Friday, June 30, 2023

It's getting to be that time of year again

When I have to decide what equipment I'll be taking up to Lake George when we return for our annual trip this summer. Undoubtedly the KX3 and the AlexLoop with be the main components, but I'm thinking of also bring the PAR ENDFEDZ and the arborist throw bag to get some wire in a tree.

The problem is that I really haven't practiced tossing that thing up into the trees enough so that I don't look like some kind of idiot. Maybe this weekend after I get all the other stuff done that needs to be done (and if the weather cooperates), I can make my way over to Cotton Street Park, where I go for FOBB and the Skeeter Hunt. There's a lot of tall trees that would make for great practice.

In the meantime, I know there are some tutorial videos on YouTube that I can watch so that at the very least I look like I know what I'm doing. You'd think that this would be a no-brainer, but I've seen a couple if videos a while back that indicate there are several techniques that the pros use for good success. 

The last thing I want is to look like a rube, and ideally I'd like to get a line up in one shot, if I can. I'm not into attracting curious onlookers. And if I do attract onlookers, I don't want to provide them with reason for hilarious laughter.

All that being said, Sunday July 9th is the QRP-ARCI Summer Homebrew Sprint. This always seems to occur the first Sunday we are there. It may be time for a trip up Mt. Prospect.



2000Z to 2300Z on 9 July 2023  (4PM to 7PM EDT)


HF CW Only.


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

QSO Points:

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


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

Power Multiplier:

>5 Watts = x1
>1 - 5 Watts = x7
>250 mW - 1 Watt = x10
>55 mW - 250 mW = x15
<55 mW = x20

Suggested Frequencies:

160m    1810 kHz
80m     3560 kHz
40m     7030 kHz (please listen at 7040 kHz for rock bound participants)
20m     14060 kHz
15m     21060 kHz
10m     28060 kHz


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


If operating a HB Transmitter add 2000 points
If operating a HB Receiver add 3000 points
If operating a HB Transceiver add 5000 points
(Homebrew is defined as:  if you built it, it is homebrew (kits too!)

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


Entry may be All-Band, Single Band, High Bands (10m-15m-20m) or Low Bands (40m-80m-160m)

How to Participate:

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

Log Submission:

Submit your entry online at


Entries must be posted on or before 29 July 

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, June 29, 2023

What comes down must go back up

This weekend is a loonnnggg holiday weekend in the USA, as Independence Day is next Tuesday. The company that I work for is also closed on Monday, so it will be in essence, a four day weekend. I am extending that to five, as I will be taking Friday off as well.

Last summer, we had to take down our backyard shed, due to damage from branches overhanging from our backyard neighbor. It didn't help that squirrels found openings from the branch damage and seized the opportunity to make our shed their winter home. That, plus age, water damage and rot, it was time to say goodbye to the old shed.

A new one is coming on Saturday. However, before they can install it (it's pre-built) I need to get some things done, hence the reason for taking Friday off. They will have to temporarily remove part of the chain link fence that separates our property from our neighbors, so they can haul it into the backyard. Once it's back there, they will simply lift it onto the same patio block pad that is already there. I'm okay with it being in the same place as there are new owners of that house back there, and they removed all those trees that had caused the damage to the old shed, which you can see in the photo below.

There are weeds to be whacked along the chain link fence, so the fence workers won't be cussing me out under their breath as they do their thing. This is a constant battle. As soon as I whack them, they spring back like Slinkies after a good rain. I need to mow the lawn and get all the garden stuff off the pad. What garden tools and paraphernalia that we decided to keep have been residing on the pad under a tarp, so that has to be moved so that the pad is free, clear and clean.

The most concerning part for me is that the mast that supports my W3EDP is hose clamped to one of the chain link fence support pipes, so that has to come down. Also, the coax that runs from my Butternut vertical to the shack is very neatly secured to the chain link fence top sections by cable ties. That has to be removed, rolled up and neatly stored so the truck coming in to set the shed in place doesn't crunch my coax.

So the order of the day for Friday is antenna removal and landscaping. The original plan (there's always an original plan that gets shot to blazes) was to get this stuff done each evening this week after work. Mother Nature has put the kibosh on that. Ever since Field Day, we've been getting some pretty intense thunderstorms towards the dinner hour.

The forecast for today and Friday has changed. Both days are supposed to be sunny and warm, but most importantly, dry. I am hoping to get the front and backyards mowed tomorrow evening after dinner and leave the antenna work and weed whacking for Friday. I'm not going to kill myself and try to get that all done after dinner on Friday, so I decided to take the day off. This way, I have the entire day to get the needed work completed, under a lot less stress and pressure.

