRqf5HjZg/edit?usp=sharing

I promise to get the 2021 results out in a more timely manner!

Leaders in 2020:

Top scores:

W1PID    3360

N5GW     2860

NN9K      2470

Leaders by ARRL/RAC section:

W1: W1PID

W2: W2JEK

W3: W3TS

W4: N4KGL

W5: N5GW

W8: WD8RIF

W9: NN9K

W0: W0UFO

VE3: VE3DQN

We did not receive logs from any other sections or from DX stations.

72, Shirley KE1L

2021 QRP-ARCI Fall QSO Party

The next QRP-ARCI sponsored contest is our Fall QSO Party.  This is a 24-hour operating event from 0000z to 2359z on October 9th. 

Look for others around the normal QRP operating frequencies from 160m to 10m (no WARC) bands. The exchange is RST, State/Province/Country plus QRP-ARCI member number (for members) or power output (for non-members). Club member numbers are good for life and can be looked up at www.qrparci.org

If you can operate just a couple of hours or many, be sure to submit your log by November 1st at www.qrpcontest.com  Last year's contest only had 21 entries. Mike W3TS took the top spot in the 250mw to 1w category, and overall top score, with 25,520 points. Leading the 1w to 5w category, and 2nd overall, was Jim W4QO with 21,000 points followed closely by John K4BAI with 20,020 points. 

Complete rules and details are available here:  https://qrparci.org/contest/fall-qso-party

Hope to catch you on the air!

73,

Paul K4FB

QRP-ARCI Contest Manager


72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Being prepared

 A few months back, in April, I ended up trading in the Jeep Patriot for something newer. The Patriot was 167,000 miles old and needed a new catalytic converter (estimate close to 2K). My wife Marianne brought up the point that it wasn't worth spending any further money on the vehicle, as it had done well for us over the years, and we had gotten our money's worth out of it. The possibility existed that it was just going to become a repair money pit.

She went online and located a "pre-owned" 2018 Jeep Cherokee at a local Honda dealer that was turned in after a short term lease.


This is the nicest vehicle that I have ever owned and I was a bit hesitant to put holes in it and mar the interior by installing my VHF/UHF radio. I have been driving around without since. This past Wednesday and Ida changed my mind.  However, I still didn't want to permanently deface the interior by drilling screw holes, so I came up with another solution.


I took a piece of plywood, cut it to a size that I thought would work best and I painted it black. It slides in between the driver's seat and the center console and because of the almost non-existent gap, stays put. I attached the radio to the plywood and that's how it's mounted.


I put black duct tape over the edges of the plywood to make that look a more finished and I put some Velcro (the soft, fuzzy side) over the screw heads securing the mounting bracket so that they can't scratch the side of center console.

I'm waiting on a new antenna, a Compactenna 2M/70cm dual band antenna. 

When I first saw this compact antenna a few years ago, I was skeptical as to how good a performer it could possibly be. My friend Tim AB2ZK has one and he raves about it. I want a low profile antenna so I can park in the deck at work with no problems. The 5/8 wave antenna I had on the Patriot forced me to park outside, as it would bang into the low hanging pipes protruding from the deck ceiling. I was also afraid that I would one day damage one of the low hanging fire detectors that are there.

The antenna is due to arrive this week and I should be in business by next weekend.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Wild and wooly - but blessed

Tropical Storm Ida paid us a visit yesterday. I can only imagine what Louisiana is like after she got through there. It was a dark and dreary day all day, but the real rain didn't kick in until just as I left work for home.

After I got home, (which took an hour - usually it's a 45 minute trip) it got worse. By 2:00 AM (when I finally got to bed last night) we had accumulated 9.50 inches (23 cm) of rain. My daughter Cara got home from Rutgers before I did, so she was safe. My son Joseph had a class until 8:40 PM. He texted me to say he was on the way home after class and I told him to either find a campus building to hunker down in; or just sit it out in his car at the University parking lot. The parking lot is a solar farm and is on high ground, and for all intent and purpose, the cars are covered. He told me he was going to recline the driver's seat back, and get a snooze.

My wife Marianne could not get home. Around 8:30 PM she texted me to let me know her car was stuck in water. I tried to drive out to where she found shelter, in a Petco Pet Store right next to her dialysis clinic - but I was turned around. The streets were flooded and impassable.  I texted, asking her why she didn't just go and re-open the clinic (cots/stretchers there) and stay there, and she told me the entrance was blocked by waist high water. By 11:00 PM her car in the parking lot was under water to the roof line.

Conditions at the W2LJ QTH at 11:00PM Local last night with rain still coming down


Added to all this craziness, my cell phone was beeping and buzzing all night with severe weather alerts, flash flood warning alerts, tornado warning alerts and the like. The Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management volunteers and South Plainfield CERT volunteers were all keeping in touch via GroupMe and the various repeaters. It was a hectic evening, to say the least.

The rain started easing up after Midnight, enough so that my son was able to navigate his way home by about 1:15 AM. At 2:00 AM, just before trying to get a few hours sleep, I texted my wife, advising her to get some rest if possible, and that I would pick her up around 5:00 AM after giving the floodwaters a chance to recede. Before hitting the sack, I checked into the local Skywarn Net to give our rainfall total.

When I got to where Marianne had sheltered, her car was no longer under water, but it was totally dead. Totally dead - like "dead as a doornail" dead. Dead to the point where I couldn't shift it into neutral to try and push it to a better, out of the way spot.

I called the police to let them know where we left it. I went online and filed a claim with our car insurance company. They are going to have it towed and provide a repair estimate. If it's not totaled,  I will be gobsmacked. It's a 10 year old Ford Fiesta and my wife told me that as the car was being covered by water, the lights came on by themselves and the trunk popped open. Total electrical system blow out. When I opened the doors, water did not come gushing out, but the seats and seatbacks were soaked like wet sponges. It's a mess. I can't imagine a 10 year old car would be worth even trying to repair at this point.

