Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017


Today, in the United States of America, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The day was set aside as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln, in order that we, as a people, might take time to reflect upon and be thankful for the bounty that Almighty God has bestowed upon us.

Where do I begin? Of course, I am thankful for the "things" we have. A warm house, clean clothes and enough food to keep us well fed. But even more than the "things", which are just things, I am so grateful for all the people in my life, past and present.  My loving family, friends, associates, acquaintances, teachers and professionals who have been part of my life and who helped shape me into the person that I am.

No man is an island, and I am so grateful to God that He put all these wonderful individuals into my life. I am particularly grateful for Amateur Radio and because of it, for the friendships and associations that I have been able to make with you through this blog.  I thank God for each and every one of you, and I thank you for your continued reading of this little blog. You are in my prayers, today and every day, and I hope that I will be in yours.

"Give thanks to the Lord our God, His mercy and love endure forever!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I just can't do it!

I hate it when someone on Facebook; or some other visual media decides to get "cute" and spell out Morse Code characters.  For instance this morning, I saw several:

....   .-   .--.   .--.   -.--      -   ....   .-   -.   -.-   ...    --.   ..    ...-    ..     -.   --.

which of course, translates to "Happy Thanksgiving".

I stared at that for minutes, and finally made the connection because of the holiday tomorrow.  I just cannot, for whatever reason, very easily translate visual Morse. I have to HEAR it.  I sit or stand there for minutes, slack jawed and mouth agape, trying to figure out what I'd be able to decode in a nanosecond, if I could just HEAR it!

I guess it's just me, becoming a curmudgeon in my old age.

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


Monday, November 20, 2017

No line up over the weekend

My plan was to hopefully get a line up over the maple tree in the backyard as a prelude to building and installing a new wire antenna over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Again, it was not to be.  By the time I got home from the FLDigi/NBEMS seminar that a bunch of us attended Saturday morning, it was already raining.

Sunday was a no-go here because it was extremely windy. It was so windy, that as Harold (my Beagle) and I sat on the couch in the living room, we could actually hear the wind "howl" as it blew up and down the street. If I had attempted to shoot a line in that wind, I would never have gotten good placement.

So that leaves next weekend. I kind of hate to take down the W3EDP as it served me decently well on 160 Meters.  It really shouldn't have; but with 5 Watts, I was able to routinely get out as far west as Illinois.  For a small suburban lot like mine, that's no small feat. I know that any doublet that I put up will not be nearly long enough to get me any kind of signal on 160 Meters.

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hmmmmmmmm........

Coax is on the way. A new LDG 1:1 Current Balun is on the way and Dave VE7EZM is planting seeds in my brain:


Not only is this do-able, it's not all that far away from the configuration that I had in mind, anyway. 46.8 Feet on the short side may be tight, but I think I'll be crossing the back yard on a bit of a diagonal and not straight across, parallel with the property line. That may just give me the few extra feet of space that I'll need.  

This weekend looks to be busy, getting the house ready for Thanksgiving guests and all (plus I'm attending a seminar on FLDigi and the NBEMS messaging system for AUXCOMM tomtorrow)- but maybe, just maybe, I can find time to shoot a line up into the tree so that I can be ready for the long Holiday weekend next week.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All WX Solar Powered Amateur Radio Field Station


Julian OH8STN is featured on my blog roll, to the right. Just a few days ago, he made a video about operating a field station totally from solar power, off the grid.  The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club does this every Field Day, by using solar power to charge up our batteries. Our radios run from this power source for the entire 24 hours.

Last year, I purchased a portable, brief case type of solar panel, along with a charge controller in order to accomplish the same goal.  I haven't taken it out to the field yet, but I have used it from the back yard; and I know it will work if needed in an emergency situation.

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

Going back to basics

Next weekend is the long Thanksgiving Day Weekend here in the US.  After the holiday on Thursday, that leaves me with three days off.  If the weather is not bitterly cold (which it is not supposed to be), I am thinking of taking down the W3EDP and putting up a random length doublet in its place. Of course, this is all depends on no surprises coming out of left field that could possibly occupy the entire weekend. You know what they say about "The best laid plans of mice and men ......"