The concrete that they will have to pour to reinstall the chain link fence posts will need some time to set, so I probably won't be able to get the W3EDP back up until maybe Tuesday. I'm hoping I can move that mast farther back along the property line, more to where the red line is in the photo. That would make it a little less conspicuous and would make the XYL and my neighbors a bit happier. I will also have to run the rolled up coax back to the Butternut and re-secure that. That can actually be done on Saturday, weather permitting. It's a good thing they are coming early Saturday morning to install this shed, because it's looking like as of Saturday afternoon, we're going to return to this cycle of thunderstormy weather for Saturday afternoon, Sunday and Monday. 

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Taking things for granted

Before I start this post, I want to dispel any rumors that all W2LJ does at Field Day is take photographs. Here are two of yours truly actually pounding brass and adding points to the NJ2SP Field Day total - courtesy of Mario KD2HPF.

Field Day, or perhaps better said, the end of Field Day often causes me to wax nostalgic. That definitely happened this year, and a large part of it was seen in that video which I posted yesterday. Watching Marv K2VHW working ZL4TT in New Zealand brought back me back, in an instant, to something that happened to me, as a  newly licensed Amateur Radio operator so many years ago. 

A little context - Bill W2AOF, our Club President, spent a month with friends in New Zealand earlier this year. When he got back, he filled us in on the details of the trip. He had a great time, got to see a lot of wonderful sights, got to eat good food and spend quality time with good people. Yet, there was a price to pay, and I'm not referring to the monetary expense. Sure, there was that, but there was also an expenditure of time. 

With all the technological advancements we've witnessed over the last century, getting to New Zealand from New Jersey is comparatively easy compared to 100 years ago. Back then, the ocean voyage took weeks. Flying by air is a snap compared to that, but even that takes time. You don't often think about it, but even flying on a commercial aircraft, going at speeds never dreamt of by the seafaring ships of the old days, it still takes the better part of a day (around 18 hours) to get from New Jersey to New Zealand.  And in the middle of the overnight, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, with 5 Watts of power to a hunk of wire hanging in the air, we made that trip and back in seconds, the whole conversation taking a few minutes!

I was struck by that, once again. I wish Bill had been there. He had left a few hours earlier to make sure the A/C was working properly in his home as well as to get some much needed rest. Had he been there. Bill is the kind of guy who would have been taken aback and would have experienced that "Wow factor" of what had just been accomplished. We communicate with all parts of the world. There is really no place too far that our radio waves can't reach. But how often do we let that soak in? How often do we get annoyed when that DX contact isn't made. How often do we take our radios and our hobby and all the physics involved for granted?

I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, as I had a similar experience happen to me back in 1979, and I'm sure it's been related somewhere earlier in this blog. But I like to think about it, it's an enjoyable memory and I'll re-tell it again.

I passed my Novice exam sometime back in October/November of 1978. The actual paper "ticket" came in the mail the last week of the year. I didn't even get on the air until the end of January of 1979, as I was busy putting my station together, and building my Heathkit Novice receiver kit that I had gotten as a Christmas gift. I upgraded to General in July and I worked my first DX contact with a Ham in Germany shortly thereafter.

Later that year in October of 1979, my best friend and I decided to take a trip up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to do some photography. We were two young budding photographers who were working together at a local camera shop and we both needed a road trip. We got our much needed time off and eventually made it all the way to Maine, specifically Bar Harbor. From there we decided that we would follow the coast as we made our way back to New Jersey. 

That meant a side trip to Cape Cod, and on the way out to Provincetown for some authentic New England clam chowder we came across a sign indicating that we were approaching the site of Marconi's Wellfleet Station.  I had to stop. We were in my car and I was the driver, so what I say goes .....goes. Right? What newly minted Amateur Radio operator would not want to visit a Marconi site? 

Not my image, but this is what you see when you visit. ^ This site is part of the National Park's Cape Cod National Seashore entity, so it is well maintained and there is a plethora of history to read about. This is what it looked like back in the day:

A few of the cement pylons that anchored the legs of the antenna towers were still there when I visited. Most had washed away into the sea as a result of beach erosion.

But it was the sea that struck me the most, which is a strange thing to say as I was born, bred and continue to live in New Jersey. I've seen the Atlantic Ocean and it bays hundreds, if not close to a thousand times in my time here on earth. But that time was different. 

I had not yet traveled to Switzerland, and would not experience air travel to Europe for another nine years, but standing there, for a VERY long time, where history had been made, just staring at the ocean, looking out upon all that water as far as my eye could see, was an experience unlike any other I had ever had. All I could think of was the radio waves from my Drake 2-NT and my MorGain multiband dipole, flying over all that water to another Ham in Germany. And her radio waves (she was an XYL) travelling back to my Heathkit HR-1680 receiver in a matter of seconds.