But even with all this, we are blessed. We are all safe and sound - even though (except for my daughter,) we all had wet socks, pants and squishy shoes from wading through various depths of rainwater. Some 25 miles or so to the south of us in the vicinity of Trenton, NJ there was a lot of tornadic activity. From what I was able to gather from various media sources, several homes were destroyed.

We never lost power at home and our basement remained dry as a bone - which is more than I can say for lots of my neighbors. We are all safe and injury free and for that I thank the Almighty. A car can and will be replaced - my wife, son and daughter cannot.

Thank you, Lord, for being with us through the eye of the storm.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

2021 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Results

 After a few flubs by yours truly - the "final" version of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Scoreboard is available for viewing:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-drxnlwD8qJtv0mcTaPzXWB-9tFrU11v/edit?fbclid=IwAR0ewmzLjZPqmgFty-B1FaOb1zeSXr1hjaIVC8un6s4nGP3uQh3cMk8q9Lg#gid=450200681

A big CONGRATULATIONS is in order to ALL those who participated, but a special "hat tip" to the Top Five finishers:

1st Place - Dave AB9CA

2nd Place - Gene N5GW

3rs Place - Rick NK9G

4th Place - Mark NK8Q

5th Place - Kent K9ZTV and the N0SS Crew!

The soapbox pages and the certificates will follow soon.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Resurrection?

 I am pondering of the possibility of resurrecting the NJQRP Club as an actual and viable organization. The club kind of fell asleep over the years, and when we lost the two masterminds, it went into a deep slumber. George N2APB now lives in Tennessee, and Joe N2CX passed away suddenly a few years ago. They were the heartbeat of the club. Except for the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, we're basically in a flat line status.

Is it possible to break out the paddles and shock the club back into life? I think so; although it will take a lot of work and it will only be a shadow of its former being for a while, at least. The first step I've taken is to start an NJQRP io group. The next step will be to start publicizing its existence. I would really like to find a place centrally located in the state where QRPers could get together and meet maybe 3 or 4 times a year. We used to gather at the food court at a shopping mall near Princeton. I'll have to look into that. I miss the show and tell sessions and when we used to meet as a group at a park in Blackwell's Mill for some impromptu operating. By the way, that was the fabled site where the aliens landed in Orson Well's famous "War of the Worlds" broadcast.

So, if you're from NJ or the greater NJ, NY, PA area and would like to be in on this project - drop me a line to w2lj@arrl.net. I'll send you an invite to join the NJQRP io group - just an e-mail reflector for now. Stay tuned!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Cool POTA video from Poland

 


I like the way he extends his fibreglass mast! But he seems to bring a lot of stuff along! And I've been a CW op for over 40 years and I've never come across the "44"s before. Anyone know what that is all about?

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Maybe another time

 I recently purchased this from eBay.

It's an arborist's throw bag and line. I thought it would be a handy thing to take along to Lake George next summer in order to get my my 28' speaker wire antenna into a tree. I'd rather not bring the pneumatic launcher along, as it would probably raise too many questions. Being discreet is always preferred when you're a guest on someone else's property.

This Sunday was looking to be a relatively quiet day activity-wise. I thought I'd go over to Cotton Street Park and get some practice in. Yes, it will be quiet activity-wise, but not weather-wise. Looks like we're going to have a visitor.

Henri will probably not make landfall at New Jersey, but he will travel close enough to bring tropical force winds and periods of heavy rain all day Sunday. Not a good day to be at the park trying to throw objects into trees.

Maybe next weekend - we'll have to see how things play out.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Pencil and paper

 In Sunday's Skeeter post, I mentioned a story about pencil and paper. I know such methods are "old school", but ..........

Last Saturday, I went into a local auto parts shop to by floor mats for the car we recently purchased for our daughter. She is going to be commuting back and forth to college this year and she needed some wheels. I looked around inside the shop and found a set that were the right size and the right color.

I took them up to the clerk behind the register to finalize the purchase. That's when it started. 

"I can't seem to ring this up. The computer thinks we don't have any stock, it won't allow me to continue."

"But you're holding them right in your hand!".

"Let me try another register"

Same result - the computer running the register(s) thinks there is no stock  No stock - no purchase - even though there most definitely IS stock on hand.

I offered a solution. "Why don't you just ring it up manually, then?"

That's when I got "The Look". You know ...... the look like you're a visitor from another planet, you have three heads and you've just asked this guy to take you to his leader.

"Ummmm ..... we can't do this manually"

What the bloody heck?  "You can't do a manual transaction?", I asked - somewhat dumbfounded.

"No, this is a problem for the IT Department. They'll have to fix this. I can hold these on the side for you if you want to come back another time."

I took the mats, politely said "No, thanks" and put them back on the rack and left the store.

I hate to sound like an old geezer, but I remember my retail days when cash registers were mechanical, the electric ones could be overridden, and if you wanted a receipt we wrote it up using a pen on a receipt pad that had carbon paper to make duplicates.

How is commerce going to continue with such a reliance on the internet and computers if and when the fecal matter hits the rotary air oscillating device?

Is it a generational gap thing? Is it a laziness thing? Is it something else? This was by no means a major transaction - but what if it was? Suppose I had items that totaled up to hundreds of dollars? You turn that away because you can't perform a manual transaction? This boggles my mind.

We ..... and I include myself in this .... rely on computers way too much. To relate this to Amateur Radio, I think from now on, I am going to print out my Amateur Radio logbook and regular, periodic updates and keep it in a 3 ring binder someplace - besides keeping it backed up on a thumb drive and on Google Drive. There's just too much data - 43 years worth of QSOs to lose should something happen. But, on the other hand, I suppose if something of that magnitude were to happen, my personal Ham Radio history might be the last thing I'd be worried about, anyway.

But still ............ I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Hunting Skeeters

Weather-wise, it was a near perfect day! Temperatures were in the low 80s F, humidity was low, there was a very slight breeze that made it feel super comfortable for being outdoors.

