Monday, May 04, 2015

Tonight's the night

where I make my QRP presentation to the Tri County Amateur Radio Club. I was supposed to meet with the club president, Nelson KD2CYU for dinner before the meeting. The club treasurer, Paul KD2DRM, e-mailed me yesterday that Nelson had fallen off a ladder on Saturday and has been hospitalized and had undergone surgery. There was no further information than that, so I am assuming that Nelson will be OK, but if you would all keep him in your prayers and thoughts, that would be neat.

Anyway, we're skipping dinner. Time, distance and traffic had me a bit worried that I wasn't going to make it on time, anyway. So after work, I am going to head home for a quick hot dog or sandwich and then I will head on over to the meeting site.

I'm a lector at my parish and am used to getting up to read before large groups of people, so while doing something like this presentation is not foreign to me, I'm sure I'll still have some butterflies beforehand. I am giving a Powerpoint presentation that I came up with (first time I've ever actually authored one) and my accompanying "color commentary" will be pretty much ad-libbed, off the cuff remarks. But since I know a little something about the topic, I think I'll be OK doing that.

If the presentation goes over well, I will upload the Powerpoint to my Dropbox account. I'll post the link here in a future post and in the links section so anyone can view it, or use it for that matter. On the other hand, if it falls over like a lead balloon, we will never speak of this incident again.

Fingers-crossed (figuratively).

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

Friday, May 01, 2015

And the winner is ..........

Congratulations to Ed N3CW !!!
 
 
He is the winner of this blog's 10th Anniversary celebration, a full sheet of the 1964 Amateur Radio Stamp. It is known as Scott #1260 by stamp collectors and here's the official press release given by the USPS in a Postal Bulletin issued in 1964.
 
"This 5-cent stamp honoring the nation's 250,000 amateur radio operators was first placed on sale through the Anchorage, Alaska, post office on December 15, 1964.

Designed by Emil J. Willett, the stamp portrays a radio broadcast wave and a portion of a radio dial. It was in Alaska that "hams" wrote another chapter in a long public service record by maintaining communications following an earthquake. It was issued on the 50th anniversary of the American Radio Relay League.

This stamp was printed by the rotary process and issued in panes of fifty stamps each. An initial printing of 120 million stamps was authorized."

How fitting, seeing that Amateur Radio operators are keeping that tradition of public service alive today.  Whether it be earthquakes like in Nepal, flooding on the plains, hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, typhoons in SE Asia, or the result of any other natural or man made disaster, Hams are there in the forefront, offering their time, talent and skills, freely.

Thanks to all of you who entered, and thanks to all of you who read this blog. It's been a fun first 10 years. I've learned a lot from you and hope to continue this for a good while into the future, God willing and the creek don't rise.

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



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Successful lunchtime QRP session

Today was a good one. The sun is shining brilliantly and it's a balmy 72F (22C) outside. It actually feels like Spring is here, for a change! And as icing on the cake, the HF bands seemed to be in good shape. I was able to work the following stations, all at 5 Watts with the Buddistick magmounted atop my Jeep roof:

SO90IARU - Poland - 17M
AM690VQ - Balearic Islands - 10M
MD0CCE - Isle of Man - 17M
AM690VQ - Balearic Islands - 15M
K9FO - Illinois - 20M


The last QSO was a bit of a ragchew with Will in Illinois.

So I made contacts on 10, 15, 17 and 20 Meters. Too bad I couldn't hear anyone on 12 Meters, I could have had a straight flush going there - all CW, of course. This is the kind of lunchtime QRP session that makes the balance of the workday just a bit more bearable.

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

Hams doing what they do best

These articles are from the ARRL Website:

4/27/2015
As the death toll climbs in the wake of the devastating magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Nepal, rescue and recovery work is continuing, and Amateur Radio volunteers have been a part of it. The earthquake — said to be the worst in Nepal in 80 years — hit an area between the capital city of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara. An emergency net had been running around the clock on 20 meters with Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU, as net control station and other stations in India participating. Bhide is the Amateur Radio Society of India National Coordinator for Disaster Communication.

The Nepal disaster has claimed more than 3200 lives and wreaked widespread damage. Many others are missing or have been injured. Hospitals have been flooded with those who suffered serious injuries in the earthquake. Persistent aftershocks continue to terrorize those who managed to escape harm. On Mount Everest an avalanche devastated base camp, and at least 100 climbers were stranded on the mountain. Several mountaineers were reported among the dead.

Hams in India have been among the most active responders. Parts of eastern India also suffered earthquake damage. Within Nepal, members of the Nepal Amateur Radio Society are reported to be active on HF emergency nets as well as on VHF/UHF to handle local traffic.