That water looked like it would never end. I knew that it did. I knew that on the other side of that vastness was Europe and the rest of the world. To contemplate my radio signals covering all that distance made me feel so tiny, but also filled me with awe at the immensity of Creation at the same time. 

We get so busy on Field Day and the rest of the year with making contacts, conducting ragchews, running nets, competing in contests, speaking into microphones, banging away on keys, typing away on keyboards that we forget to notice what is really happening. It's the magical part of Amateur Radio that never grows old for me and I hope I never take it for granted.

Long winded, I know, but thanks for staying with me!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

W9 SOTA Association 10th Anniversary Event

 From Tim N9PUZ on the 4 States QRP Group

The SOTA W9 Association (Indiana-Illinois-Wisconsin) is planning an operating event on Saturday July 1st for the association's 10th anniversary. Multiple activations are planned for all 3 states.  A certificate will be available for all activators in Indiana, Illinois or Wisconsin on July 1, as well as for chasers who make at least one contact with an activator in Indiana, Illinois or Wisconsin on July 1.  An endorsement for the chaser certificate is available for contacting at least one station in all 3 states (Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin) on July 1.

How to find the activators:

SOTA Activators almost always use a spotting page so you can find them easily. Activators primarily use CW or SSB, the spotting page also indicates the Mode being used. You can see those spots by visiting this web page:


Any summit reference in one of the three W9 Association States begins with.. "W9"!


Also from the ARRL - news about the FCC ULS System

QST de W1AW 
ARRL Bulletin 14  ARLB014
From ARRL Headquarters 
Newington CT  June 27, 2023
To all radio amateurs

ARLB014 FCC ULS System Restored

The FCC Universal Licensing System (ULS) has resumed operations, including the Electronic Batch Filing system (EBF).

As of June 27, 2023, all systems have been reported to be working.However, visitors to the website will see a message referring themto Public Notice DA 23-529 for additional information and guidance
on filing deadline extensions.

The systems were first reported unavailable on June 9, 2023. OnFriday afternoon, June 23, the EBF  system was restored. All VEC organizations use that system for filing exam sessions, individual applications, and club license applications. ARRL VEC staff worked late into Friday night to ensure all backlogged sessions and application files were transmitted to the FCC before the weekend. Approximately 350 backlogged files were successfully submitted toand processed by the FCC before the system's normal shutdown at 8 PM.

ARRL is still monitoring the ULS system, and any further updates will be available at ARRL News.


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

Field Day +2

As promised, here is the video that I promised to show here.

Some thoughts on lightning protection - I don't have any fancy lightning arrestors in my shack. When the weather is threatening, I disconnect the coax. I keep one of these AcuRite portable detectors in our rec room, where I spend a lot of time. If there's a thunderstorm or a lightning strike within a 25 mile radius of the house, I can run downstairs and disconnect the coax, in the event that I forgot to previously do so.

I brought it to Field Day and there was one time during our operational period that it sounded. We disconnected, even though we didn't hear any rumbles. After a few minutes of no further warnings, we resumed our operations. The end of Field Day was another story entirely as I mentioned previously. The lightning strikes were quite close, highly visible and quite disconcerting. All the radios had been disconnected by that time, but it was still quite the spectacle to watch. When you see a lightning bolt touch down maybe 5 miles or so from where you're standing, you tend to get to your car pretty darn quickly.

In the event you don't have one of these, or perhaps thinking that since you'll only use it for Field Day, and don't want to spend the money - there are free apps that you can get for your cell phone. I have "My Lightning Tracker" on mine. There's a free and a "Pro" version available for about $4. I use the free version. You can set it so that you will get alerts anywhere from 200 miles away to an area just as close as you want to set it for.  It is generally accepted that a single bolt of lightning can travel as far as 10-12 miles from its source. Better to be warned and disconnect your transmitters than be caught up in some kind of Gooey-Kablooey lightning strike.

Dave KD2FSI went to Reverse Beacon Network and plugged in NJ2SP. This is where his FT8 signals were being heard. We have confirmed QSOs in the log for New Zealand (CW), France (SSB) and Australia (FT8), so I think that will pretty well dispel the notion that you can't be heard anywhere unless you're running power into a Yagi.  5 Watts into a wire can go pretty darned far!

Something else that happened that caused me to raise an eyebrow (like Mr. Spock - "Fascinating!") - my PowerWerx deep cycle battery petered out for the very first time.