I headed to Cotton Street Park just a few minutes after Noon. I gave myself plenty of time to set up and I was ready to go with about 15 minutes to go before the starting gun sounded I decided to use the MFJ-1982LP and the Jackite pole as I mentioned previously. I really should have just relied on one of the tall trees in the park as a support for the antenna, but I guess I wanted another go at setting it up. Of course, the support mechanism that I was clued into by Dave KD2FSI worked flawlessly and I had the antenna up in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

The Jackite just blends into the background for the camera, so I highlighted it with yellow so you could see how I positioned it. The antenna ended up running pretty much due north and south -with the lobes reaching out to the east and west. Hindsight being 20/20, I probably should have had it pointing NW to SE which would have had the lobes covering a majority of the country. Next time. The rig, of course, was the KX3. I always keep the Bulldog Clip paddle and an American Morse paddle in the backpack, but I decided to spend the day using the attached QRP Guys paddles, which I really enjoy using.

I've had this camping table for over ten years now. It's nice to have for portable ops, but sometimes it gets really bouncy and is more like a trampoline than a table. It's small, and lightweight and that's what counts. The chair I use has a side shelf, but it's hinged and is really too small to comfortably and reliably hold the radio. I have these visions of me reaching for the radio and pushing down on the shelf accidentally, causing the radio to fall. and go kablooey.  I use the side shelf to hold my log - yes, I use paper and pencil when I log portable sprint ops. I'm not coordinated enough to type into a tablet or my phone AND try and make as many contacts as possible in a limited amount of time. Other times, when it's just "casual" operating, I'll log using my phone or tablet as I have the luxury of stopping what I'm doing to get the information into HamLog NG. When time is of the essence, I resort to ol' reliable pencil and paper. (I have a story to tell kind of relating to "pencil and paper", but that can wait for another day - maybe tomorrow).


The first hour seemed slow and I made about 10 contacts. There was a ton of EU stations participating in a DX contest (all the way into "QRP Territory"). It was hard to pick out the Skeeters, The Europeans, who must have been running power, were very loud and were running roughshod over the Skeeters. Things picked up after that first hour, and I ended up making 31 QSOs - 29 with Skeeters and 2 with "5 Watters". I think my best DX was working Myron WV0H in Colorado.

The QSOs seemed to be evenly spread between 40 and 20 Meters - I kept switching back and forth. When one band would seem to dry up, I'd switch and make a few contacts on the other.  Switching back after a bit would then reveal some stations I hadn't heard before. QSB was horrendous all day. Take for example Rick NK9G. One minute he'd be blasting the earbuds right out of my head, the next minute he'd be S3 at best. I think a lot of us battled with that all afternoon.

15 meters was dead the few times I tried it, even all the way to the bottom of the band, where you might at least expect to hear a station or two. I tried 80 Meters twice and the second time, I was rewarded with hearing Mark NK8Q calling CQ and we completed an exchange on that band.

When the action on the band lulled, I took a few photos for the social media bonus points including one of this ugly guy.


And then later in the afternoon, I had a visitor (actually two).


Usually, I get a human visitor or two, but this year it was of the hooved and ruminant kind. They checked out the funny looking tree (Jackite) sticking out of the ground. They were probably disappointed that it had no leaves for them to munch on. I remained sitting quietly working stations and they approached cautiously, coming as close as about 10 feet (3 meters) from me before wandering off to a more prodigious food area of the park.

Tear down went quickly and I was home within about 20 minutes from when I started taking things apart. The Home Depot bucket lid antenna winder that Dave KD2FSI made for me worked like a charm! No kinks or tangles when I unwound and deployed the antenna and none when I wound it back up. His idea was pure genius!

Thanks to all of you who gave me QSOs and participated in the Skeeter Hunt. If it wasn't for you guys this event would be a big flop. To take a line from the song, you are the wind beneath its wings. I'm already thinking about next year's Hunt, even though there's still lots of work to do before the 2021 Hunt is in the books. Let's hope that 2022 provides more sunspots!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

SP3RN

 

St.Maximilian Kolbe SP3RN


A "Guest Post" if you will, content courtesy of Lloyd K3QNT from his QRZ page:

Ham Radio’s Saint

By Lloyd – K3QNT

Deputy Camp Kommandant Karl Fritsch was screaming at the prisoners who been standing at attention for nearly nine hours on the parade field at Auschwitz on a brutally hot August day in 1941. “You! You! You! You! and….You!” The day before a fellow prisoner had escaped and as a result, 10 residents of Block-14 were automatically assigned to a starvation bunker to die. All the Deputy Kommandant needed to do now was pick which ones. Suddenly, Polish Sergeant Francis Gajownicznek, one of the chosen, cried out that he had a family and did not want to leave them as a widow and orphans. Then quietly and to the astonishment of all present another Polish prisoner, Maximilian Kolbe, stepped out of line, approached Colonel Fritsch and in fluent German said, “Take me instead. I am a Catholic Priest. I have no family. I am old and of no use to you.” Colonel Fritsch agreed and the condemned men were stripped naked and thrown into a camp basement with a dirt floor where they were denied food and water until every one of them, including Kolbe perished. Auschwitz was not a mythical “Hogan’s Heroes” prison. It was brutal death camp operated by the Nazi “SS” and Kolbe was not just any priest. Prior to his arrest in June of that year, he had founded Niepokalanow, an extraordinary Franciscan monastery who’s sole mission was communications. The five acre campus included a newspaper with over a million monthly circulation and a radio station. This enormous facility outside of Warsaw, employing over 700 monks was headed up by Father Maximilian Kolbe, OFM. Because of his selfless act, Maximilian Kolbe became a Martyr on August 14, 1941. The following day, his remains were turned to ashes in an Auschwitz oven.

In the late 1980s, I was looking forward to reading my QST which had just arrived at my home. I noted a small “Stray” that reported in October of 1982, a man named Maximilian Kolbe had just been canonized into the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul, II. The story mentioned that Kolbe, the “Martyr of Auschwitz” had held the Polish amateur radio call sign SP3RN, making him the first Canonized Saint to be a Ham. Several years later, I would become a founding member of the new Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Westtown, PA. After our church became active, I organized a Special Event Station with the call, K3M. We operated from the parish offices immediately following the 12 O'clock Mass.