The main objective would be to get the wire higher than it currently is. I am going to follow the old rule of thumb - "Get up as much wire as you can, as high as you can." This is the antenna that I used for so many years as a Novice and it served me well.  I think I still have a Ten Tec Antenna T kicking around in the basement.

Basically, I would get that up as high in the maple in the backyard as I possible could, and then run as much wire as I could to each anchor point.  I will feed it with 450 Ohm window line to the ground, to a balun (A few years back, Bob W3BBO made me a beautiful 4:1 that I still have), and then RG213 to the shack.

Off the top of my head, I am thinking I'd have about 50 feet of wire to one side and about 70 feet of wire on the other. The main thing, though, is that I'm hoping I can raise the wire level from about 25 or so feet to about 40 feet.

This would be my customized version of "The 4$ Special" antenna.

Ah, the joys of living on a small, suburban lot!

You might be thinking, "Why did he wait until now? Why not do this in the Summer, when the weather is more comfortable?"

I'll tell you why - most of the leaves are gone now. Hopefully there will be less snags and fewer #$*&! words uttered.

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Morse Code - still relevant today Part Deux

Kudos and tip of the straight key lever to Jeff K1NSS (and he, in turn,  thanked The K9YA Telegraph) for pointing this one out on Facebook today:

http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/macy-s-airs-poignant-holiday-ad-bbdo/311293/

As Jeff says, "Morse always makes it through!"

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least1

Morse Code: A Staple in the Navy IW Toolkit

IW is an abbreviation for Information Warfare.

It would appear that Morse Code retains its relevance (outside of Amateur Radio) even in this day and age of computers and digital communications.

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=92864

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Big shoes to fill!

After a "year off" the ARRL announced in the December issue of QST, it's newest operating event.


The 2018 ARRL International Grid Chase follows on the heels of the successful Centennial operating event and the even more successful National Parks On The Air operating event.

The idea is work as many different Maindenhead grid squares as you can, on any band (expect for 60 Meters) using any mode. Contacts made through satellites will count; but contacts made through earthbound repeaters will not.

So how will all these contacts be kept track of?  Through Logbook Of The World, of course! So it is imperative that you have an LOTW account as well as the station you are working. When you both upload your logs to LOTW; and you get a match, you get credit for a valid QSO for the ARRL IGC.

While total cumulative results will be posted at the end of the year, the clock will "reset" so to speak, at the beginning of each month. So each month of 2018 will be like a new operating event; or competition. (I hate to use the word "contest", as we all know that contests are forbidden on the WARC bands.)

Should you not know your Maidenhead Grid Square locator, it's easy to find out. You can either look yourself up on QRZ.com, or go to http://www.levinecentral.com/ham/grid_square.php. What's interesting about these two methods is that you might get different results. QRZ tells me that my grid square is FN20to and Levine Central tells me that it's FN20so.  No matter ...... for the purposes of the ARRL IGC, you'll only need the first four places.  In addition, exchanging the grid square during the QSO is not required. LOTW will keep track of that.  I suppose that for those who will go out and activate rare grids, there will be some provision made for identifying what grid square was operated from when uploading contacts into LOTW.

Will this be as successful as the last two events?  That remains to be seen. The Centennial Event was huge success and NPOTA was a monster success. In any event, kudos to the ARRL for continuing to come up with ideas to keep Amateur Radio life a little on the spicier side.

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


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Field Day 2017 Results


The resuts are in; and just as we suspected, the South Plainfield Radio Club, operating station NJ2SP had the best Field Day outing so far of our brief 4 year history.

Operating as a 3AB station, we placed 2nd in our category, nationwide.


We also placed 2nd in our ARRL Section - NNJ.