I first noticed something was amiss around 2:00 AM when my power output on 80 Meters was only about 3 Watts. I was too concentrated on making QSOs to really think about it much, as I was still being heard and being answered. Then, when the KX3 actually started shutting down on transmit, I looked over at the little monitor that Bob W3BBO made for me, which was out of direct eyesight. It was reading 9.83 Volts. I have the KX3 set to where it will operate with a supply voltage as low as 10 Volts. I must have not recharged it sufficiently since I last used it from when I used it at the backyard patio table. That is being rectified as we speak. Luckily, W2LJ always has a back up plan:

I pulled my Blue Man Crew out of my backpack. This is the battery that I use for events like FOBB, QRP To The Field, the Skeeter Hunt and POTA activations. The very same one you see up top in the blog header photo. Normally, I'll use it for about 4 hours tops. On Sunday, it lasted from about 3:00 AM until 12:30 PM without a whimper. The only thing I did to play it on the safe side was to turn off the KX3's display backlight.

Lastly, at the end of tear down as we finished packing  the vehicles, Dave had mentioned that 2024 will be the 10th Anniversary of the founding of SPARC. We decided that Field Day 2024 will have to be an extra special one. We have a whole 10 - 11 months to plan for it.

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

Monday, June 26, 2023

Field Day - another one bites the dust

How was your Field Day experience? First off, I hope you had one. Even with all the preparation, hard work of set up and tear down, it's still a fun and great experience. Being with some of your best friends for 24 hours, all doing the things you all love to do the most - priceless!

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club had a very, very good Field Day. I don't know how our effort stacked up against previous years. I'm always a "glass half empty" guy in that regard, and then I'm usually pleasantly surprised when the results come out in December to find out that we did better than I had thought.

The weather was cooperative for the most part. The weather prognosticators were somewhere around the mark with their predictions. There was a very light sprinkle of rain at the beginning of set up, but that diminished very quickly and we were blessed with good weather almost until the very end.

As usual, set up went well.  It seems that SPARC has this down to somewhat of a science. As the main part of the group gets the shelters ready and Ron N2LCZ gets the network of logging computers up and running, Dave KD2FSI and I get the antennas going.

I'm going to get a bit gushy here about Dave. He's a one man Field Day all by his lonesome. I don't know where SPARC would be without him. Between his antennas, the other equipment and the radios he brings ........... But that's not the end of it. His expertise and presence are above and beyond the "stuff" that he brings. We'd be lost without him.

The same goes for Marv K2VHW. He's the Founding President and President Emeritus of SPARC. He IS our spark. An Amateur Radio operator for over 50 years, a two time Emmy Winner for Technical Excellence in Broadcasting, untold experience in mobile communications testing, trouble shooting and repair  ....... how did we get so lucky to get these guys in our group?

When the bell rang at 2:00 PM we were ready. We got going and over the next 24 hours we gave it our best. In addition to the activity behind the radios, we had a lot of visitors. In addition to curious walkers going by us (we are in a public park, after all), we had visits from some folks who specifically brought their kids by to see what Amateur Radio is all about. We also had visits from the Red Cross, and our new Hudson Division Director Nomar Vizcarrondo, NP4H, and our Division Public Information Officer, Ed Efchak WX2R came by during setup. We also got a visit from one of our Town Council members, Derryck White, who is also a CERT member and one of our biggest supporters from within our borough. He even helped us during tear down.

A peaceful Sunday morning scene.

The visit by our ARRL Officials, Nomar NP4H has the yellow lanyard around his neck and Ed is wearing the red ARRL shirt at the right. The banner came out exceptionally well. Thanks, Vistaprint! For the record, going from left to right - Marty WB2BEW, Neil WA2EGE, Tim AB2ZK (with the green CERT cap), Nomar NP4H, Bill W2AOF (SPARC Club President) Ron N2LCZ (IT Expert Extraordinaire), Marv K2VHW, Harry KC2PGX, Ed WX2R.

Dave KD2FSI, our "Indispensable Man" running VHF/UHF, FT8 and all things digital.

Marty WB2BEW with a Phil K2OTA, working SSB. Marty would later get a QSO in the log with France. 5 Watts from a KX3 to a multiband End Fed - not bad!

This is what I was looking at for the next 24 hours. The laptop is one of Ron's Lenovo WS530's.  

Dave's MFJ-1982HP running in a roughly East to West direction. This was the SSB station antenna.

We always try to get a lot of signage up for our site, so that visitors can have their own sort of "walking tour" when we are super busy with other things.

More descriptive signage. Bill W2AOF our Club President got these from Vistaprint a few years ago when they were running a sale. They come in handy and let non-Hams know what they are looking at.

