Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Got a lot accomplished

Just about everything that I wanted to get done this weekend, I did.

The highlight was getting on the radio on Monday.  There wasn't much activity, but I did hear Eritrea rather loudly on 30 Meters.  I dove into the pileup, but gave up rather quickly. My heart just wasn't into working DX. Instead, I went down to 40 Meters and had two "Bob" QSOs. The first one with Bob KC8MFF, in West Virginia.  We chewed the fat for about a half an hour.

As I was signing with him, I heard a very familiar call, calling me.  It was Bob W3BBO in Erie, PA on his recently built QCX transceiver.  Powered by 4 Watts, Bob was a very pleasantly readable 569 in NJ, and I got a 579 in return.  Bob told me that my signal was the best he's heard from me in a long time.  This was the first time we've QSO'ed since I raised the W3EDP another 10-15 feet, so it was either that, or band conditions were just very good. Maybe a combination of both.

I also got the PWS (personal weather station) up and running in a temporary spot.  As mentioned, the station is being held aloft by 20 feet of aluminum Army surplus masting, which is anchored in a 5 gallon paint bucket full of concrete.  It was tricky getting the whole affair level, so that the anemometer (wind meter) would function properly.  It's a hack job for now, but the masting is plumb. This spring, I'll get some brick, blocks or pavers and I will make a level base for the bucket to sit on. Once that's done, I'd feel more comfortable about adding a couple more mast sections to get the sensor up to the 30 foot level.

If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the blog, you'll see a WeatherUnderground box which is displaying real time weather conditions at the W2LJ QTH.

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

Friday, January 12, 2018

Busy weekend coming up

We have a long weekend coming up, as the company where I work (NOT the company for whom I work) observes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday as a holiday.  I have to use one of my vacation days if I want to receive paid time off.

Even though I have to burn a vacation day, I am grateful for the extra day off as there is a ton of things I want to accomplish this weekend.

1) Tomorrow morning is the monthly VE Session that our club holds. According to Drew W2OU, our VE Liaison, in his last e-mail to the team, he announced that we have only one candidate who pre-registered. We do accept walk-ins, so that could very well increase.

2) I want to get on the air!  Dang it, I haven't had the chance to play radio in too long of a while.  The NAQP CW is this weekend and that's an easy exchange. Of course the weekend I'd like to rag chew, there's a major contest going on - that's always the way.  I suppose if I decide to not get involved with contest exchanges, there's always 30 Meters.

3) Sunday is our monthly day at the soup kitchen, That kind of eats up the whole afternoon.

4) Today, we have a big rain storm here in NJ  and temperatures are in the upper 50s. That should wash away all the snow from last week.  That will allow me to get the outdoor Christmas decorations taken down and stored in the basement.  That looks like a Monday chore. Of course after the storm pulls out, Arctic air will come rushing back in - so Monday will be frosty, but sunny and dry, hopefully.

5) I want to get the personal weather station that I got from Marianne for Christmas up and running!  I plan to use my military surplus masting for the purpose.  I have one piece already anchored in cement in a 5 gallon paint bucket.  I just need to drag that to a suitable place  (it only weighs about 70 pounds) and plop it down.  I think another mast section or two will get the unit to a suitable height for proper performance. This might also be a Monday project.

I cringe, because the line "The best laid plans of mice and men .............." come to mind whenever I make plans. I hope I can get most, if not all of this, done.

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

Monday, January 08, 2018

January thaw?

I certainly hope so!

Once we get out of this deep freeze my basement shack should warm up enough to where I actually feel like spending time behind the radio and soldering iron again. I spent the afternoon yesterday putting away all the indoor Christmas decorations and my little Brookstone clock/thermometer on the shack bench-top was indicating an ambient room temperature of 56F (13C). Even with a long sleeved T-shirt (my NPOTA shirt), a golf shirt AND a hoodie sweatshirt, it was only slightly comfortable.