Kudos to all the mebers of SPARC. You had a great Fied Day and you have every right to pleased with your peformance. And once again, to the doubters .... I think this shows that QRP can compete well with the rest of the pack - even in the death throes of a solar cycle.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Veterans Day Weekend 2017


A Happy Veterans Day to all who have worn the uniform. Your dedication, and the time and treasure that you sacrificed while serving our country can never be adequately repaid.

Thank you!

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

I've become such a creature of routine!

Last night was the opening session of the 2017/2018 QRP Fox Hunt season.  I had a modicum of success with a "one-fer".  Our two Foxes last night were John K4BAI and Todd N9NE.  I found John easily as he was 599 in New Jersey and I worked him rather quickly, getting a 579 report back from John only 12 minutes into the hunt.

The balance of the 90 minutes was spent listening for Todd.  I knew where he was (or rather, had a good guess as to where he was) by listening for his Hounds. Once I found them, I equalized the VFOs on my KX3 and then moved VFO A down a kHz and just listened, twiddling the knob little bits in an effort to hear something .... anything..  Todd never materialized and that was kind of odd. Usually, there's a virtual pipeline of HF signals between New Jersey and Wisconsin.

Not last night.


No Wisconsin Fox for W2LJ !!!

Anyway, I stayed up until 10:30 PM, hoping against hope that I would score some WI Fox fur; but it was not to be. Boy, am I paying for it this morning!  That meant staying up past my normal bedtime and now today feels all "out of kilter". I slept 15 minutes past the alarm and if it weren't for morning coffee, I'd be shuffling around like a Zombie from NA5N's sprint a few weeks back.

I've become such a creature of routine.  If you told me this back when I was in my 20s, I'd probably have laughed right in your face.

I'm not laughing now - chuckling a bit (and wishing I could take a nap), but not laughing.

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Disappointed

Disappointed .......VERY disappointed.

Last night, I got the rare opportunity to actually park my carcass on the couch in order to enjoy a little television.  No meetings, no having to drive the kids anywhere, no chores - just a chance to relax. I was tuned into TVLand and was watching an old episode of M*A*S*H, because quite frankly, there isn't much on TV that satisfies me these days.

I had my tablet in hand and was half-heartedly scrolling through Facebook, when all of a sudden, I was made aware by several Amateur Radio ops and the ARRL that our hobby was going to be featured on "NCIS" on WCBS TV.


It was already about half way through the show's time slot when I noticed this, so I quickly changed the channel.

What a disappointment ....... what an utter, abject disappointment. To be honest with you, I was glad I didn't see this from the beginning. That probably wouldn't have dome my blood pressure any good.

The only thing the writers got correct was to use authentic Amateur Radio gear in the show.  Other than that, everything was bogus.  I don't know what formula they used for call signs; but it wasn't anything remotely close to what we use here in the US.  I know, maybe they didn't want to take the chance using a real call, but the format they used was ridiculous.

Then, they made special effort to involve "handles".  My goodness, I was swept immediately back to the '70s and Citizens Band radio.  Every now and then you'll hear a Ham refer to his first name as his "handle" or "personal" (which makes me cringe), but even those folks actually use their names in a QSO.  Nobody gets on the air and uses names like "Ricochet" or the garbage they put into last night's episode.

The final straw was how they portrayed the Amateur Radio ops that they featured in the show. To put it bluntly, the Amateur Radio characters were portrayed as losers.  I know that the world of Amateur Radio is a microcosm and that we have our share of kooks and odd balls, but the Hams portrayed on "NCIS" were ridiculous.

What steams me the most is that all the good press that Amateur Radio has garenered lately due to our involvement in assisting with or providing communications during the hurricanes and wild fires could be potentially nullified by this portrayal of Hams as nerdy, unkempt individuals who are nothing more than social misfits ...... at best.  I doubt I've seen a better instance of stereotyping in a long time.

I can only hope the show got lousy ratings last night.

A much better critique has been offered by Don Keith N4KC, who is a light years better wordsmith than I. His opinion piece on this debacle can be read here: http://n4kc.blogspot.com/2017/11/i-dont-know-why-i-expected-anything.html The only consolation is that if N4KC thought last night's episode was a piece of ........, well then, it was.