My MFJ-1982LP running in a roughly North-South direction. You can see one of the driveway reflectors that I purchased, holding up the near end, with the UNUN cable-tied near the top. The coax is running down to my KX3. We tie some caution tape to the wire itself as we park in the space off to the right and we don't want anyone walking into the wire. After this shot was taken, but before 2:00 PM, we put little orange cones down so that people would not traverse where we did not intend them to. The weird event of Field Day was that even with that, someone stole and walked off with the driveway reflector at the far end, while we weren't watching. Tim AB2ZK happened to need to go to his car for something and let me know that it was gone. We initially thought that maybe someone had driven into it or something like that, but it was totally gone with no trace (not even pieces) to be found. At least whoever took it, didn't damage the antenna - which performed flawlessly this year, after my soldering repairs to the UNUN. In fact, during the wee hours of the overnight, Marv K2VHW used it to worked New Zealand with our maximum output of  5 Watts. 

I have video of that and will post that tomorrow. I wish that Bill W2AOF had been present for that QSO. He was tuckered from the heat and humidity of the day and left for home to get in some rest. However, he had traveled to New Zealand to visit some friends earlier this year. As someone who made that long flight from New Jersey to New Zealand, I think witnessing that QSO would have really brought home the wonder of Amateur Radio and QRP. We Hams are so used to what we do, that sometimes I think we take for granted how magical it all really is. When you experience that flight, the distance and the time and then you see a "measly" 5 Watts of power do that - for me at least, that is a super "Wow" moment.

Bob WB2UDC giving me a break at the CW station.

The new crescent Moon, coming close to it's set sometime very early Sunday morning.

First light is always a welcome sight.

It's amazing how bright it is so early in the morning. This was taken just a little after 5:00 AM.

The bands themselves were decent, but frustrating. QSB was like a roller coaster. A station would be 599 one second and 339 the next. The bulk of our CW QSOs were completed on 40 Meters, which I thought was in great shape. 80 Meters was decent at night, but there was a lot of static crashes to deal with. Since 20 Meters was the choice of the SSB guys, I only went there when they were taking a break. I could hear signals on 15 Meters the couple of times that I checked, but they were so low in strength that I could not make anything out. 10 Meters was completely dead the various times I twiddled the dial on that band.

Around 12:30 PM on Sunday, you could tell the weather was shifting. While most normal people woke to clear skies and a beautiful Sunday morning with blue skies, by lunchtime the sky had turned to that ominous lead gray color. With an hour and a half of Field Day operating time left, I convinced the crew to start tearing down. About halfway to three quarters of the way through, there were unnervingly close lightning strikes and the clouds literally burst open. We had to retreat to the safety of our vehicles. When the rain lessened up, we were able to finish the job and get the commonly owned Club "stuff" back to the CERT building.

I'll have a few more thoughts to put down for posterity tomorrow, when I post the short video that I took during the overnight. There's a thing or two more that I want to mention. My brain is a big bowl of oatmeal today. In the days when I wore a younger man's clothes, I was able to cope with an "up for 36 hours" stretch with a lot more ease and aplomb than I can now.

More thoughts about weather and equipment tomorrow - stay tuned!

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

Friday, June 23, 2023

Two things

First - I was watching the local NYC Tri-State News last evening at 6:00 PM on WCBS Ch. 2, particularly the weather forecast with Lonnie Quinn. This guy, I trust as much as I can trust any weather prognosticator. His forecasts are generally dead on. What I particularly like about Lonnie is that for normal forecasts, he's in his jacket and tie, but when the "stuff" is going to hit the fan and it's going to be a rough go, the jacket comes off and his shirt sleeves are rolled up. Last night was a jacket and tie night. He's forecasting a not so great weekend, weather-wise, but not a wash out, either. There will be periods of light showers with perhaps a pop-up thunderstorm here and there. But there will also be long periods with no precipitation. Not ideal weather for the beach, but not terrible for Field Day.

Second - I came across this post on the CW e-mail reflector by Dave Ring, N1EA. It's a poem about CW that was generated by ChatGPT (AI) at the prompt of John M0STQ. Since a lot of us will be listening to a lot of Morse this weekend:

John M0STQ says:

We've probably all heard about ChatGPT, which is a combination of coded chat bot and an LLM (large language model), trained on a huge chunk of scraped internet text up to about the end of 2021.

I gave it this prompt "write me a poem about morse code" and it came up with this...

In a world of signals, hidden and grand,

A language of dots and dashes, hand in hand.

Morse code whispers, in rhythm and sound,

A symphony of messages, profound.


With a simple click, a dot appears,

A fleeting moment, to the listening ears.

Short and swift, a gentle tap,

Encoded words in a Morse code wrap.


Then comes the dash, a longer beat,

A bolder stroke, a message complete.

Steadfast and strong, it boldly declares,

Secrets encoded, in cryptic layers.


Through wires and waves, the code takes flight,

Across vast distances, day and night.

A bridge between souls, in distant lands,

Unseen connections, in invisible strands.


In wartime strife, it spoke of hope,

A lifeline woven through battles' slope.

Heroes tapping with strength and might,

Morse code echoes, in the darkest night.