In the summer of 1998, I was working Dr. Ted Figlock, W1HGY on 40 meters. I mentioned during the QSO that the patron Saint of our local church was a Ham. Ted, himself of Polish decent, suggested that we establish a net to honor the accomplishments of this remarkable man. The 75 Meter Saint Maximilian Kolbe Net has been on the air for 22 years every Sunday @2400Z on 3814 kHz.

Over the years the net has welcomed thousands of check-ins from all over the USA, Caribbean Islands, South America, Canada and Europe. In 2005 we started a “Long Haul” net on 20 meters with the idea of attracting DX check-ins. The Net Control stations are Deacon George Carr, WA5KBH and Laurence Galle, K9EYZ. This net operates also on Sunday @ 2200Z on 14,341 khz. Our future plans include a new effort on 40 meters based in the mid-western United States operating on 7238 khz. The net frequencies were selected to signify some milestone in Kolbe’s life. 3814 kHz is the month and day of his death and14,341 kHz marks the year. 7238 kHz represents the founding of SP3RN at Niepokalanow in February of 1938. Net member Tony D’ Alonzo, K3ZA has recently begun a DMR Net to expand the reach of our Amateur Radio apostolate.

Today SP3RN is memorialized on-line with its own web site and QRZ.COM listing. In addition there is a For-TV movie, two documentaries and more than a dozen books written about Maximilian Kolbe, the most recent of which is: The Life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Apostle of Mass Communications. published in 2019 by net member Bill La May, K3RMW. There are dozens of Saint Maximilian Kolbe Radio Clubs in Brazil, Puerto Rico, Italy, Spain, Japan, Poland and the United States. If you would like to learn more about SP3RN and the Saint Maximilian Kolbe Net, join us any Sunday on 80, 40 or 20 meters. You can also visit www.saintmaxnet.org for net history and details.

-30-

Thank you Lloyd, for the wonderful memorial.        St. Max - Ora Pro Nobis!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least! 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Looking forward to Sunday!

 Here's my local weather forecast for Sunday afternoon:

Partly cloudy to mostly sunny, temps in the low 80s F, with low humidity - only 30-40%. I couldn't have asked for better weather!

I'll be operating from Cotton Street Park, which is not far from home at all:

It's maybe a 2 or 3 minute ride by car.

Still haven't decided which antenna I'm going to use, but I'm leaning towards the MFJ-1982LP just in case 15 Meters opens up - if anybody will be listening! so that means bringing along my Jackite and the PVC supporting tube.

There's still time to sign up for the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt if you haven't already. Just go to www.qsl.net/w2lj  for instructions on how to get your very own number for this year's Hunt. I will be assigning numbers for e-mails received right up until 12:01 AM Sunday morning. As of this morning, we're up to potential 233 Skeeters getting ready to fly. If everyone gets on the air this Sunday, we can really make the airwaves BUZZ!

I hope you all have a good time - remember, be safe, have fun - enjoy the day!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

HHH

 We are under an Excessive Heat Warning for the next few days, with hazy, hot and humid weather forecast through Saturday morning.  

The good news is that sometime Saturday afternoon into Saturday night, a cold front is supposed to move through bringing thunderstorms AND cooler and drier air behind it.

Sunday (as of right now) looks to be sunny, significantly less humid with a high of 84F for the day. Looking good here for the Skeeter Hunt at the park in town that is my normal "go-to".

The bummer for today is that this is the last day that we will have a sunset after 8:00 PM local time until next May. Boo !!!!!!! Hiss !!!!!!!!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, August 09, 2021

The weekend

This past Saturday, the VE Team that I am associated with held an exam session for Somerset County Emergency Management. We were asked to give Technician tests to 17 of their CERT members who wanted to obtain Amateur Radio licenses.

They were given instruction by Bill Kelly NB1LL via an online Microsoft Teams class. Bill did an outstanding job as all 17 got their licenses, with 5 candidates getting a perfect score. The VE team performed like a well oiled machine - all went well without a hitch, for which I am very grateful!

Before the exams began, I had a chance to chat with Alan Wolke W2AEW from YouTube fame. He whipped out his phone and showed me a QRP rig kit that he was interested in perhaps purchasing. I had never heard of this offering before - WA3RNC and his transceivers appear to be really, really nice.

He offers what appears to be a very nice quality two band kit , the Penntek TR-25, and will soon be coming out with a 4 band transceiver.



These rigs are certainly nice looking and from the video, they appear to perform quite nicely. If you're craving the building experience, you can get more information here - http://www.wa3rnc.com/store/

To be honest with you, these WA3RNC rigs were new to me. I mist be a latecomer to the party. I'm betting you folks knew all about these. If you didn't, they seem to be well worth looking into.

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

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Thank you to the South Plainfield Elks!

Way back on Field Day, we were visited by a member of the South Plainfield BPOE - The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks - a charitable and philanthropic organization that has a chapter in town.  I would assume they were grateful and impressed with the services the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club had provided to the town over the years. They mentioned wanting to purchase for us a pop up canopy that we could use during Field Day and during other town held civic events.

Last night, at National Night Out, we were presented with the canopy.

It truly is grand, and we are very much appreciative of their kindness and generosity. We will put it to good use in Field Days and civic events to come!

They went out and bought a high quality canopy. This isn't a flimsy piece. As we took it down to store it back at our CERT building, we were impressed by its heft. It has to come close to somewhere near 50 pounds in weight (23 kilos). This is not going to blow away in a stiff wind easily, even though it was supplied with ground stakes.

Once again, thanks to the South Plainfield Elks for their generosity and thoughtfulness. You have our word that this gift will be put to good use in serving our community.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

FOBB 2021

The weather held out, although it was mostly overcast, with some breaks of sun - and hot and kind of muggy. I'm not sure what the humidity was, but it had to have been up there.. No records of any sort were set - only ten Bee stations and two POTA stations worked in the time that I put into the effort.

As planned, I set up in the backyard at the patio table. Set up was quick and easy. The antenna was the one described in K4SWL's POTA video. Like his, my KX3 was able to match it quite easily on 40, 30, 20, and 15 Meters.