“The situation in Nepal is getting worse, as tremors continue to strike every hour at a magnitude of 4.7,” Bhide said. The government of Nepal has asked all people to stay out of buildings, as damage is expected to increase. Due to the conditions, emergency communication with 9N1 stations came to a standstill; no communication was possible overnight as the earthquake demolished the building where emergency communication gear was installed.”

He said Satish Kharel, 9N1AA, and his daughter Tej, 9N1DX, were able to return to the air this morning. Both are in Kathmandu. 9N1AA has said he’s operating low power with the help of solar power and coordinating with the Nepal police in Kathmandu. Suresh Upreti, 9N1HA, has been assisting with emergency communication as well. Internet service has been spotty in Nepal at best. So far, there has been no cross-border movement of either radio equipment and radio amateurs.

Sanjeeb Panday, 9N1SP, has indicated that he will be on 21.360 MHz at 1645 UTC, and radio amateurs not involved in the disaster response should avoid this frequency. 9N1SP has intermittent Internet service. He has said that propagation on 20 meters, where an initial emergency net was established was poor, but he has been in contact on 15 meters with Tim McFadden, KB2RLB/T6TM, a Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) member in Afghanistan.

Ironically, McFadden, Kharel, Panday, and others took part in MARS exercises in 2013 and 2014 in which the emergency scenario was an earthquake in Nepal. Army MARS Program Officer Paul English, WD8DBY, said the response to this earthquake followed the procedures trained during those earlier exercises. McFadden had been scanning International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Global Emergency Center of Activity (GECOA) frequencies for stations in Nepal. GECOA frequencies were established as places to pass emergency traffic. Worldwide GECOA frequencies are 21.360 MHz, 18.160 MHz, 14.300 MHz, 7.240 MHz, 7.060 MHz, 3.985 MHz, and 3.750 MHz.

Nepal’s first Amateur Radio repeater, set up in 2012 by the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), and at least a dozen ham in various locations were reported on VHF. The 9N1KS repeater (434.500 MHz in/145.000 MHz out) is on the NSET headquarters building on the outskirts of Kathmandu. A drill conducted in 2012 indicated good coverage of the Kathmandu Valley.

The US chapter of the Computer Association of Nepal provided technical and financial assistance for the repeater and supplied equipment to use it. The repeater has a battery back-up power source.

The NGO “Humanity Road” is maintaining an updated summary of damage as well as of immediate needs.

“Hams from India and other countries have set an example to provide essential communication during disasters,” Bhida said. “The coordination and cooperation have also demonstrated [there is] one world, one language.” — Thanks to Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU; Jim Linton, VK3PC; Tim McFadden, T6TM; Lloyd Colston, KC5FM; US Army MARS, and others

 
AND:

04/28/2015
Hams in Nepal, already in limited supply, continue to turn out to aid in the ongoing recovery from the April 25 earthquake that struck the Himalayan nation. Radio amateurs in neighboring India are also pitching in, and at least two groups of hams from Gujarat, India, are planning to travel to Nepal and set up stations “at critical places,” said Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI) National Disaster Coordinator Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU. He is planning to set up HF and VHF stations at Gorakhpur, on the India-Nepal border. Joining him will be Ananda Majumdar, VU2AGJ, and Sandip Baruah, VU2MUE.

 "Nepal hams are facing a hard situation,” said Bhide, who has been among the net control stations for an HF net initiated in the wake of the disaster.

The Indian hams traveling to Nepal may not be permitted to operate once they arrive, however. In an e-mail to members, ARSI President Gopal Madhavan, VU2GMN, said that Satish Kharel, 9N1AA, confirmed that “individual operators from other countries are not permitted to operate in Nepal, even during the emergency, unless they are part of a government team.” Madhavan said he was issuing the alert for the benefit of anyone planning to cross into Nepal from India and operate there.

Bhide said more Nepalese hams not formerly involved with the disaster response have since joined their Amateur Radio colleagues to volunteer communication support.

One major effort on the part of rescue teams is attempting to locate the missing, as well as to recover quake victims buried beneath debris. More than 4000 people died as a result of the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. The disaster also has stranded many people, as roads were cut off by landslides and damage.

Earlier today, Sanjeeb Panday, 9N1SP, received support from three other Nepalese Amateur Radio operators — Ajay Bhattarai, 9N1AJ; Aayush Kumar Chaudhary, 9N1AY, and Sudarshan Sharma, 9N1SH. “Dr Sanjeeb and his team continue to operate HF radio out of a local University in Kathmandu, according to a report forwarded to ARRL by Army MARS Director of Operations Paul English, WD8DBY. “Dr Panday and his team were able to send HF radio slow-scan images of the disaster via Amateur Radio to the Army MARS operator in Afghanistan,” English said. The images subsequently were posted to the US Pacific Command response coordination portal, APAN. Tim McFadden, KB2RLB/T6TM, a Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) member in Afghanistan, has been monitoring the emergency traffic. Ironically, McFadden, Kharel, Panday, and others took part in MARS exercises in 2013 and 2014 in which the emergency scenario was an earthquake in Nepal. English said the response to this earthquake followed the procedures used for training during those earlier exercises.