Thanks NCIS and WCBS .... for not much.

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Viva la CW!

The following is a copy of a copy.  Originally posted on the K3 e-mail reflector, to which I do not subscribe, it was then posted to the CW Ops reflector by Bob, N7WY.  It is so good and meaningful to us Morse Code fans, that I am re-posting here.

A post by Wayne Burdick - N6KR

I find that CW has many practical and engaging aspects that I just don’t get with computer-mediated modes like FT8. You’d think I’d be burned out on CW by now, over 45 years since I was first licensed, but no, I’m still doin’ it :)

Yes, FT8 (etc.) is a no-brainer when, despite poor conditions, your goal is to log as many contacts as possible with as many states or countries as possible. It’s so streamlined and efficient that the whole process is readily automated. (If you haven’t read enough opinions on that, see "The mother of all FT8 threads” on QRZ.com, for example.)

But back to CW. Here’s why it works for me. YMMV.

CW feels personal and visceral, like driving a sports car rather than taking a cab. As with a sports car, there are risks. You can get clobbered by larger vehicles (QRM). Witness road range (“UP 2!”). Fall into a pothole (QSB). Be forced to drive through rain or snow (QRN).

With CW, like other forms of human conversation, you can affect your own style. Make mistakes. Joke about it.

CW is a skill that bonds operators together across generations and nations. A language, more like pidgin than anything else, with abbreviations and historical constructs and imperialist oddities. A curious club anyone can join. (At age 60 and able to copy 50 WPM on a good day, I may qualify as a Nerd Mason of some modest order, worthless in any other domain but of value in a contest.)

With very simple equipment that anyone can build, such as a high-power single-transistor oscillator, you can transmit a CW signal. I had very little experience with electronics when I was 14 and built an oscillator that put out maybe 100 mW. Just twisted the leads of all those parts together and keyed the collector supply--a 9-volt battery. With this simple circuit on my desk, coupled to one guy wire of our TV antenna mast, I worked a station 150 miles away and was instantly hooked on building things. And on QRP. I’m sure the signal was key-clicky and had lots of harmonics. I’ve spent a lifetime making such things work better, but this is where it started.

Going even further down the techno food chain, you can “send” CW by whistling, flashing a lamp, tapping on someone’s leg under a table in civics class, or pounding a wrench on the inverted hull of an upside-down U.S. war vessel, as happened at Pearl Harbor. Last Saturday at an engineering club my son belongs to, a 9-year-old demonstrated an Arduino Uno flashing HELLO WORLD in Morse on an LED. The other kids were impressed, including my son, who promptly wrote a version that sends three independent Morse streams on three LEDs. A mini-pileup. His first program.

Finally, to do CW you don’t always need a computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, or software. Such things are invaluable in our daily lives, but for me, shutting down everything but the radio is the high point of my day. The small display glows like a mystic portal into my personal oyster, the RF spectrum. Unless I crank up the power, there’s no fan noise. Tuning the knob slowly from the bottom end of the band segment to the top is a bit like fishing my favorite stream, Taylor Creek, which connects Fallen Leaf Lake to Lake Tahoe. Drag the line across the green, sunlit pool. See what hits. Big trout? DX. Small trout? Hey, it’s still a fish, and a QSO across town is still a QSO. Admire it, then throw it back in.

(BTW: You now know why the Elecraft K3, K3S, KX2, and KX3 all have built-in RTTY and PSK data modes that allow transmit via the keyer paddle and receive on the rig’s display. We decided to make these data modes conversational...like CW.)

Back to 40 meters....

73,

Wayne N6KR

The best sentiments I have seen or read about CW in a very long time.  Thanks, Wayne, for putting into words what a lot of us feel!

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

QRP Podcast

This episode of the ARRL's "The Doctor Is IN' is semi-devoted to QRP. I am listening to it right now.