Such is the "advantage" of having an efficient gas fired furnace.  It radiates little radiant heat from itself, putting all the energy into the forced hot air going to the rest of the house. Now, when I was a youngster living with my parents, they had an old coal furnace that was converted to oil.  That monster would not only boil enough water to force steam to the radiators throughout the house, it always kept the immediate surrounding area in the basement warm and toasty.

For a brief while, I had my shack down there.  The way the house was situated though, made for a really long run of coax from antenna to rig. I'm sure that I lost more RF through the feed line than I radiated out into the aether.

I know I mentioned a few posts ago about getting a space heater for the basement; but those things really run up the electric bill.  If I'm going to throw money away; I'd rather throw it away on something else.

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

Friday, January 05, 2018

My kindle is on fire!

Not literally, but I've been using it a lot lately.  I've had my kindle Fire for about 3 or 4 years since my wife gave it to me as a Christmas present.  I have always used it for reading books, but it took a back burner to Samsung tablets, which I seemed to prefer.

That changed recently when Marianne's tablet gave up the ghost. Instead of going out and buying a new one (it happened just AFTER Christmas, isn't that always the way?), I did a factory reset on my Samsung Galaxy 4 and gave it to her to use.  Since then, I've been concentrating on using the kindle.

In addition to all the books I already had on it, I've added more Amateur Radio stuff:

1) The Radio Boys books
2) The QST app (which I didn't know you could get on the Fire - I was pleasantly surprised.)
3) I renewed my subscription to CQ through the Amazon magazine app.  The Fire doesn't support Zinio, which is what I was using on the Galaxy. The neat thing is that, while Zinio never sent out a notification when my CQ subscription would run out, the Amazon app will auto-renew until I tell it to stop. No more missed issues!

I use the kindle at work every day for listening to music via Pandora. It has rich, Dolby sound that is far superior to the sound coming out of the Galaxy.

Yeah, using the kindle as my primary tablet device has its downfalls. There are a lot of Android apps it won't support because of conflicts with Amazon. But I have the important Amateur Radio related ones on my phone - so no problem there. And by resetting the Galaxy and giving it to Marianne, I've gotten rid of a lot of useless junk that I was accumulating over the past few years.  This is yet another case where "Less is more". Appropriate for a QRPer!

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

So far, a mixed bag.

2018 has started out with a bang.

My wife Marianne, woke me up New Year's Day at 5:30 AM, asking me to take her to the Emergency Room at the hospital, as her heart was racing and fluttering. She has a history with A-fib, so I got her there quickly enough. They increased one of her medications intravenously, and our scare abated in a few hours.

However, her doctors decided to run a few tests, which ended up taking a few days.! "Just to be sure, you know.", they said. And really, who can argue with that?  Thank the Lord, all the test results were good and I was able to bring her home Wednesday night,

Yesterday, we had our first significant snow for the Winter.  The Governor declared an emergency in order to keep non-essential traffic off the roads. That didn't bother the company where I work, one whit. I managed to get in early, but it seemed almost everyone who works here decided to telecommute and work from home. Unfortunately, my position doesn't allow that. I was given permission to leave an hour early and the commute only took about 20 minutes longer than normal, so even that wasn't too bad.

When I got home, I was positively overjoyed to see my son had shoveled the walkway and the driveway. I have a great son!  All I had to do was clean off Marianne's car.  In addition to doing that, I decided to start it up and let it run for a bit, only to find the battery exhausted. It jump started right away; but it's the original battery and it IS 6 years old. This weekend I will replace it.

The only problem being that the process will be no joy in and of itself. The temps the next few days are going to be uncommonly cold for a QTH that is only about 20 miles or so (as the crow flies), away from the relatively warm Atlantic Ocean. It's NOT common for us to get into the minus Fahrenheit numbers here in South Plainfield. Maybe only once or twice a winter?  Of course, that will occur the weekend I need to work outdoors, replacing a car battery.

No, no garage and "Mr. All Thumbs" here has difficulty working with gloves on, so I am sure there will be a trip or two inside to run my hands under lukewarm water in order to get the feeling back in them.

But ....... it could always be worse ........ right?