The earthquake — said to be the worst in Nepal in 80 years — hit an area between the capital city of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara. An emergency net has been running around the clock on HF. Members of the Nepal Amateur Radio Society were reported to be active on HF emergency nets as well as on VHF/UHF to handle local traffic.

And then there's this from the Free Press Journal:

307 from Maha rescued


Mumbai : After the conventional mode of communication like mobile and telephone systems broke down in Nepal, the state Disaster Management cell has dusted off their HAM radio sets, a 19th century communication device which is famous for its long range and network.
 
Additional Resident Commissioner, Maharashtra Sadan, Samir Sahai said, “Rescue operation has been hampered due to bad weather. I was informed by the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) that due to bad weather choppers could not operate in the hilly area to airlift people from remote areas. So far 307 people from Maharashtra have been rescued.”
 
After the request from the state government, a few amateur HAM radio operators in the city had rendered their skills in the time of distress to set up communication centers. A team of 15 HAM operators of Disaster Amateur Radio Emergency Service (DARES) joined Disaster Management cell of state and started an operation center.
 
Ankur Puranik, a businessman and an amateur HAM radio operator who is voluntarily working for state disaster said, “Since yesterday (Monday) 12 HAM operators surfaced in Nepal. We are exchanging messages like their demands and supply, stock of medicines particularly TT injections, antibiotics and messages to family members.”
 
Puranik added, “Phone lines are already damaged in Nepal. It is raining and there are heavy winds so mobiles do not have range. However, our operations are going on with some atmospheric disturbance.”
 
According to state government records, so far 307 tourist residents of Maharashtra have been rescued and landed in Delhi. Provision of accommodation is being made at Maharashtra Sadan and also transport provisions to their hometown are being made.
 
While talking to FPJ, State Disaster Management Cell Director Suhas Divase said, “We are in touch with National Disaster Management Chief Major General Anurag Gupta. We are also constantly monitoring stock of medicines, skilled manpower and other material.” He added, “The state had already sent a stock of antibiotic medicines, TT injections, bandage, hand gloves and other medicines.”
 
Vishnudas Sheshrao

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

Another case of Amateur Radio coming into significance "When All Else Fails". If you're not familiar with formal message handling, at the very least, I would advise listening to one of your local VHF/UHF traffic nets. Become familiar with the procedures and formats used for passing third party traffic. The experience you gain via NTS would become very handy should you ever find yourself in a bona fide emergency communications event. Inquire with your local municipal governing body to find out if there's a CERT team set up in your town. If not, perhaps you can meet with the local Director of Emergency Management and discuss the possibility of starting one up.

It's better to be prepared and not needed than to be needed and not be prepared, and not knowing what to do.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Just a few days left!


I will do the drawing for this on Friday, May 1st - so you have through Thursday to e-mail me your entry. To date, 56 Amateur Ops have sent me their names, calls and addresses - so everyone's odds are not shabby,

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

Happy Morse Code Day!

Today is Morse Code Day, which of course, is celebrated on the birthday of Samuel FB Morse.


Does this make Samuel the original "Old Man"?  Sorry Mr. Maxim*, I think Mr. Morse has seniority on you for that title, as Mr. Morse would be celebrating his 224th birthday today, were he of the kin of Methuselah.

Now that QRPTTF is over, except for e-mailing in my log summary, I thought I'd post where my signal was being heard on Saturday, according to the Reverse Beacon Network.

 
Even though I didn't make any contacts on 15 Meters, it appears my signal was leaping over The Pond.  Not the loudest, but still making it.  Here's as much of the table was I was able to snip.
 


Bob W3BBO and I were discussing QRPTTF yesterday amongst ourselves, and it occurred to both of us that the western half of the nation seems to have reported larger QSO totals than the eastern half of the nation. This based on e-mails sent to QRP-L that we had read. Not sure what that means, but so far I haven't seen many e-mails from anyone east of the Mississippi with log summaries of around 40 QSOs or so. It will be interesting to see how it breaks down geographically once the results are in.

