Thursday, November 20, 2014

Triple Play Special Event Day

As all Amateur Radio operators know, you never know what you're going to get on any given day. It might be a rag chew, or a DXpedition, a quick contest QSO or any number of other possibilities. As I headed out to the Jeep for my lunchtime QRP session, I didn't think I'd end up with three "Special Event" type of contacts.

The first was on 10 Meters - PW2BA. This was actually more of a DXpedtion type of QSO. A team of Brazilian operators have gone to this small island, which is IOTA SA-024, and which also has a lighthouse on it - ARLHS BRA-013.


Their signal was up and down with wild QSB. One moment they were 599, and 559 the next.  I was wondering if I should even try, using QRP. Throwing caution to the wind, I did and got an immediate response!

From 10 Meters, I wandered over to 12 Meters, where I worked W1AW/5 in Arkansas.  Not sure whether or not it was one of W1AW/XX stations that I already have in the log, I decided to engage the pileup (which was pretty big!). It took a bit of listening to figure out their listening pattern, but I finally did and busted through.

A quick tune through 15 Meters seemed to indicate a dead band.  I tuned from 21.000 MHz to 21.060 MHz, up and down about four times. Hearing no signs of life, I headed on down to 17 Meters.  There I heard W70.  I had no idea what it was, other than since it's a 1X1 call sign - that means Special Event station.  There wasn't a huge pileup and the operator was actually operating simplex.  I had to wait my turn for a bit. There were many stations calling, and I noticed the operator was trending towards working stations that were sending at a reasonable code speed.  The speed demons were being ignored, so it seemed. So I tweaked my code speed down a touch and threw out my call - success!


Coming back inside, I fired up the computer and QRZ'ed (new word!) W7O, and discovered that the Special Event station was commemorating the 40th anniversary of the launch of AMSAT OSCAR 7. Being a child of the Space Race, I was quite pleased to have worked them and will send out one of my brandy-new QSL cards, which I received yesterday from KB3IFH. Their QSL card (shown above) is a very classy design IMHO, one I will be proud to display.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Joy and Disappointment

Last night, our Technician Licensing class formally came to an end.  We held a VE Session which was at once extremely gratifying and at the same time, bittersweet.

It was a bit of a whirlwind evening for me, so I'm a bit shaky on the numbers. Of the 16 student we started with, about 10 showed up for exams last night.  Two couldn't make it due to doctor appointments and one get held up at work. What happened to the other three is beyond me. I had everyone's e-mail and was sending out regular announcements. These three individuals haven't come to class for the last couple of weeks.  There was no indication of a lack of interest, or lack of understanding the material - so maybe it's been personal issues.  Life happens, we all know that, and most people are reluctant to talk about their circumstances.

Everyone who turned out last night earned their Technician class licenses with the exception of two.  The two who missed, missed by very little - the bittersweet part.  Just about everyone who passed took a stab at the General, and one actually earned it.  That was very gratifying.

We have decided to hold another VE session this Saturday morning at 8:00 AM at the EOC.  The people who couldn't make it last night will get their opportunity. The people who missed get the chance to dust themselves off and give it another go.  And maybe some will return for a second crack at upgrading to General.

Everyone was invited to the monthly South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club meeting tonight. The real "Elmering", the real teaching starts now. It's one thing to help someone to get their license. It's another thing entirely to transform these newbie Hams into confident, knowledgeable, content and active Amateur Radio operators.

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


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cold!

As with much of the rest of the US, New Jersey has been immersed in the deep freeze.  It was only 22F (-5C) when I woke up and left for work this morning. And during lunchtime, it only got up to about 30F (-1C). And the wind is howling at times, making it feel much, much colder. Since we're only about 15 miles or so (as the crow flies) from the relatively warm Atlantic Ocean, it doesn't get as cold here as it does in The Heartland. But for us, these are cold temperatures, indeed - especially for November!