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

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Not so "oldies".

Thanks again to Mike KD5KC for posting these on QRP-L.

You may remember a few years ago (I think it was just a few years ago - maybe 10 years?, or maybe I'm having a "senior moment"?) Icom released a series of comics entitled "The Adventures of Zack and Max".  These were anime style comic books intended (I guess) to get the youngsters curious about Amateur Radio.

Max was a strange little pig companion to Zack - a boy and his pig - go figure.

Anyway, here are their links - both as comic books or as coloring books. If you have any kids or grandkids who are curious about what it is that you do - these may be helpful to explain it to them in a more contemporary fashion.

The Adventures of Zack and Max, Vol 1-7

Accompanying coloring books of The Adventures of Zack and Max.

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

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Some more oldies, but goodies

This list was posted on QRP-L by Mike Olbrisch KD5KC - The Radio Boys series.  These books are in the same genre as The Hardy Boys or Tom Swift, but these deal with "wireless" and go back to the early 1920s when Amateur Radio was still in its infancy.

For those of you with a kindle, these can be download for FREE from Amazon.

1. The Radio Boys’ First Wireless

2. The Radio Boys at Ocean Point

3. The Radio Boys at the Sending Station

4. The Radio Boys at Mountain Pass

5. The Radio Boys Trailing a Voice

6. The Radio Boys on the Mexican Border

7. The Radio Boys on Secret Service Duty

8. The Radio Boys in the Thousand Islands

9. The Radio Boys’ Search for the Inca’s Treasure

10. The Radio Boys Rescue the Lost Alaska Expedition

11. Radio Boys Cronies

12. Radio Boys Loyalty: Bill Brown Listens In

13. The Radio Boys with the Revenue Guards

So yeah, the stories are a bit campy, perhaps and the language and slang is old - but what the heck? They're free and they're almost 100 years old!

I downloaded them all to my kindle and am enjoying them. I hope you will, too!

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

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A little dated

but still fun to look through:

The Archie comic book issue devoted to Amateur Radio - https://kk4dsd.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/archies_ham_radio_adventure.pdf

I don't know if kids read comic books, anymore - other than graphic novels.  I was past kidhood when this first came out. As one who DID read Archie comics at one point, I can confidently say, that had it come out when I was a youngster, it would be dog-eared, and practically worn out from being read so much!

Hope it stirs some fond memories for you!

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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year - 2018

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all who read this blog; and share the hobby of Amateur Radio a very Happy New Year!

May 2018 always be in VFO A.
May 2017 always be in VFO B.
May you get all those ATNOs that 2018 has to offer.
May you get that new piece of gear that you've been dreaming about.
May the bands favor you with the most agreeable conditions.
May your friendships and your enjoyment of the hobby always increase.
May your worries and cares always decrease.

But most importantly, may your friends and loved ones be favored with good health, prosperity, happiness and joy. That is my most sincere wish for you all!

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I have to pick up a space heater!

For the shack. I didn't participate in the 40 Meter QRP Fox Hunt last night as it was only 56F (13C) in the basement. Years ago, in my youth, that wouldn't have bothered me. Now it's just too uncomfortable and I confess that I've become a creature of comfort.

We're experiencing a blast of Arctic air here in NJ and whenever the outside temperature ventures into the "teens",  the basement becomes very chilly. Once it gets below 60F (15C) down there, it just gets too chilly for me to spend any significant amount of time behind the radio.

As it is, I typically wear three shirts at home during the winter months - a long sleeved T as a first layer, followed up with a golf type polo shirt as a second layer, with a heavier sweat shirt as a third layer.  In order to keep the gas bill at a manageable level, we keep the thermostat at 66F for the day and 64F for the night.

I need to move to the Carolinas, or Tennessee or somewhere like that. Or buy a space heater for the shack - which I think I will do.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least (and your fingers aren't frozen)!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

OK - new project

Since Santa didn't bring the Arrow antenna that I wanted in order to try my hand at the FM satellites (and possibly get more Field Day points this year), and my homebrew magloop turned out so well - I've decided to try my hand at another:


And it comes complete with a video!