The EARCHI does get heard, and being on the top of a high hill (we call those mountains, here in NJ) sure makes a difference. And this makes for the other important lesson I've learned from events such as these.  As nice as it would be to come in 1st place in a contest such as QRPTTF, the real prize won is enjoying a day outdoors, playing radio in the fresh air and sunshine, being able to forget about everyday worries, cares and concerns, even if it's just for a couple hours.

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

* - For those of you who are new to the Ham radio game, Hiram Percy Maxim who founded the ARRL, often wrote editorials under the pseudonym "The Old Man". Since HPM lived from 1869 - 1936. I guess that makes Mr. Morse the rightful holder of "The Old Man" title.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

QRPTTF - 2015

It seems for me at least, that these event hardly ever go as I envision them. In my mind, I get onsite early, with plenty of time to set up, which goes like a hot knife through butter. I have plenty of time to spend on the air, and just make scads of QSOs, then break down and come home, tired but triumphant.

As Mr. Lennon wrote, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

I had planned to get to Washington Rock State Park around Noon. The park, which is on the first ridge of the Watchung (Wach Unc in Lene Lanape) moutnains, meets the  QRPTTF theme requirement for being a place somehow related to Native Americans. What actually happened was that my daughter was invited to a sleepover/birthday party, and I had to have her at her friend's house at 2:00 PM. So much for the early start.



Set up did go like the knife through hot butter, after I made it to the park. The new Joplin ARC antenna launcher got my antenna hoist line up over a 40 foot high tree branch on the first shot.  The EARCHI was up, literally in minutes.

I got on the air at about 1830 UTC and I spent about 15 minutes calling CQ QRP on 15 Meters with no takers.  I had a feeling that 15 Meters was going to be good today. It wasn't, at least for me. So I meandered over to 20 Meters and was answered by Craig N8KMY at 1855 for my first QRPTTF QSO.

It didn't start out as a QRPTTF QSO. He called me because in his words, he couldn't believe that I was QRP.  He is located in northern MI and told me that I was one of the loudest signals on the band for him. He repeatedly asked me to confirm that I was only running 5 Watts.

He was as loud to me as I was to him, so that's where the fun began.  First he lowered his power from 40 Watts to 20 Watts, when I told him there was no difference in his signal, he continued to lower his power down to 10 Watts, and then, eventually 5 Watts.  He was astounded when I told him (quite honestly) that there was no difference between his signal at 40 Watts or 5 Watts.  A new QRP convert? I certainly hope so! Craig seemed enthusiastic enough.

Getting him down to 5 Watts qualified as a QRPTTF contact. We had a nice ragchew for about 25 minutes. A bit longer than I had intended, but it's never a bad thing to promote QRP, and bring a new soul into the fold, right? So it was worth it.

Besides, as it turned out, the bands weren't exactly rip-roaring with QRPTTF activity. I ended up making only 8 QSOs. Six on 20 Meters and two on 40 Meters.



I worked, in addition to N8KMY, NK9G, WQ8RP, K7RE, K4UPG (Kelly, my fellow QRP Polar Bear - Grrrrrrrr), WB3T, KS8M and AA5TB.

What made the day, was when my fellow SPARC members, Marv K2VHW (my official QRPTTF 2015 photographer) and Drew W2OU came for a visit.  They kept me company in between QSOs and also stayed with me until I packed up for the return trip home. Around 5:00 PM, it started getting chilly again and QRPTTF signals were becoming about as scarce as hen's teeth. So only though I put in only 2 & 1/2 hours behind the key, I decided to call it an event and head home.

The important thing was that I had fun and enjoyed my time playing radio today. It feels like I don't get to do this anywhere near enough.

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

They named a candy after me!

 
You may recall in my post about the Rookie Roundup that I had mentioned I used my EARCHI antenna, anchored to my 31' Jackite pole as a support. I had intended to shoot a support line over a convenient tree and was going to haul it up that way.
 
I started pressurizing my Joplin ARC pneumatic antenna launcher, but I couldn't build up any pressure. At first, I thought that perhaps my super cheapie WalMart bicycle pump had failed me. But listening carefully while stepping on the foot pump revealed a "whooshing" sound - so air was coming out.  Next, I thought that perhaps the Schrader valve on the launcher was busted. However, I manually manipulated the pin in the tip with a screwdriver tip and it came back after being depressed - so that was OK.
 
It was about then that Marv K2VHW said to me, "Larry, is that a big crack on the side?"
 
A HUGE crack on the side of the air pressure chamber, on the side opposite the valve - practically going down the entire side.
 
DUH!
 
That's when I remembered that last October, when I made my last outdoor QRP venture for the season to Washington Rock State Park, the launcher had slipped out of my hand as I was opening my Jeep door for the return trip home. It had hit the concrete parking lot surface pretty hard, but I didn't think twice about it at the time.  I didn't even give it a second look at the time. PVC is strong stuff after all, right?
 