But beyond the war, a hobby embraced,

A world of enthusiasts, passion encased.

Operators deftly keying with grace,

Conveying thoughts, at a steady pace.


Morse code, a language unique and pure,

A testament to human will endure.

In a world of beeps and boops, it shines,

A symphony of dots and dashes, divine.


So let us remember, this code of old,

A tale of ingenuity, daring, and bold.

Morse code, a treasure from days gone by,

Whispering secrets, reaching for the sky.

Not bad, eh?

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Not thrilled with the forecast for Field Day

The prognosticators are predicting a pretty crummy weekend. Thunderstorms and rain both Saturday and Sunday. Not ideal weather for Field Day and being in close proximity to antennas.

Another club in our area is seriously considering calling off their whole effort, but SPARC is not. We treat this as a CERT activation for a real emergency, and under a real emergency you have to play with the cards you are dealt. If worse comes to worse, we'll just disconnect the antennas and wait for any cells to pass.  One thing I will bring with me this year is my lightning detector. It can detect lightning strikes anywhere within a 20 mile range.

In 2015, Field Day was rainy and chilly. I swore up and down we were all going to come down with pneumonia, but we survived the weekend unscathed. A few years ago, Field Day was so windy, we thought our makeshift shelter was going to blow away. Back in the days of the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club, we had a particularly bad thunderstorm roll through on Field Day. We disconnected the antennas and sat around shooting the breeze, waiting for the storm to pass. During lulls in the conversation, we were hearing a faint "tic-tic" kind of noise. That's when we happened to look down at the coax lying on the shelter floor and saw faint blue arcs jumping between the center conductor and shield. This wasn't occurring as lightning was actually striking, but was happening when there was enough static electricity building up in the area.

We've been under a semi-drought the past weeks, to the point where lawns are beginning to turn brown, so the rain is welcome and is supposed to stretch into mid next week. So while the rain is most welcome, (It couldn't start AFTER Field Day?!?) we can deal with it, but if the Lord would provide us with decently dry, or not really pouring weather during set up and tear down, we'd be eternally grateful! 

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

First Day of Summer - not a bad start!

Summer officially starts today at 10:58 EDT or 14:58 UTC - and that also means that today is the first day that you can sign up for a Skeeter number for the 2023 iteration of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.  I started accepting requests at 12:01 AM (O' Dark Thirty) this morning and so far we've filled the first 53 slots.

Just a recap of the major points:

1) The Skeeter Hunt is open to all Amateur Radio ops. With the sunspot number increasing, might we see a few DX Skeeters this year? I don't know, time will tell.

2) This year, the Skeeter Hunt is on Sunday, August 27th from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM EDT or 17:00 to 21:00 UTC.

3) You do NOT have to operate portable to get a Skeeter #. You earn a better multiplier for dong so, however

4) This year there are 17 Bonus Skeeters (so far). These are ops who participate every year, are reliable and have good signals. They all have Skeeter #s assigned to them that are palindromes - #11, 22, 33 through 161. Work any Bonus Skeeter for 100 points and collect up to 10 for a maximum of 1,000 bonus points. 

For all the details, go to

Summer is my favorite time of they year. I enjoy the long days and I enjoy the warmth. While I'm not a big fan of hazy, hot and humid, I'd much rather have that than cold, dark and freezing. I hope you all have a fantastic Summer and for my readers who may reside in the Southern Hemisphere - I hope your Winter is not terrible.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

My gut might have been right

Plus, I was beginning to hear rumors about this at the Hamfest on Saturday.  At first, I just brushed it off, but when I saw that this was still not resolved over the weekend, I started to give my hunch and this "rumor" a little more credence.

CNN is reporting this:

Although, these days, I don't know how much CNN or any news outlet can be trusted. I come from the Walter Cronkite "old school" of news and so much of what I see on TV broadcast news seems to be more opinion and editorializing rather than "Just the facts, Ma'am." Please ...... just give me the "who, what, why, where and when". I don't need to know how the reporter or anchor "feels" about it, or their personal theories.

In any case, our candidates from the Saturday session won't be too thrilled until this mess is cleared up. I could have told them how in the "Olden Days Before Fire Was Invented" that we had to wait 6-8 weeks for our licenses to show up via snail mail, but I'm sure that would have gone over like the proverbial lead balloon,

Well, at least they can't hack radio waves - or does jamming count?

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, June 19, 2023

This is not good - continued!

 FCC servers are still down "for maintenance", as they have been since last Wednesday.  

After working in the professional photographic field for 29 years, I have been working in the IT field for the last 16 years. For 6 of those years, i was employed at a Data Center. In all my time, I have never seen server maintenance take more than one evening, two at the most. I am by no means an IT expert, but something seems amiss here. My gut hunch says something is going on here that involves more than just routine maintenance.