Doesn't look too expensive to build and I think we have enough coat hangers in various places around the house where I wouldn't have to go out and buy any.

The Arrow antenna is nice and all, but the cost was around $140, if I remember correctly. That's a lot to pay for something that I just want to play with from time to time and not be really dedicated to. This will probably serve me just as well; and I could use whatever $$$ I manage to save in the future towards more QRP and CW stuff.

And the last benefit ..... there's NOTHING like homebrewing something and have it work. I know I'm jumping the gun here; but KG0ZZ certainly makes look "do-able".

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

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I know, some of you are probably saying, "Wait, what? Christmas is over!"

But it's really not ...... remember the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"?  Christmas is more than a day, it IS a season.  So don't throw out or put away those Christmas trees just yet. Enjoy the Season!

I hope Santa was good to you and left a key, radio or some neat accessory under your tree.  I got some shave soap (I wet shave - an electric razor just tears up my face and especially my neck!), a shirt and that personal weather station I had been wanting.

It's not a Peet Brothers unit, rather one of the more inexpensive ones. And that's fine by me. I just want something that I can hook up to WeatherUnderground and play around with. This will do just fine and I am grateful for it.

We did not get a white Christmas this year. But it was very windy and cold. in fact, our daily high temperatures for the next week or so are not to exceed the high 20s F (-3C).  And the NY NJ PA Weather Guy, who I follow on Twitter, is saying something about the possibility of a major winter storm for our area next weekend.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I hope to get on the air a few evenings this week to see how the 160 Meter band is doing and to see if I can squeeze out a contact or two.  It's been a long time since I got on the air looking just to chew the fat for a bit.

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

Monday, December 25, 2017

THE Gift - Christmas Day 2017

I came that you might have life and live it more abundantly.
I came to make all things new.
I came that you might have Eternal Life.

Merry Christmas!
May you be surrounded this day, and all the year through
by family, friends, warmth, joy, peace, happiness and health!

From the W2LJ household to yours!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Gift

Daniel was proud of his daughter, Kaitlyn. At 17 years old, she was a senior in High School. Her grades were excellent; and her future looked bright, indeed. Although not considered to be one of the popular kids at school, Kate had her share of friends, all “good kids” as Daniel thought of them. Kate had a relatively normal social life for a teenager, and was even involved in a couple clubs at school.

The one she was most enthusiastic about was the West Valley High Amateur Radio Club. Kate had earned her Ham license early on as a 9 year old. Even back then, she knew the high school had a club and she eagerly anticipated becoming a member one day. It was a natural fit and she joined in her Freshman Year. She blossomed under the tutelage of the club’s Faculty Adviser, Mr. Jackson. By her Sophomore year, Kate was elected Vice-President and then President in her Senior year.

All the equipment in Kate’s shack at home had either been donated or had been built by hand. Daniel regretted not being able to purchase any fancy or exotic radio equipment for his daughter. Due to a workplace accident, he was on disability and its resulting fixed income. A legal settlement provided enough to allow them to keep their house and live relatively worry free, and the monthly disability check provided for food on the table and clean clothes for his wife and their three children. “Niceties” like vacations, or expensive gadgets were out of the question, though. But the family didn't live in the Stone Age, either. They had a computer and access to the Internet, just the same as every other average American family.

It didn’t matter much to Kate as she actually enjoyed “homebrewing” her own gear. She did have one wish though, and that was for an HF all band, all mode transceiver that would allow her more freedom to explore the Ham bands than her homemade gear would allow. So she set about earning it. Serving as a life guard at the community pool during the summers and tutoring school kids from the neighborhood had allowed her to earn just enough money for what a lot of experienced Amateurs would consider a “beginner’s rig”. Even though Kate was a veteran Ham, this would be her very first piece of commercial gear that she could consider to be her own. Finally the day came, and Daniel had offered to drive Kate to the closest Amateur Radio store closest to them. They set out for the “Ham Radio Depot”, on a cold but sunny Saturday December morning. “Ham Radio Depot” was a chain of stores located in several states, and the closest one was just over the state line.