I didn't notice the humongous Godzilla sized crack until Marv had pointed it out.
 
Call me Captain Oblivious.
 
I was going to try epoxying the crack. But air is like electrons - no such thing as a dumb electron - no such thing as a dumb air molecule. If either can find the shortest path, they will. I figured that once the pressure chamber was compromised, it was compromised for good.  Continually pumping air into it would probably only make the crack grow bigger, even after a patch job. So last Sunday night, I ordered another.  This is not something I would have normally done - my Ham Radio budget is EXTREMELY tight this year. But that launcher has become necessary equipment.  I'm not as talented a water bottle tosser as Jim W1PID, my arm is nothing that would scare Tom Seaver (even on my best day) and my sling shot skills are so-so to say the least. And don't even put me anywhere near archery equipment. Between the various outdoor QRP events and Field Day, that launcher has become a must have. So even though $50 is a big deal for me, the decision to order a replacement was a no-brainer.
 
I was thinking that there's no way it would arrive in time, but it showed up through the USPS on Wednesday. Talk about fast service - thanks Joplin ARC !  And how do you like that - the USPS delivered it to the right house! A lot of you are thinking that's no big deal, but there's a Clinton Place, a Clinton Terrace and a Clinton Avenue in South Plainfield. Sometimes my mail goes to other places, it can be a toss of the dice.
 
I built it Wednesday evening, after coming home from work and after typing up and sending out the local radio club's minutes for last month. The launcher is so easy to build that I could do it in my sleep - and in fact, I was so tired Wednesday night that it almost did get built while I was asleep.
 
I set it aside for a 24 hour cure, and pumped it up last night for a leak test. No bubbles in the water - yay! After pumping it up with 5 lbs of pressure, I did another check at 10 lbs of air pressure. Still no bubbles - double yay! Then a final test at 20 lbs of air pressure, as I rarely have to go above that to successfully launch an antenna. Good again - triple yay!
 
So I have a launcher for tomorrow - QRPTTF, and for the rest of forever. I am really going to be sure I never play dropsy with it again.  The spud gun has become too valuable a tool for me to be without.
 
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!
 
 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A lot better today!

I saw another e-mail in my inbox this morning from Marv K2VHW with the subject "Another flare". I groaned loudly, inwardly, because no one near me would have understood.  Then, just before heading out to the Jeep at lunch time, I checked http://www.bandconditions.com/index.htm

That had me shaking my head even more.

I'm glad I didn't give in to the temptation to chuck it all for today, because I had the best QRP lunch time that I've had in a while - numbers and predictions be damned!

I started out on 17 Meters which seemed to be in great condition. Low noise level and some loud signals. I worked EA6NB, Jaime in the Balearic Islands.  From there I wandered around a bit and worked W4B a Special Event Station for Earth Day in Florida.

After that, I switched bands and called CQ near the 20 Meter QRP Watering Hole and was answered by Dick K5TF in Atlanta, GA.  Dick had a gorgeous signal. He was pushing 5 Watts out of his K2 to a Hexbeam (secretly, I am lusting for one of these babies.  Bob W3BBO and I always dream about getting one for our stations and my good friend and fellow DXer/QRPer Steve WX2S is in the process of installing one). Not only was Dick's signal excellent, but his fist was a dream to copy. The words were appearing in my brain as if I were reading a teleprompter. It was a very enjoyable, but short chat.


From there, I decided to spend the last bit of time that I could squeeze out of lunch break by calling CQ at the 15 Meter QRP Watering Hole on 21.060 MHz.  I was greeted there by Alberto WP4L for another 2X QRP chat. Alberto was pushing 5 Watts out of his Yeasu FT-450 and sounded like he was just down the street. And I might add, another excellent fist that was bliss to copy.

If the flare that Marv e-mailed me about helped provide the kind of band conditions that I experienced today, then I hope we get them all the time! Loud signals, quiet background noise - what more could you want or ask for?  The only bad thing was having to stop so that I could come back inside in order to finish the work day out.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Of course!

Because after a rainy day yesterday, today is supposed to be sunny and a bit warmer. So I made sure to bring the KX3 in anticipation of some lunchtime QRP. And then I saw this:




And Marv K2VHW sent me this:

IPS FLARE ALERT - PART A
START OF FLARE EVENT
ISSUE TIME: Tue Apr 21 11:55:15 UTC 2015
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
A Flare (Greater than C8 in X-ray Flux) Has Just Started At:
1153 UT on 21-04-2015

Further Information Will Be Issued At the End of the Event

Australian Space Forecast Centre
IPS Radio and Space Services

So today might not be too good of a QRP day at lunch. Just thinking out loud. But you never know, because sometimes when you assume things - even obvious things, you can look pretty darned foolish when all is said and done.