Whatever it is, I hope it's resolved quickly. Our exam candidates from Saturday were all anxious to know when they would hear about their new call signs or upgrades.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Part of getting ready for Field Day

Getting ready for Field Day isn't just the physical logistics. There are some mental logistics to get in gear, as well.  The most important one of these for me involves using this app, which I keep on my phone:

I set the speed at about 37 WPM or a bit higher and let her rip. Sometimes I consciously try to copy and other times I just let it play in the background to get my ears "muscle memory" back to where it should be. I find that doing this for a week or couple of weeks before Field Day helps tremendously, especially when I haven't been able to get on the air and conduct actual QSOs.

CW Trainer by Wolphi LLC is not a freebee, but I think it's worth every penny that I paid - I think it was a little over $2 when I purchased it back in 2018. Here's the actual description that's from the Google Play screen:

Learn or improve Morse code with Morse Trainer for Ham Radio.

Learn or improve Morse code with Morse Trainer. Now with Farnsworth speed and Koch method.

If you are a ham radio (amateur radio) operator or just want to learn Morse code. With a lot of settings it is very comfortable to adjust Morse Trainer to your current level.

The following settings are available:

- Frequency (200 - 2200Hz)

- Waveform (sine / triangle) 

- Fading (to reduce click at the end of a dot or dash)

- Speed (2Wpm - 52Wpm)

- Farnsworth speed

- Spacing (spacing between dots or dashes)

- Dot-Dash Ratio (length ratio of dashes compared to dots)

- Letter Spacing (Space between letters)

- Word Spacing (Space between words)

Five different learning modes are available in Morse Trainer

- Random groups of X mode: Morse Trainer will play groups of X randomly selected letter, numbers or special characters. X can be an amount between 1-9. Those characters can be individually selected. If you want to learn just "s","i" and "e" just select the 3 letters and Morse Trainer will create groups of X with those 3 letters.

The characters can also be chosen from 20 lessons of the Koch method.

- Real ham radio callsign mode: Morse Trainer will randomly play real amateur radio callsign from a database of 5000 callsigns which appeared in Contests over the last couple of years.

 - QSO text mode: Morse Trainer will play randomly play QSO text. The database consists of 300 different qso texts.

- Most common English words mode: Morse Trainer will play randomly the 500 most used English words.

- Own text mode: Enter your own text and Morse Trainer will play it over and over again.

- Ebook mode: Text files can be loaded from SD card

Morse Trainer is priced less than the cost of a fancy coffee and it is a great app to learn and improve you CW speed away from your amateur radio station or your PC.

Disclaimer: I am not connected to Wolphi LLC is any shape, manner, way or form. I'm just a satisfied consumer who likes this app a lot, and thinks it can be useful to other Amateur Radio ops. It has helped me increase my code speed and keep it there. It has also helped me keep my gray matter in good "Morse shape" when I haven't been able to get on the air. And who knows? Maybe some day they'll come up with the adage "A little Morse Code each day helps to keep the Alzheimer's away!"

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

International QRP Day +1

Alas, I didn't get to get on the air yesterday for International QRP Day (more about that in a bit) but I did run across this interesting video courtesy of the K9YA Telegraph Facebook page. (Facebooks IS actually useful for something!)

I found it interesting, anyway!

Back to yesterday. I was at that W2QW RVRC Hamfest for which I posted the flyer a couple days ago. I got there at 5:00 AM to help park the vendors into their assigned selling spots. Then around 8:15 AM, I went over to set up and get ready for the VE Session.

We had eight candidates in all. There were supposed to be eleven, but two called me on the telephone Friday evening to cancel (theyfelt they weren't ready) and one was a no-show.  Three upgraded from General to Extra, Two upgraded to General, and two earned their Technician Class license. The eighth candidate came to us with no license and left with his General. That was especially gratifying. We had hoped he'd have a trifecta day and make to Extra, but it was not in the cards yesterday, but I'm sure it won't be long!

For the most part it was a good day. The weather turned out perfect and buyer attendance measured up well compared to previous years. The only disappointment was we could have used more sellers. The weather prognosticators were calling for the possibility of showers - which actually came late in the afternoon, and only in some scattered areas, way long after the festivities for the day were just a memory. 

72 de Larry W2LLJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, June 16, 2023

International QRP Day

Tomorrow! Saturday, June 17th 2023.

The post a few below regarding the GQRP upcoming events was released specifically to coincide with the day. I am sure there will be a lot of SOTA-teers on the air tomorrow, as well as some POTA activations that may turn down the power. If you get on the air yourself, you might want to spot yourself and indicate that you're running QRP so that other QRP'ers can find you. A really VERY good place to do that is QRPSPOTS, which is a valuable but yet very underused resource brought to us by The Four State QRP Group. We QRPers should really change that and make this our first go-to whenever we get on the air. There's nothing wrong with self-spotting to let our brothers and sisters in Low Power know where we are on the dial.