Daniel told Kate that first he had to stop for gas for the trip. Kaitlyn offered to pump the tank full while her dad went into the store part of the gas station in order to buy them both some sodas and snacks to tide them over while they made their way to the store. As Kate was pumping the tank full, a disheveled man wearing old, beat up clothes walked up to her. Even though he was unkempt and had long shaggy hair and looked like he could use a shower and a shave, he had a kind face and a gentle voice. “Hey there, young lady, you got any change you could spare?” Kate was about to answer the man when the owner of the gas station chased after the old man.

“Get away from here you old boozer! I’ve told you never to come back here again!”

With a sigh, the man shrugged his shoulders and then thrust his hands deep into his jacket pockets and left. It was obvious that he didn’t want to make too much trouble As the man was walking away, Kate asked the gas station owner who the man was.

“I dunno. some old boozer who lives underneath the underpass over by the Interstate. Says he's a veteran, but I think he’s just an old panhandler just looking for handouts from my customers.”

Kate finished filling up the tank; and placed the nozzle back on the pump. When her Dad returned he told him what happened, Daniel told Kate to get into the car so they could get started. As they made their way onto the road, Kate spotted the man who had been chased away, just ahead of them a little bit.

“Dad, stop the car and let’s talk with this guy for a bit.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Kate. We don’t know who this guy is.”

“ I don’t know much about him, either, Dad. But I don’t think he’s bad. He just had a way about him that tells me there’s more to the story than what the guy who owns the gas station said about him.”

Knowing his daughter had a big heart; and against his better judgment, Daniel headed towards the stranger. As they pulled up to him, Daniel slowed the car and Kate rolled the window down.

“Hey mister, remember me?”

The old guy looked at him, “Oh, you’re the kid from back at the gas station. I'm sorry if I scared you. I meant no harm.”

Daniel stopped the car and the two of them got out. “Not at all, Mister. I was wondering if we could do anything for you?”

“I’m sorry young lady, I was just looking for some spare change. I wasn’t about to buy beer or drugs or anything like that. I wanted to buy some food for me and my friends.”

Daniel chimed in, “Hi there, Old Timer! I’m Daniel and this is my daughter, Kate. Just who are you and your friends that you need to buy food for?”

The old man answered, “The name is Robert. I’m a Viet Nam vet. I’m a bit down on my luck and have no home. I lost my Maggie in '06 to breast cancer. Then in 2008, I lost my job in the recession. Before I even realized, the bank foreclosed on the mortgage and I was out on the streets. Nobody wants to hire an old guy like me, Now I live with some other vet friends – one from the Gulf War, another like me from “Nam.”

“Where do you guys stay? Do you really live under the underpass up the road?” Kate asked.

“Yep. Me and my friends built a few shacks out of cardboard and some old sheet metal we’ve come across. It’s not the Waldorf, but it keeps us dry and decently warm.” Robert answered.

“What branch were you in? If you don't mind me asking, that is.” asked Daniel”

“I’m a Navy man, sir. I was posted on a surveillance ship off the coast of North Viet Nam. I was a radio intercept technician”

Kate couldn’t contain herself “Radio? Really?”

“Yes, ma'am! I served on the USS Jamestown AGTR-3. We were parked off the coast of North Vietnam to monitor Viet Cong communications.”

Kate explained her own interest in radio and how she had been a Ham since her younger days They talked for a bit. When Daniel felt that Robert was on the up and up and wasn’t scamming them, he handed him a twenty dollar bill.

“It’s not much, but it’s about all the spare I have on me, Robert. Sorry I can’t offer you more.”

Robert shook his hand, “I’m much obliged to you, sir. I thank you for your kindness.”

Daniel answered, “No sir, not at all. Thank you for your service. I only wish there was more I could do for you. Well, we better head off. I’m taking Kate here to but a Ham radio that she earned for herself.”