When I worked at Sinar Bron, for a lot of my years there, I had a boss who was an engineer in a previous career.  And every now and then we would be working on a problem and he would offer a solution. And I'd say to him, "That's all well and good, but in real life .......".  Inevitably, I would immediately get "that look". No offense to you engineer types out there, but sometimes what works out on paper doesn't always coincide with the real world. He had a hard time grasping that concept. So it just may be interesting to see if what appears on "paper" above, compares with what I actually find out on the bands in a few hours.

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

My lunch time result was one QSO with Jim, K8CMX/4, who is on vacation in South Carolina. From Facebook, I was able to see his portable station, which was a KX1 to a Buddistick mounted on the third floor balcony where he is staying.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rookie Roundup

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club ran a station for the ARRL Rookie Roundup today. While we ourselves were ineligible to operate, we did put out an invitation to all the newly licensed Technicians from our Fall and Winter classes to come out and get their feet wet in HF. The idea, of course, was to show them that there's a whole other world out there in Amateur Radio beyond what they hear on VHF/UHF.

Club member Dave KD2FSI, who qualifies as a Rookie by time, volunteered to set up the station. I say Dave qualifies as a Rookie by time, because by the rules of the contest, he does - he was licensed less than three years ago. However, he is certainly not a Rookie by experience. He has already upgraded to General and is a very busy Ham, diving headfirst into many different facets of the hobby, portable operations being one of his favorite. I wish I could take credit for steering him in that direction, but Dave discovered that joy on his own, without my help.


We had agreed to meet at Putnam Park in town at Noon, in order to set up for the 2:00 PM start. By the time I got there, Dave already had things quite well in hand.

Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU served with distinction in the coaching perspective. Marv is quite the instructor. He has a gift and a natural talent for teaching and was able to make our Rookies feel like Old Pros in no time.


Here's a picture of Marv explaining to Mario the ins and outs of making a SSB Contest QSO. Mario made his very first HF QSO today, and the process was amazing to watch. The first few QSOs were halting and tentative, but due to Marv's excellent guidance, Mario was having a blast within short order.


Within a short amount of time, our Rookies were able to handle QSO and logging chores while we stood in the background as control operators for NJ2SP.

The opportunity seemed golden. HF operating under portable ops conditions. With QRPTTF next weekend, how could I not bring the QRP gear along? It's always good to perform a test run, no?

I bungeed my 31' Jackite pole to a nearby post and set up the EARCHI antenna as a sloper.In between my stints as an HF coach, I went to town working stations on 20, 17, 15 and 10 Meters. A lot of the contacts were MM contest QSOs, but there was one ragchew in there, also. I worked

9A7R
ZW8T
OX3XR
CO8EH
WD4MSM - ragchew
KP2F
TM9B
EG8TRV - Special Event Station
HA8VK

Not bad for the time I had, in between helping with QSO procedures, serving as a helping set of ears, and talking with some of our other newly licensed Techs about equipment, making recommendations, etc.

The Rookies had a blast as well. 10 Meters was open to Texas and the West Coast and our newbies were amazed that "talking to a guy in Idaho" was as easy as talking to a guy on the local 2 Meter repeater - and that the guy in Idaho sounded better than the guy on the 2 Meter repeater!

In all it was a fun day. I'm not sure who had more fun - our new Techs in getting their feet wet in HF, or us veterans watching their fun and excitement. It was definitely rewarding, and I hope we pushed some people a little more deeper into this fine hobby.

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Capturing our spirit

I saw a link to this video on Peter VE3HG's blog.

The devil is in the details and some might complain that some of the details in this commercial are not paid attention to - no call signs for instance. And some of the concepts are a bit stretched - did he buy that amplifier himself?  But the basics are sound, and I think this little boy, Sam, captures our Amateur Radio spirit to a "T". At least I think so. What do you think?

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

Second announcement - QRPTTF 2015


Paul NA5N and Jan N0QT have published all the details about QRP To The Field for 2015 on their Website.

Website: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/qrpttf/2015/ttf.htm

Theme related map: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/qrpttf/2015/map.jpg

The theme, as shown above, is "Geronimo" - charging out into the QRP Field to celebrate the first inhabitants of our Nation.

Luckily, New Jersey has plenty of locations that will fill the bill. One of the first operating venues that comes to mind would be to operate along the banks of the Raritan River. The Raritan is THE major river in Middlesex County. The river itself is named after the Raritan people, who were a branch of the Leni-Lenape (Delaware) Indians who inhabited Staten Island and most of New Jersey.  The Raritan River empties into Raritan Bay, whose northern most waters touch Staten Island.