I hope you all have fun enjoying QRP and whatever the day has to offer!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Busy time of the year!

 I don't know about the rest of you, but for me, June always seems to be one of the busiest months of the year, particularly where Amateur Radio is involved.

As a CERT Member who is also an Amateur Radio Op, we had three call outs (actually, maybe 4) this month. First there were the NJSIAA High School Track Meets where we performed traffic and pedestrian control duties the first weekend in June. Later, in the same week we reprised that role for the Feast of St. Anthony, a carnival hosted by Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in town. Next week is High School graduation and possibly Middle School graduation as well.

This Saturday is the Raritan Valley W2QW Hamfest. I'll be there at 'O-Dark Thirty in the morning, helping vendors drive to their allotted parking spaces, and then conducting the VE Session at 9:00 AM. We have 10 candidates signed up so far, but fortunately a lot of the local VEs have agreed to come out and help. I hope that between those two functions and helping to man the club selling table that I actually get time to walk around and look at "stuff".

This coming Sunday, I'd like to drive over to Home Depot and buy a couple driveway reflectors.

Not for my driveway, but for next weekend - Field Day.  Their purpose being to serve as tie off anchors for the ends of my MFJ-1982LP end fed. The idea is that these will make the ends more visible to "traffic", especially at night. I hope to find something like the one in the picture at either Home Depot or Lowe's. The little hole at the top would be ideal for threading through the mason's twine that I use for tying down and securing the end insulators.

And of course, next weekend is the big event itself, Field Day. I plan to be there for almost the entire 24 hours. I'll have to leave Sunday morning for a couple hours for Mass and then return, but other than that, I plan to while away the hours listening to and sending Morse Code. As a wise man once said, "Those QSOs ain't going to make themselves!"

I know it can change, and probably will (fingers crossed), but the long range 10 day forecast is a bit "iffy"., with a chance for thunderstorms for Field Day Saturday.  I can deal with rain, we should be amply covered, but we all know that radio and thunderstorms do not mix well. I particularly remember a Piscataway Amateur Radio Club Field Day many years ago. We were in Rich W2PQ's pop up camper which served as the 40 Meter shack. A thunderstorm blew in and we quickly unplugged the coax from the radio and dropped it to the floor. While we were sitting there waiting out the storm and kibitzing, we kept hearing a little "tic-tic" kind of noise. That's when one of our club members happened to look at the PL-259 laying on the camper floor and saw a little blue spark occasionally fly between the center pin and shield connections of the coax! It reminded me of those old Frankenstein type movies that we watched as kids that had those giant Tesla coils in the "laboratory".

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Upcoming GQRP events

From Enzo M0KTZ:

The GQRP Club invites all the QRP enthusiasts to a line-up of QRP activities, to salute the arrival of the new season. Details below.

There will be plenty of puny signals out there, starting this weekend, so switch your rig on, get on the bands, fly the QRP flag, and have fun.

- 17th June, International QRP Day. Almost two dozens Club members will activate the Club callsign G5LOW (England), together with its regional locators GM5LOW (Scotland), GW5LOW (Wales), Gi5LOW (Northern Ireland), GD5LOW (Isle of Man), and GU5LOW (Guernsey). All bands, from HF to UHF, and all modes (CW, SSB, AM, FM, and several digimodes), throughout the day. Just look out for the "LOWs".

- 17th June, the Club also runs the Suffolk Trophy, an activity reserved to members, with operation for six hours only in no more that two periods. Contacts are with any Region 1 country; normal QSO, no serial numbers. Each Region 1 country counts 1 point on each band. The total score is total of IARU countries on the bands used. Only one contact per country per band is allowed irrespective of mode. The other station may be QRO. Please log Name, address, call, power used, equipment, time, call & band for each contact.

- June 17th to June 25th. It's time for the Summer Sizzler, a relaxed get-on-air QRP event, an ideal opportunity to meet and greet new and old friends, to test our latest homebrew creations, and to fill the bands with friendly QRP activity. Several certificates are awarded for contacts made using only homebrew equipment (Busy-Bee), only QRPp power levels (Tiny-Flea), only vintage rigs (Old Beetle), and while operating /P or /M (Iron-Knee). The special Ladybird certificate is awarded to the best log submitted by a member who has been licensed for less than three years.

The best overall log will be awarded the First GM3OXX Memorial Trophy.


Hopefully propagation will be good enough to work a few GQRP friends!

72 de Larry W2LJ - GQRP #11653
QRP - When you care to send the very least!