“That’s OK.” Robert said. “You’ve done more than most. You’ve treated me like ordinary folk and didn’t just chase me away. Have a good trip and maybe we’ll meet up again, some day. I’d sure like to see that shiny new rig of yours, Kate.”

Daniel and Kate got in the car and drove away. Kate watched Robert walk away in the rear view mirror. She was quiet for a long time.

“You OK, Kate?” Daniel asked his daughter.

“Yeah, Dad. I’m OK. But it’s not right, Robert being homeless and all. He did his time in the Navy, he made a sacrifice for us. Somebody should do something for him now.”

They drove a little longer.

“Dad? Would you turn around?”

“Why, Kate?” he asked.

“I want to go to the Camp-More store and buy some stuff for those guys. I want to use my radio money.”

“Kate, you’ve worked so hard and long for that! If anyone deserves that new radio, it’s you! Are you sure, Honey?”

“I'm sure Dad. I just can’t go spending on myself, when I know there are men right here in our own town who need our help”.

Daniel reluctantly agreed. He knew his daughter’s heart was in the right place. He also knew her determination. Once she set her mind to something, that was it, so he knew better than to try and talk her out of her decision. They stopped at the sporting goods store on the way home and bought some warm sleeping bags and some other camping gear. Then they went to the local big box store and bought some blankets and some non-perishable food stuff.

“You want to take this stuff over there now, Kate?”

“Yeah. Let’s go”

They group of vets weren’t hard to find. There was only the one underpass in town that ran under the interstate. Robert saw them pull up, he had recognized their car.

“Kate, Daniel! You’re back so soon! What radio gear did you buy?”

“I didn’t, Robert. We went and got some stuff for you and your friends.”

Daniel opened up the trunk and started to unload all the items they had bought.

Robert was stunned. “Why thank you so much! God bless your souls. You didn’t have to do this, Kate!”

Kate answered, “I know I didn’t have to, I wanted to”.

“But your radio! Your Dad told me how you worked so hard!”

“There’s some things more important than radio, Robert. You sacrificed for this country. It’s time somebody did something for you.” The teenager said.

Robert and Daniel looked at him and then at each other. Both had misty eyes.

“That’s some daughter you have there, Daniel”

“Don’t you think I don’t know it, Robert?”

They all shook hands again and Daniel and Kaitlyn left for home.

“This isn’t over by a long shot, Dad.”

That night, Kate got on the family computer and started a Go Fund Me page. She explained the need the homeless veterans had. She sent the link to all her high school and Ham friends. She posted the link on social media, and it went viral. Before long, the Go Fund Me page had raised over $5,000. Kate’s social media posts had been seen by a local newspaper reporter and the story got spread even farther and wider.

As Christmas approached Kate was approached by a hotel owner who was touched by the story and was willing to put up the three veterans in some of his rooms until they got on their feet. Some local business men also got in touch with Kate to offer employment to the three Veterans.

On Christmas Eve, Kate, her Dad and her closest high school friends drove out to the place where the homeless Veterans were camped out. “Hi Kate! Hi Daniel! Good to see you! Who are all those people?” Robert asked, warily.

“Just some good friends, Robert. We wanted to come out and see you – we have some Christmas gifts for you and your buddies.”

Kate explained the Go Fund Me page to Robert and handed him the cash they had raised. Then the local hotel owner, Mr. McCutcheon explained to Robert that he had warm rooms to offer, and they could live there for a few months until the Veteran's got back on their feet.

“I don't know what to say.” Robert said. “I don't know how we'll ever be able to pay you back for all this.”

Then from the back of the crowd, a man stepped forward. “I think I can help with that. My name is Dave Taylor. I'm the manager of the local Home Handyman Outlet store. From the looks of the way you gentlemen built up your shelters here, it's obvious you're pretty handy and know a thing or two about building things. I came to offer you jobs at the local store in town, if you want them.”