There is a beautiful County park in Highland Park, NJ with some beautiful expanses that are right on the shore of the Raritan, very close to where it reaches its mouth on Raritan Bay. It's about a 20 minute or so ride from the house. I've been to the park before, but have never operated from it.

The other venue that comes to mind would be to operate from somewhere in the Watchung mountains - either Washington Rock State Park, or perhaps the Watchung Reservation (a park in Union County).  Again, the first inhabitants of the Watchung Mountains were the Leni-Lenape, who named them the "Wach Unks" or "High Hills".  It is thought the Lenape favored the Watchungs for their abundance of natural resources, including plentiful freshwater rivers and streams, a variety of forests, and plentiful fish and game. I've only been to the Watchung Reservation once, and that was when my son was still in a stroller. I may have to take a ride out there this weekend and hunt around to find a good operating spot.

The other good news is that according to WeatherUnderground, this is the forecast for the latter part of next week:


I know that with 9 days or so to go that this can change. But the trend seems to be for dry weather with moderate temperatures. Either site, the banks of the Raritan or somewhere in and around the Watchung mountains should make for a pleasant experience.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I think I've figured it out.

I haven't received an answer back from the moderator of the KX3 Yahoo Group as to why I am not allowed to post (It's been over 48 hours since I sent my e-mail).  But I think I've figured it out. It seems Yours Truly broke "da rulz". This is posted on the site, and admittedly, I did not pay it as much heed as I should have - particularly Rule #4:

"4) This is intended to be a place where we can collect and grow a body of information as it pertains to the KX3. Posting links to your "blog" or other site for the intent of driving traffic to it, is prohibited. Rather, you should post your information here for all to enjoy and have easy access for years to come. You can upload files, pictures etc. Aside from the Elecraft.com website, there is really no need for offsite information, lets amass it here. 

The above rules are required to keep this group functional and an enjoyable place for all of us to gather and share this great hobby of ours. Violators will be blocked from posting, repeat offenders will be banned from this group. This is a zero tolerance policy."

When I posted the NAQCC Sprint announcement, there was a link to the rules page and a link to the general NAQCC page.  Two no-nos on my part! And on top of that, it seems there is no hope for mercy or forgiveness. Oh my!




Any of you guys remember this character from Seinfeld?



If I can't post, it seems kind of crazy to keep getting e-mails from the group. I can't even respond to offer help or assistance - unless I respod to the poster directly. I'll have to seriously think over leaving the group.

Looking back on it, it all seems rather silly. The moderator of a group dedicated to one of the most popular QRP radios being miffed by an e-mail about one of the most popular monthly QRP Sprints. Crazy, right? A "glove and hand" fit, no? You'd think something like that would be welcome compared to some of the inane things that sometimes get discussed. Oh, well.

On the brighter side, 15 Meters during lunch was awesome today. I seemed to have the pipeline to Europe established.  Two QSOs with Germany and one with the Czech Republic. The first was with Klaus who was running DK65DARC, a Special Event station commemorating the anniversary of the DARC, I would assume.  The next was with Paul, DL6UEF.

The prize QSO was with Vasek OK2VWB. He answered my CQ up at the 15 Meter QRP Watering Hole and we had a delightful 2X QRP QSO.  Vasek was using an FT-817 at 5 Watts, feeding a two element Quad.  He was loud, 579 loud. And the antenna helped him on the receiving end as he came back to me with a 569 report. Not bad for 5 Watts to a Buddistick, eh?

Two rules of "conventional wisdom" regarding QRP broken at the same time. I love it when that happens!  You know the rules I'm talking about, right?

Rule #1 - QRPers should NEVER call CQ.
Rule #2 - QRP signals are ALWAYS weak.

There's lots more rules with regards to QRP and QRPers. I've read them so many times, I could probably recite 'em in my sleep. But you know what I say about the "QRP Rules"?


Carry on and have fun, QRPers! Seems like I've been breaking a lot of rules lately. Call me a rebel.

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



Monday, April 13, 2015

Odd ..... very odd.

I am going to be charitable and say that the bands were "in less than good condition" at the times I was available to play a little radio this weekend. I could use more "colorful" language, complete with the emotional expletives I felt like using at the time, but since this is a "family friendly" blog, I will refrain. However, the bands did their best "skunk act" on Saturday afternoon when I got on for a bit of operating.  I expected them to be wall-to-wall with Georgia QSO Party activity, but at most I barely heard a whisper. I heard no DX to speak of on any band 10-20 Meters and 30 Meters, for me, was noisy as all get out.