The antenna went up lickety split and it's so light that it didn't put any bend into the Jackite. Unlike Tom K4SWL, I didn't bother with banana jacks. I inserted the wires directly into the binding posts.



The key that I used was my Bulldog Clip paddle. Tiny, lightweight but it has a super feel to it, almost as good as any full sized key.


I did mention it got hot, right? A couple minutes after I snapped this photo of my little Radio Shack clock with built in thermometer, the temperature jumped past 90F.


I had to leave in the middle for a little over an hour to drive my wife over to her boss's house. She was throwing a BBQ for the staff and my wife hates to drive, so .............

The bands were not in great shape by any means. Signals were down and I had to work to dig them out of the muck. Judicious use of the KX3's roofing filters helped with that. QSB was fast and deep. There were very few loud QRP stations this time around. Among others, I was able to work a few familiar calls, N0SS, AB9CA, N4KGL, K4BAI, and N3AQC.

The K4SWL antenna, as I will call it, did an OK job. FOBB was an experiment to see how well it would work. Well enough, I dare say, that I wound it up on a kite winder and stuffed it into my portable ops backpack. It's a good wire to bring along on vacation. It doesn't require a gigantic tree as the wire is only 28.5 feet long. A throw bag or a water bottle and some line should be able to get it deployed easily. If worse comes to worse and there are no trees around for whatever reason, the Jackite supports it like nothing is there.

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Weather outlook for Sunday

The weather outlook for the weekend is 50/50. You have to know that since FOBB is Sunday, the weather prognosticators are calling for Saturday to be the better weather day of the two. Of course, just my luck! And of course, as it's only Wednesday, all this could change between now and then.

So right now, we're looking at a hot and humid day with a chance of scattered thunderstorms pretty much the entire day. The lowest chance of rain being at start time. Higher chances before and after.  If that turns out to be the case, FOBB will be a backyard-under-the-patio-umbrella affair. I didn't sign up for a Bee number this year, so I'll  just be a 5 Watt station.

I still may try out the K4SWL "easy portable" antenna and just support it as a vertical using the Jackite. Or maybe I'll go with the PAR. We'll see. In any event, I'm still looking forward to it. As long as the day is not a total washout, it will still be a good time.

Speaking of weather - yesterday New Jersey was enveloped by atmospheric smoke from the wild fires out in the Northwest. The sun was a bright red rubber ball just hanging in the sky. It was dimmed to the point that you could plainly see the disc and look at it without hurting your eyes. Today we're expecting a cold front to come through bringing a little cooler, but much drier and cleaner air behind it. There was still smoke in the air this morning as I drove to work, but the sun was brighter and you could not look directly at it. I know they'd have to be GINORMOUSLY HUGE to be seen by the naked eye - but I could not detect any sunspots yesterday.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Flight of the Bumblebees this coming Sunday!

 From Rich Fisher KI6SN on QRP-L:

The Adventure Radio Society is hosting the Flight of the Bumble Bees on the last Sunday of July. This year it is July 25 - next Sunday.

Applications for field stations' Bumble Bee number requests are open and welcomed. Full details about 2021's FOBB are posted on the ARS homepage at: http://www.ARSqrp.blogspot.com. There have been no changes to the rules used in previous years.

This event is open to all radio amateurs running 5-watts RF power output or less. Both home and field stations are encouraged to participate.

73 and TNX for your ongoing support of ARS,

Richard Fisher, KI6SN

Co-founder, the Adventure Radio Society

73RadioRow@gmail.com

This is definitely one of the staple Summer QRP operating events. It's a good time each year - be sure to join in on the fun.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, July 16, 2021

My antenna for Lake George next Summer

 


I found a link to this wonderful video by Tom K4SWL on Facebook. I don't know how I ever missed it as I read his blog regularly, but miss it I did - probably in the busy-ness of life.

When we come up here to Lake George, I usually have two goals in mind regarding the Amateur Radio equipment that I bring along. I try to keep it as minimal as possible so that I don't take up a lot of baggage space in the car. I also try to be as inconspicuous as possible. The owners of the place that we stay at here, Stepping Stones in Diamond Point, are very tolerant of my Amateur Radio activities. I try to honor that by not doing anything that might disturb other guests here. So far, over the years, fortunately there has been some curiosity, but no complaints. I'm even known as the "Shortwave Guy" by some of the other regulars who have been coming here for years.

What I like about the antenna that Tom built and used in the video is that it is simple, small, lightweight and inconspicuous. I can toss this up in a tree that sits to the side of our cabin and no one will be the wiser for it. 

I already have enough speaker wire sitting on a shelf back home and I have a few of the binding post to BNC adapters sitting in my portable ops back pack "Go Kit". I am going to try this for FOBB this year.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Social Media commentary

 If you subscribe to Facebook, there is a wealth of Amateur Radio gold to be found. Some of the groups that I belong to include the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt (of course!), Magnetic Loop Antennas, I Love QRP, 4SQP, Begali Keys, Ham Radio 2.0, DIY Magnetic Loops and a plethora of others. I have gotten some really good ideas, tips - "hints and kinks" as it were, from these pages. 

The good far outweighs the bad. But every now and then .......................................... !!!

One of my pet peeves is when someone feels the need to bring up a story where they, as a newbie, felt they were somehow slighted by a veteran of the hobby. I had my share of those experiences as a Novice and a new General back in the late 70s and early 80s. We all went through that. If I want to go down Memory Lane far enough, I can tell you the times I was made to feel about an inch tall on the local 2 Meter repeater. But I'd have to think really hard about the specifics, because for the most part, I've forgotten the particulars and moved on.

This probably has to do with my upbringing. Both my Mom and Dad's families were huge by today's standards. I was the youngest of all the grandchildren. For some reason, my uncles (on both sides) took delight in harmlessly teasing me, at times. It was not a constant thing and I remember great times and wonderful memories with them all, but there were times, as a very young kid, it was not so much fun. I was too young to realize it was just kidding, and I felt hurt. I remember complaining about it to my Mom once. She gave me invaluable advice. "When you can show them it won't bother you, it will stop." And, true to her words, her wisdom proved spot on.