Robert and his two comrades were flabbergasted. Never before had anyone ever gone out of their way for them they way Kaitlyn and Daniel had. A reporter from the local newspaper, Sherry Edwards, stepped forward and asked Robert and Kaitlyn and Daniel if she could interview them for a story for the paper. They agreed and the four of them agreed to meet at the diner in town in an hour for some coffee and conversation. As the little crowd started to disperse, Robert have Daniel and Kaitlyn a big hug. “God bless you both! You've been so kind. How can I ever repay you?”

Daniel replied, “Robert, you paid it forward, by your service to our country. Now it's time we re-paid YOU! You know, if you want to really repay us, though, then join us for Christmas dinner at our house tomorrow. I can't promise you anything fancy, just some hot food, a warm house and my the company of my family."

That Christmas was one of the best ever for Daniel and his family. He appreciated all the gifts he had. Even though life had dealt him some hardships and tough times, he had a family who loved him and who he loved back. He was proud of his daughter for her big heart, and for the fine young woman she had grown up to be.

The day after Christmas, the family was sitting around the table after breakfast when the door bell rang. Daniel looked at his wife and kids, “Are we expecting company?”

“I'm not expecting anyone, dear. You're brother is coming for a visit, but that's not until the weekend.” she said.

Daniel went to answer the door. There was a man there with a box under his arm.

“Is this the Walker residence?” he asked.

“Yes, I'm Daniel Walker. What can I do for you?” Daniel asked.

“Is your daughter, Kaitlyn home, Mr. Walker?”

“What's this all about?” Daniel asked. The two men talked quietly for a bit. The rest of the family in the kitchen were bursting with curiosity. Daniel finally walked into the kitchen along with the man from the front door. “Hi Honey” he said to his wife, “This is Ted Baker and he came to see Kaitlyn.”

Kaitlyn had a puzzled look on her face, “Me?” she asked.

Ted Baker spoke up, “Hi Kaitlyn! I'm the manager of the local Ham Radio Depot store. We read on Facebook about what you did for those Veterans in town here. We were especially touched by your selflessness and that you sacrificed the money you had saved to buy what was going to be your new rig. To us, that exemplified the Spirit of Ham Radio. So on behalf of Ham Radio Depot and all your fellow Amateur Radio friends, worldwide, we'd like to present you with this brand new Icom IC-7300.

Kaitlyn looked like she was about to faint. It was the last thing she ever expected and when she recovered, all she could squeak out was, “Really?”

Ted laughed and answered, “Really, Kaitlyn. You've showed us what Ham Radio is all about and what we can all be, if only we aspire to it. Merry Christmas to you and your family!”

Daniel and his wife beamed. This was truly the best Christmas they had had in quite a long time.

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thinking about SKN already

Even though Christmas hasn't come yet, I'm already thinking about what to do for Straight Key Night.  I've decided to put the KX3 into mothballs for the evening and will give the HW-8 the place of honor on the shack desk.

I will use either my W2WK straight key; or maybe I'll break out the ol' Vibroplex Original and will make some ears bleed.

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's enough to ruin your Christmas Spirit - almost!

A miscellaneous blog post, having not much to do with Amateur Radio, other than the fact that my shack is located in our basement..

The weekend was going pretty well. I was looking forward to a nice quiet, Sunday.  I had come home from Mass that morning and was taking a bite out of my sandwich that I was having for lunch. All of a sudden, from the basement, my XYL, Marianne, uttered those seven dreaded words that no one ever wants to hear:

"There's water all over the basement floor!"

Like the fellow in the poem "T'was The Night Before Christmas", I ran down the stairs to see what was the matter!

Yes indeed, there WAS water all over the basement floor.  It appeared that the mud sink that we have down there had overflowed.  The water level in the sink itself had gone down; but was still pretty high.  I figured that maybe some lint from the washing machine exhaust had clogged the sink, so I tried plunging it.  No dice.  To make matters worse, one of the two kids upstairs had run one of the sinks and I saw the water level in the sink rise before my eyes. I'm no plumber, but to me that indicated one thing ....... the main sewer line was clogged. Ugh!