I was hoping for better conditions for the few hours I had available on Sunday - and indeed, the bands MAY have been better, but I'll never know. I got involved in something that stole my operating time away from me.

I brought the radio with me to work today. Hopefully, I will be able to break my desk/chain and will be able to get out to the parking lot during lunch break.

On to another matter - the one by which I came up with the title for this post. Late last night, I made a point to post the announcements for the April NAQCC Sprint, which is happening this Tuesday evening. I got all 20 announcements out except for one - the one to the KX3 Yahoo group. All the other Yahoo groups that I normally post to, took the announcement with no difficulty and nary a whimper.  I thought that perhaps, somehow the KX3 group wasn't appreciating the fact that I was using a bulk e-mailer, so I tried sending the announcement as a single, solitary e-mail. Same result - rejection. Then I went directly to the KX3 Yahoo group page, thinking I would post directly from there. Again, the ability for me to post to the group had been "turned off" for whatever reason.

This really has me stumped.  I don't post very often, and I have definitely NOT been involved in any flame wars or any other kind of nasty shenanigans on the e-mail reflector. Why I have been banned from posting is beyond me. I didn't even get any sort of note stating that my announcement would be looked at, approved and posted by the moderator. No, I've been outright shut down.

I have an e-mail out to the moderator, politely asking for an explanation. That could take days, however. Until then, this remains a mystery to me.

UPDATE:  I think I know the reason. I'm not certain, though, so I won't say anything about it for a few days in order to wait for an official confirmation of my suspicions.  I'll have more to say about this, then.

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

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fox hunting season has come to a close

The 2014/2015 Fox hunting season came to an official close last evening - a very dismal close. All I was able to grab last night was skunk pelt as bot Foxes eluded me. 80 Meters was very noisy last night with QRN from springtime thunderstorms just filling the aether.

The two Foxes for the evening were Keith KB9WMJ in WI and Jim WA4ILO in GA. Jim was little more than a whisper all evening and I pretty much gave up any hope of working him early on. Keith in WI held out more hope. He started out low and built up strength throughout the evening. Towards the 3/4 mark of the hunt, he was a decent S7.  My signal to him, on the other hand, must have been in the toilet, as I was not able to make myself heard.  A+ for effort, F- for results.

The Foxes throughout the season deserve an A++++ for their efforts. Even though I missed a lot of the 40 Meter hunts due to teaching duties, it was a relatively good season for me with a batting average of higher than .500 for both 40 and 80 Meters.  Any success on my part was do to their skill, fantastic ears and equipment more than my prowess, that's for sure!

Being a Fox in past years, my heart went out to both Keith and Jim last evening. It's very frustrating to be sending out CQ FOX continuously for 90 minutes and not being able to hear all the hounds calling. You're there to make QSOs, and it's annoying when you can't, whether it's due to crummy propagation or horrid band conditions.

But alas, this is why the 80 Meter hunts end in April.  Although I suppose you could have 40 Meter hunts throughout the year - winter and long dark nights are the best friend of the 80 Meter hunts.  The summer season will bring the hunts to 20 Meters.  My average goes way down in the summer as the band is long and it seems that a majority of the Hams who volunteer to be Foxes live too close, by comparison. Many are the times in the summer when DX stations are much louder than the Fox being pursued.

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

Monday, April 06, 2015

A surprise through the mail!

One day last week upon arriving home from work, my some Joey greeted me with, "You got a package through the mail today."  My eyebrows immediately arched as I haven't ordered anything lately. It was a small brown box with a Customs sticker on it.  Now I was really perplexed as not only haven't I ordered anything, but I definitely haven't ordered anything from overseas.

Throwing caution to the wind, I opened it and found the following inside:


A coffee mug (or perhaps better - a tea mug) from Richard Newstead G3CWI, owner of SOTABeams. Thank you Richard, the mug is very much appreciated!

For those of you not familiar, SOTABeams is like a candy store for those of us who are into portable ops - particularly the SOTA operators among us. Richard offer antennas, antenna tuners, masts, antenna accessories - all with portable ops first in mind. Personally, I really like the variety of products that are available and I think I may be placing an order soon, as Richard ships worldwide.

Richard's products are afordable and have gotten great user reviews. I especially like his linked dipoles and Band Hopper antennas. And he offers a full line of SOTA patches, badges, window and bumper stickers.  You should check SOTABeams out!



The concepts seem simple enough, but when you find it all pre-assembled using quality materials at good prices (and designed and manufactured with the portable ops Ham in mind, to boot!), I have to admit, it takes away some of that urge to homebrew!

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

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Sunday - 2015


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The strife is o'er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions hath dispersed:
let shout of holy joy outburst.
Alleluia!

For this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Amen!

Easter Blessings to you and yours.

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