So I headed out to the Jeep at lunchtime to see what the bands were like. I have heard so many reports of them "hopping" lately, that I wanted to see for myself.  My little Li-Ion battery packs seems to dislike the cold as much as I do.  So much for leaving them in the car all morning. When I fired up the KX3, I was getting a reading of only 11V from each pack, about 1.3V less that I would expect. Even batteries don't like to play in the cold!

But with the KX3 only putting out 3 Watts as a result, I still managed to snare a few QSOs on the higher bands:

ZD8O - Ascension Island - 10 Meters
G4MLW - Ian in York, England on 17 Meters
PJ2/K8ND - Curacao on 15 Meters

Not bad - considering. Even though I sat INSIDE the car (engine off) for my session today, I still maintain that it was good practice for the "Freeze Your Butt Off" sprint in February!

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

Skeeter Hunt Certificates

The first 3/4ths of the 2014 Skeeter Hunt certificates went out in the mail last night.  I ran out of 9X12 envelopes and will get more. The remaining ten or so will go out Thursday night, as our Tech License exam session is tonight and our monthly South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club meeting is tomorrow night.


If you earned a certificate, it has been noted on the Scoreboard spreadsheet, in the "Notes" column:

 https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1odmnlTAnQST7FgsEnsItHaT_ZO0e8yZpzLqxcsyGRkY/edit#gid=1768430587

Thanks for your patience, and I apologize profusely for the delay - but hey, like John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

Look for the Skeeter Hunt to be making an appearance on Facebook in the near future! Oh ..... and there will be at least one change in the rules for next year. Look for that announcement in the Spring of 2015. (Hey, I gotta give you something to look forward to!)

BTW, I want to take an opportunity to mention something about the "QRP - When you care to send the very least!" and the "Skeeter Hunt" items that I offer through Cafe Press.  There's no big markup there - each item is offered at $1 above Cafe Press cost. The proceeds (which ain't much - believe me!) go towards the purchase of ink, paper, envelopes and postage for the Skeeter Hunt certificates. Next year, I am hoping to offer plaques to the top three finishers.

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Another great eHam article

Again, normally I don't link to eHam. It's a great site, but it's a double edged sword. There's a ton of good stuff there, but it also has its share of trolls, cranks, curmudgeons, smart-alecks, etc. And sometimes you have to search through the entire meadow to find the four leaf clover.

This article though, by Bob Watson K7RBW (tell me that's NOT a vanity call!), is worth taking a look at: http://www.eham.net/articles/33101

It's the ultimate in portable ops, eh?   ;-)

A lot of us take our hobby for granted, and almost never give a second thought as to how lucky we are to have it available to us. For some people in distant parts of the world, Amateur Radio can help to bring a whole lot of difference (for the better) to their lives.

My hat is off to the doctors, nurses and support staff and volunteers who so selflessly give of their time, talent and treasure to help those in need. And that happens not only in the Honduras, but here too, and all over the world.

Whatsoever you do for the least of My brothers ..............

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

For any readers from the greater NYC region

The following came from Mike Lisenco NY2BB, our ARRL Hudson Division Director:

Gordon "Gordo" West, WB6NOA, author, lecturer and creator of many Ham Radio study guides and related products will be in town this weekend and next week. 

He will be at KJI Electronics this weekend, where he will be holding Technician and General Class license review classes followed by an exam session.  Advanced registration is required as space is limited.  Go to www.kjielectronics.com for more information.

He is the scheduled guest speaker at the Suffolk County Radio Club Meeting on Tuesday, November 18 at 7:00 PM (Time change! From 8:00 PM to 7:00 PM!).  Guests are always welcome so feel free to attend:

Grace Lutheran Church
240 Mastic Road
Mastic Beach, NY

For more information, the club website is: http://suffolkcountyradioclub.net/

He will also be at the Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club on Thursday November 20th at 8:00 PM:

Babylon Town Hall
220 East Sunrise Highway
Lindenhurst, NY. 