Let's see we've had the house for almost 20 years now and in 2020 the house will be 100 years old. The town switched over from septic systems to sewers somewhere around the 1940s or 1950s, I think - so about 70 years worth of buildup had accumulated on the inside walls of those pipes.

I called a "24/7 emergency plumber" and thankfully, he came to the house within an hour. And to my dismay, he confirmed my diagnosis.  As he went to remove the cap from the sewer line cleanout, I braced for more water to come gushing forth - after I had already wet-vac'ed up what had come out of the sink.


That meant the clog was between the sink and the cleanout. So I left him to do his thing and after a while he said he was finished.  We ran the sinks, the toilets and the tub and everything seemed to be in good shape.

Not so quick, grasshopper.

After he left, Marianne put in a load of wash and sure enough, when the clothes washer drained, it filled up the sink again. Only this time, it didn't overflow and was draining very, very slowly. This resulted in a call back and the plumber returned to re-snake the pipe.  Again, we ran all the water we could think of and nothing was backing up in the sink.  But this time, I made the mistake. It was getting late in the evening and I didn't want to keep the guy as he had other calls to go to before going home - so I didn't run the washing machine until he left.

Big mistake!  It was still backing up, almost as bad as the first time. The problem was that it wasn't evident under normal "trickles" of water. But when you dumped a massive amount of water in the sink, all at once, like the clothes washer does, it then became evident that there was still a nasty clog.

At that point, exasperated and frustrated, I decided to take a sick day on Monday and I called the plumbing company back in the morning.  This time, the plumber's manager  was very apologetic and promised  to speak with the technician regarding everything he had done to this point.  Between the two of them, they came up with a slightly different solution.  His manager instructed him to put an attachment on to the snake that allowed him to actually push out the offending built up sludge instead of just making a drainage hole through it. He snaked that bad boy all the way from the sink, past the cleanout, all the way to the street - some 200 feet.

This time, he stayed while we ran a short, but full load cycle from the clothes washer. Eureka! Success! It drained without backing up, whatsoever!

As bad as Sunday went, I thank God that this didn't happen Christmas weekend. I'm thankful the plumber was able to finally get the clog unclogged, and I'm VERY thankful for vacuum cleaners that will pick up water!

And finally, I am very grateful that no Amateur Radio equipment was harmed in the events described in this post.

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

New Year's Day Sprint

Thanks to Jim W4QO and the NoGA QRP e-mail reflector for bringing this to my attention:


Date/Time: 1500Z to 1800Z on 1 January 2018.

Mode: HF CW only.

Exchange: 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

Multiplier: 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<br">
Suggested Frequencies: 80m 3560 kHz 40m 7030 kHz 20m 14060 kHz 15m 21060 kHz 10m 28060 kHz

Bonus Points: 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.

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

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

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 http://www.qrpcontest.com Log sheets are not required for entry, but may be requested by the Contest Manager if required.

Deadline: Entries must be posted on or before 15 January 2018.

Results: Will be published in QRP Quarterly and shown on the QRP-ARCI website.

Certificates: Will be awarded to the top five scoring entrants.

This is a great way to kick off 2018 (besides Straight Key Night, of course!) and it's only 3 hours long - so if you have company over for the Holiday, or are perhaps recovering from a bit of a New Year's Eve hangover, this won't occupy your entire day!

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

So, what do you want to see under YOUR tree?

The W2LJ family room

As we get closer and closer to Christmas, I'm wondering what all of you out there are hoping that Santa will leave under your tree?  I always find it interesting to seet what other Hams are wishing for.

Marianne has asked me for a list of items, so I gave her one.  In no order of preference I listed:

1) A Bayou Jumper kit from the 4 States QRP Group
2) An Arrow handheld 144/440 MHz antenna for working the FM satellites (Yes, I'd like to get back into that, again.)
3) A personal weather station that I'd like to connect to the Internet.

It will be interesting to see which one (if any of them) shows up under the tree. I would imagine that it might be much more likely to find that Santa brought a couple shirts or something similar.

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