Sponsored by DX Engineering, "The Doctor Is In" is a bi-weekly podcast offered by the ARRL. You can get it from the iTunes store, or through Blubrry or Stitcher.  I use the free Stitcher app for my Android phone.

So far, it's a pretty vanilla discussion on QRP. Nothing isn't being talked about that a seasoned veteran QRPer wouldn't already be familiar with.  However, it seems to be a decent primer for someone just getting interested in QRP.

And lo and behold, we went from a discussion of QRP to a discussion of fan dipoles.

Oh, well, so much for that!

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




New club in town

There's a new QRP Club, or new Yahoo Group, if you will. It's the California QRP Club and membership is open to any QRPer. Residence in the Golden State is not a prerequisite.

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/calqrp/info is the link.  And as Doug Hendricks KI6DS, posted:

"The purpose and goals of the California QRP Club is to promote QRP. We don't have dues, we don't have officers, and we don't have business meetings. We do have monthly get togethers in San Jose, and we will be a co-sponsor of the qrp activities at Pacificon next year. The club will have two caretakers, Steve Smith, WB6TNL and Doug Hendricks, KI6DS. They will be responsible for the running of the club. We will not do anything that involves the exchange of money to the club. If there are expenses, Steve and Doug will pay them.

We will also issue membership numbers, only upon request. You may get yours by sending an email to directly to Steve. Do not send your request to this list. It will not be acted upon. To get your California QRP Club membership number send an email to Steve Smith at sigcom@juno.com with "CalQRP Membership number" in the subject line. Steve will assign a number to you.

I plan on doing more issues of QRPp, but it will not have a regular schedule and will be posted as a downloadable file in the file section of this list.

The first announcement that we would like to make is that the club has an Amateur Radio Club License, and the call sign is WA6GER. We are dedicated to preserving the memory and legacy of Jim Cates, and plan on activating his call at least once a month. More on that later. This was formerly the club Vanity Call Sign of NorCal but it was allowed to expire and was not renewed. When the 2 year grace period for renewal had passed, the FCC cancelled the license and WA6GER was returned to the available call sign database where anyone could have claimed it. Steve Smith did the leg work to secure the call and I want to thank him publicly for it.

Everyone is invited to join the California QRP Club, and you may do so by going to (Ed. note - see link above). and signing up."

So there you - new group in town.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Pardon me .......

........ but what exactly are you doing?"

That was question from another person here at work who passed by the picnic table where I was set up at lunchtime.  This time, however, the person knew what Amateur Radio was when I mentioned it. She asked me if I had contacted anyone, and I was able to tell her, "Yes. Hungary and Italy. Both contacted using less power than it takes to light up your average nightlight."

She seemed duly impressed, and I was able to give "The Schpiel" once again.

The stations I worked today on 20 Meters were HG500L, in Hungary. A special event station commemorating Martin Luther and his 95 Thesis - my Protestant friends will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next week.

The other station I worked was IK6FWJ, Alessandro in Corridonia, Italy Al was running 5 Watts, too and he was loud! Definitely 599 and perhaps some over. it was nice to have a 2X QRP QSO - haven't had one outside of a sprint in a while.

The magloop continues to work and surprise me.

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


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Zombie Shuffle post-mortem

I was glad to have been able to participate in the Zombie Shuffle this past Friday evening. Oh, the reason it was last Friday and not this coming Friday (which is actually closer to Halloween) is that this coming weekend is the CQ WW DX Contest.

The bands were not friendly.  In fact 20 Meters was so dead that it didn't even support any "undead" Zombies.  That left 40 and 80 Meters.  I've seen on QRP-L that for many, 80 Meters was fruitful, but for me it was not.  Right around the QRP watering hole of 3.560 MHz, I had S7 to S9 noise.  Not sure what is causing it, but the lower parts of 80 Meters were as they always are. Even so, I did manage one QSO on 80 Meters with my not so far away neighbor, W2SH.

The rest of my QSOs were made on 40 Meters, all five of them.  A grand total of six QSOs in the span of about two hours.  Pretty dismal, huh?  Yeah, pretty dismal.

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