Flash forward to now. Someone had posted on how he didn't have the most deluxe experience as a new Ham. He had gone to a club meeting (his first one, I guess) and someone asked him what class license he held. When he answered "Technician", the older club member responded "Well, we all have to start somewhere." He stated that at that point he was almost ready to leave the hobby.

Seriously? You're kidding right? I almost fell out of my chair when I read that.

Look, I can understand his reaction to a point. We all want to be accepted and we're all proud of our accomplishments. We want to be recognized and welcomed - heck, that why we join clubs and organizations in the first place - for fellowship and camaraderie. But Amateur Radio, like all groups, is a microcosm of our society at large. You're going to have your gems and your going to have your bad apples. You can't let the bad apples get to you. "Illegitimi non Carborundum" as the old saying goes.

But as an aside, the street goes both ways. Many times, when a newbie feels slighted, instead of sucking it up and moving on - they will retaliate using terms such as "Old Fart", "Geezer", "Curmudgeon" and the like. There's no need for that, from either side.

The point of this post is to remind everyone that Amateur Radio is a huge tent, and there's room for everyone. While there's a time and place for good natured teasing and kidding - maybe it's a good idea to refrain from that until you get to know the person better.  Treating each other with respect and avoiding epithets is always a good idea. For Pete's sake, if you don't know how to react - at least be civil! But if you run into someone who desperately feels the need to be a real ...... , remember my Mom's advice. It's timeless.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Made a purchase

 



A new drive on mast holder through Amazon. It has an inside diameter wide enough to handle the Jackite. This will replace the homebrew one that I made out of some oak boards. This one takes up less real estate and will fit better in the back of the Jeep.

I've been thinking of purchasing one for a while and finally pulled the trigger. It would have been good to have with me this week at Lake George along with the PAR ENDFEDZ.  

I see that Rich Fisher KI6SN put out an e-mail today reminding everyone about FOBB. Don't forget to sign up for a Bee number!

http://arsqrp.blogspot.com/

I will be participating this year, but as a 5 Watt station. As always, this will serve as a dress rehearsal for me for the Skeeter Hunt. I'm torn between Cotton Street park, where I'd use the MFJ-1982LP or Washington Rock State Park, where I'd use the PAR. If I go to Washington Rock State Park, I can do double duty as a POTA station. However, it's a slightly smaller venue with way more people visiting. I'd be limited to throwing the PAR in a tree. WRSP does have the advantage of a higher elevation.

Cotton Street park is way more "deserted", if you will. There are local users, but not nearly as many visitors as Washington Rock, which is an NJ State Park. The MFJ-1982LP which is 135 feet long (or there abouts) doesn't make a dent in the space of the park. The MFJ also offers me all bands 80-10, where as I'm confined to pretty much 20 and 40 Meters with the PAR. I don't expect there to be any activity on 10 Meters (PAR), but there just might be activity on 15 Meters (MFJ).

What it boils down to will probably be the weather situation for the day. If there's going to be a threat of rain, I just might go with the PAR which can come down more quickly than the MFJ - even though both come down pretty easily and quickly. The PAR is just a matter of yanking it out of the tree, rolling it up on the nifty winder Dave KD2FSI made for me, and stuffing it into the backpack and hiking back to the car.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 12, 2021

Loopy at the lake

 Marianne and I have headed back up to Lake George, NY for our yearly July sojourn. This year I decided once again to keep it really light in the radio equipment department. I left the full QRP portable backpack at home and brought along just a daypack. This year I have just the KX3, my small lithium battery,  a couple set of earbuds, a backup Bulldog clip key and the Alex Loop.

Since I acquired the Alex Loop from Peter NN9K a couple of years ago, I have not used it enough to be comfortable with it. It works, but I don't know its "ins and outs" very well. I'm not totally sure you can thoroughly know the "ins and outs" of any antenna, as there will always be surprises. By comparison, in the case of wire antennas, I'm a lot more confident in knowing what I can work and what I cannot work. I am hoping to become more familiar with the Alex Loop this week.

I tried listening for some ops in the QRP-ARCI Homebrew Sprint yesterday afternoon. I was disappointed as I only was able to hear some SKCC Weekend Sprinters. Even though I heard them, I didn't work any as I haven't brought a straight key with me. It doesn't seem quite kosher to participate in an SKCC event with keyer and paddles.

This morning, I attempted to work Mike KC2EGL and John K3WWP as NY3EC at the USS Requin in Pittsburgh. I set up HamAlert to let me know whenever they were spotted by RBN or the Cluster. I did not hear them on 20 Meters when they were spotted there, and I did not hear them on 40 Meters when they were spotted there. I was able to make them out on 30 Meters, however. They were at ESP levels, and I was able to hear the stations they were working, and was able to figure out that it was Mike at the key. I patiently waited for their signal strength to rise. Eventually they got up to about a 449 and I gave a call. I made contact, but it's a busted QSO as I'm pretty sure that Mike was copying me as W2BJ. I did get a 339 report, though. Then QSB reared its ugly head and they disappeared, even though reports from HamAlert confirmed they were still on the band. Maybe I should follow K3WWP's advice and invest in a PX3 panadapter. I don't care for waterfalls, though - call me an old fogey. I was, am and always will be a dial twiddler - and cheap! The Ham Alert app is a freebie!

So then I did a little experimenting by calling CQ and looking at Reverse Beacon Network reports on the various bands. It seems the Alex Loop is best heard on 40 and 30 Meters. Those two bands gave me the best db above Noise Level reports. 

So later in the afternoon, I sat down to try and work NY3EC again, as I was still getting reports that they were on the air. No matter what band they were on, this time I couldn't hear them. However, while tuning across 20 Meters, I heard RW3XW calling CQ at the bottom of the band. He was strong, but there was a lot of QSB but I decided to give the ol' roulette wheel a spin and give it a shot. My recent experiment be darned, telling me that my RBN reports on 20 Meters are not the best - I gave it the ol" college try.

Success! I got him in the log on the second try. Shaking my head, I was not able to work Pittsburgh on any band, which is a small hop away - but I was able to work Russia which is several thousand miles away on a band where the loop doesn't give me my best results. If I live to be a hundred, I'll never figure propagation out.

I came into our cabin to log my contact on AC Log only to get a bit of a scare. This old Lenovo T430 came to life, only with no mouse cursor pointer! The finger pad and the little "mouse" controller button in the middle of the keyboard were both inoperative, Great - just what I really need - a bum computer for the rest of the week and of course, I did not bring along an external mouse.

I'm not what you would call "IT savvy" but I know enough about using the keyboard keys to navigate around. Soon I was able to get to the Control Panel to try and see if I could get things working again. The drivers were up to date and re-loading them didn't help any. The Device Manager was telling me that the drivers would not upload on boot up  Why? I have no idea.. I did remember that when I shut the laptop off last night, it did a Windows Update. Something funky must have happened then and there.  I managed to navigate over to the recovery area. I did not do a full blown backdate, but I was able to do a recovery and a re-boot which got the mouse pointer working again.

Whew - computers ARE black magic - especially when you're not an IT whiz. I was lucky this time, but now I'm strongly considering an upgrade in the near future. This machine is too old to run Windows 10 reliably and Windows 8 support stops sometime soon.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, July 09, 2021

This and that

 Bill; W2AOF, Ron N2LCZ and myself got together last night to put together the Field Day score submission for the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club. This was a chore always handled by Drew W2OU, who is now an SK, so we are rookies. The process was quite easy, easier then we expected. Bill is going to have to resubmit, though, I think. Unless he got a confirmation from the ARRL, we're not showing up on their webpage as a submitted score.

Tropical storm Elsa has visited our environs. As I type this, she seems to be moving away from the NJ coast. We only received about 3/4" of rain. We've gotten more than that during a summer thunderstorm, so for our area, not too bad. The winds were not too bad, either - at least in my neighborhood. As I drove closer to work in Hunterdon County, NJ, I did see some tree branches down here and there.

There seems to be a debate going on on one of the Amateur Radio pages on Facebook as to what the power levels are that define QRP. There's wide swath  of opinion, to anything from "whatever low power setting you're at" (whatever that means!) to 5W or less ONLY.

I offered my $0.02 and went by the definition put forth by QRP-ARCI, and that is 5W or less for CW and the Digital Modes, and 10W or less for SSB. To be honest with you, I didn't think this was such a controversial topic. One Aussie Ham told me that my opinion was irrelevant and didn't count as I am not licensed - my name didn't show up  in the Australian Callbook, I guess. 

I guess you'll always have uber purists who think that 5W is the limit no matter the mode. It also doesn't help that there is no standard from contest to contest, or operating event to operating event. Sometimes it seems that QRP means whatever is in the mind of any given event organizer. For the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, we use the QRP-ARCI definition.

I can understand the uncertainty about it all, though. When I joined QRP-ARCI way back in 1980, QRP was  considered to be 100 Watts or below. My original membership certificate shows that.. QRP has come a long way since then!


72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 05, 2021

Got the new W3EDP up - Plan B

I got the new W3EDP up today with a little modification from my original plan. I intended to move the center mast a little farther back in the yard, but that turned out to be a no-go. There's a small amount of  poison ivy back there along the chain link fence that I didn't want to deal with today, so I kept the mast where it is. The red line shows where I had intended to relocate the mast to.



The added 18 feet of wire brought the end of the antenna closer to the mast on the opposite side of the backyard, but still not to the very end. There's no wire hanging down vertically like there used to be when I had a G5RV. An on the air test proved the KX3 was able to provide a good match with ease on all bands 160 through 10 Meters. The old W3EDP proved a capable aerial for years, I expect the same from this one.

The big surprise of the day came when I was taking the old W3EDP down. I unwrapped all the electrical tape that I had covering where the PL-259 was attached to the balun. When I tried to loosen the PL-259 from the balun, it was already loose! It wasn't anywhere close to being disconnected, but I was able to turn the connector's tightening shell freely with just my fingers. If I was tightening instead of removing, it would have been another turn and a quarter until I had reached finger tightness.

When I attached the coax to the new balun, I not only snugged it finger tight, I also used a pair of channel lock pliers to get it just a tad tighter than finger tight. Not so tight as to damage the balun, but it should remain nice and tight for a long time. Then I securely wrapped everything with electrical tape to keep the connection and the coax free from potential water damage. I should be good for the next 10 years or so, if not even longer.

Later in the afternoon, I headed out the backyard to retrieve the old antenna and I saw we had a visitor.


She didn't even flinch as I opened the back door, but she did keep a wary eye peeled on me. I called my son Joseph over to see and she didn't flinch when he came out to join me on the deck. When Harold, our Beagle approached her to say "Hello", she took off like a flash. She jumped the chain link fence into our neighbor's yard right over that break where there's no cross rail. I was afraid she'd snag a hoof on my coax, but she sailed right over without coming even close.

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

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Happy Independence Day!

 


Happy Independence Day!

However you spend it - chasing Colonies, chasing POTAs, SOTAs, DX or in general just being on the bands or spending the day with family and friends at a BBQ and watching fireworks, have a very good and safe day!

If you should get the chance, I would urge you to watch a very good movie, "The Crossing" which was produced by the Arts & Entertainment Network back in 2000. It's about the very pivotal role that General Washington and New Jersey played in the American Revolution back in December, 1776.

My state of New Jersey is often the butt of jokes. We are nestled between the two large and powerful states of New York and Pennsylvania and we live in their shadows, Yet back in the day, New Jersey was one of the most important Colonies in the fledgling United States of America. 

Our state nickname is "The Garden State", as we were the bread basket of the newly formed Nation. Our agricultural produce went a long way towards feeding the rest of the Colonies. In addition, our geographical position played an important role in the conflict. If New Jersey could be controlled by the British, then the vital pathway between the New England Colonies ands the Southern Colonies would be broken.

In the Bicentennial year of 1976, New Jersey was named, and continues to be named as "The Crossroads of the Revolution". There were more battles, skirmishes and engagements fought in New Jersey than in any other of the 13 Colonies. You can't go anywhere in this state and not be near somewhere that played an important role in the War.  My house is a mere block away from the Washington - Rochambeau Trail which was the route taken by the Continental Army on the way to the Battle of Yorktown.

So the 4th of July holds a special place in the hearts of New Jerseyans - at least those of us New Jerseyans who hold a special place for history in our hearts. Even if we are the butt of jokes about how we speak, how our State is perceived as overcrowded and less than a natural beauty, we remember the role we played in the founding of this Nation, and we are proud of that.


As a last word ..... to my readers who may be from Great Britain ..... even though today we celebrate our breaking away from the Empire, nevertheless, we thank you. You are our roots. Many of the traditions of our justice system and our government come from your influence on us. As happenstance would have it, over time we have patched up our differences and we have become the closest of allies. May God Bless the United States and England!

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

Friday, July 02, 2021

Oy!

 The kvetching and complaining about 13 Colonies on social media has already begun!

Why is K2# only on FT8?

Why is K2# NOT on FT8?

Why doesn't anyone listen to the word "UP"?

and on and on and on.

Listen my friends, if it was a turkey shoot, or like shooting fish in a barrel, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying. So stick with it. You have tools at your disposal - the Clusters and wonderful apps like HamAlert that you can set up to notify you when the stations you are looking for are on the air.

Back in the day, all we would be able to do was twiddle the dial and hope for the best. You have the means ...... use them.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Thursday, July 01, 2021

Happy Canada Day !!!

 


A very Happy Canada Day to all our VE Ham Radio friends up north! The RAC is holding the annual Canada Day contest today. It's a good opportunity for many QRPers to try and get those harder to work Canadian Provinces in the log.

The annual 13 Colonies Event will be commencing soon, if it hasn't already. That will fill the bands for the next few days. I will not be actively participating, but it will be interesting to see if all 13 Colonies have a good presence in the CW portion of the bands. Of the several times that I completed a clean sweep, I think it was only once or twice that I got them all via CW. (Shudder! LOL!)

Here in the USA, we have a three day holiday weekend coming up to celebrate Independence Day. The weather has been wild and wooly over the past few days. It's been very hot the past two with temperatures close to the 100F (38C) mark along with high humidity. Last night we had quite the light show with thunderstorms closing in around 9:00 PM local time. This afternoon, into tomorrow morning, we have a flash flood advisory as heavy rain is expected later today. Then Friday and Saturday are supposed to be cloudy and showery. Sunday is supposed to be sunny and dry as well as Monday.

So where am I going with this? No, I don't want to simply bore you with weather details for Central New Jersey. But I'm thinking the weather is going to leave me with just Monday to get my Extended W3EDP antenna built and deployed. We'll be going over to my sister's house on Sunday for a BBQ, so that puts the kaibosh on getting it done Sunday. Although, I suppose I can actually build the antenna on Sunday morning before we leave and deploy it on Monday. If there's a break in the rain on Saturday, maybe I can measure out the 85 feet of wire I'll need. For me, it's a lot easier to measure and cut the wire outdoors than indoors. I usually tie one end off to a fence, unroll the wire to where I need it to be, as per the tape measure and then cut it. In that case, I can get the building part done on Saturday.

I want to move my mast farther back to the rear of my property as I cleared out all the overgrowth from my neighbor's yard while I was unemployed. Oh yeah - update - I'm back at work! Got re-hired at the same place I was before. I guess they didn't realize all that we had done for them, and it was like, "Get back here ...... quick!". Anyway, in the four weeks that I was off, among other things, I really got the backyard cleaned up from unwanted and encroaching vegetation. So now I can move the mast farther back. This will accomplish two things:

1) Make it less noticeable, which will please my wife to no end.

2) Make the wire more of a horizontal "L" instead of a weird variation of a "V". I suppose to RF, that doesn't matter, but it soothes my OCD.

Less than deluxe weather or not, I'm looking forward to the time off. Tonight, I'm going to get together with some SPARC members in order to compose and submit our Field Day results.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Home Depot and antennas

 Home Depot is a home improvement store. What's that got to do with antennas - right?

Actually a lot. In fact, I'll be going there sometime in the next few days to buy some wire. I am going to futz around with an extended W3EDP over this coming weekend. This is how a standard W3EDP is built.


I am going to build one with the radiator wire that shoots off from the ladder line for 85 feet instead of 67 feet. This will load up on 160 Meters better than the one I am using now. I get decent results on 160 Meters with my "standard" W3EDP, but I am hoping to get better results with this new one. I recently ordered a 4:1 current balun from Gigaparts. Some wire from Home Depot is on my list. Hopefully, I'll get some decent weather to put it up over the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend.

Other things from Home Depot that you can use for antennas are things like electrical enclosures for balun boxes, PVC for various antenna supports and the like. But what do you think you can use one of these for?


A 5 gallon paint bucket? What can you possibly use these for anything to do with antennas? Something I never considered, but my good friend Dave KD2FSI had the vision to think of. Actually, it's not the bucket itself, but the lid. Dave used the lid to come up with these:


He looked at the lid and how he figured this out, I'll never know! He cut out a circular part of the lid and turned it into a "flower". He made cuts and the little circular punches in order to prevent the plastic from cracking. When you alternately bend the "petals" in opposite directions, you now have a storage device for your wire antennas. Dave made me two,  a smaller one for my PAR ENDFEDZ and a larger one for my MFJ-1982LP that I used for Field Day and will use for the Skeeter Hunt. Look how nicely that stores! And it will now fit into my portable ops backpack much more nicely.

I wish I had the vision to think of things like this. You could sit me in a room with one of these buckets for a hundred years, and I'd never envision what Dave saw in a couple of minutes. That's just one of the things that I admire about him. He sees and find solutions to Amateur Radio problems that I'd never even consider.

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