Talk-in on the W2GSB repeater 146.685 MHz 110.9 HZ PL For more info go to the club website: http://www.gsbarc.org/

This information appears too good not to share - so I re-posted.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

15 Meters was open

during lunchtime today.  I was able to have a nice conversation with Jim N0UR at the 15 Meter QRP watering hole. I was calling CQ and Jim answered, using his Flex 1500.  His signal was a very nice 579 and I got the same in return. Jim is an outstanding QRP and CW guy. When he is Fox in the QRP Fox Hunts, he wracks up totals that put the rest of us to shame. It was nice to be able to just have a normal conversation with him, for a change.

Then, down on 21.011 MHz, I heard FS/PA3EYC/P calling CQ from St. Martin. According to QRZ, Maarten is vacationing on the Dutch side of the island - Sint Maarten. He must have taken a trip to the French side - Saint Martin, as he was using the FS prefix and not the PJ7 prefix.  Now if that's not just a little confusing, I'm not sure what is!

Then I heard some of the CW Ops guys participating in their CWT mini-sprint. As a giver of points, I just couldn't resist, so I sent my membership number of 1005 to Marv N5AW and Ken K0EU.

Then it was back to the old grind. Thank God for these QRP breaks!

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

Review session

The last class of our Technician License course was held last night. We had what I guess you could call a review session.  Drew W2OU provided me with two practice exams, which I printed out and distributed to the class members.  We treated last night as the actual exam session. So not only did they get practice, but they also now know what to expect for next week.

After each exam was completed, we went over the tests together as a group.  It appears that on both exams, no one got more than six answers incorrect.  Since a passing grade allows for nine incorrect answers, it would appear that we are looking at a bunch of new Amateur Radio ops as of next Tuesday night.


To break things up a bit, we showed an Amateur Radio video in between the two exams. In all, I thought last night's session was exceptional. Our class members have proven to be eager, bright, inquisitive, and open to what we have been presenting to them.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with them, as well as with my two fellow instructors, Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU.  These two are amazing Amateur Radio ops and have an amazing amount of experience behind them.  The fact that Marv K2VHW is a retired broadcast engineer from WABC with a couple of Emmy Awards under his belt doesn't hurt, either!

I am looking forward to next week, and I just sent the group a final e-mail, detailing what to bring next week and basically telling how proud of them that we are. It's great to be able to help increase the ranks of Amateur Radio.  I also reminded them to relax. This is supposed to be fun, and besides, in the scheme of things, it's not like we're looking to cure cancer or end world hnger.

Oh, and by the way, I did work John K4BAI in Georgia, one of the 40 Meter Foxes last night.  I tried to work Kevin W9CF in Arizona, but I think the good props between NJ and AZ were over by the time I got home and wolfed down dinner. I see from his Fox log that Kevin worked some NJ stations, but that was while I was still in class.  By the time I was trying to work him, he was 229 - 339 at best and I just couldn't make myself be heard. There is nothing more frustrating than calling a station who is sending a CQ in the clear, only to have them resume calling CQ after you send your call!

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Priorities

Tonight is the beginning of the 2014/2015 QRP Fox Hunt Season. Yay!


I may not be there for a huge part of it. Boo!

But as always, there is a bright side, so this is not a "pity party". As the Hunt starts tonight, I  will be with Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU as we hold "Review Night" for our Technician License Class students.  Next Tuesday is the Big Night and after that, I should be able to participate in the Hunts until January. Beginning in January, we will be starting another Technician License Class for the Clark, NJ Office of Emergency Management, who has CERT members wanting to earn their tickets. Ergo, no Fox duty for me this year - there's just too many slots that I would not be able to fill. I will have to be content with being a Hound, with limited hunting time, at that.

So the bright side is ushering new Hams into the fold.  Even if a majority of the Clark CERT members become "emergency communicators" only, there is always a chance that the hobby will grab on hold to some of these individuals and they will come to enjoy Amateur Radio for Amateur Radio's sake. And that is what we old veteran Hams live for.

That's another reason why, during these classes, we try as hard as we can to impress upon the students the MANY facets of Amateur Radio, whether it be DXing, rag chewing, CW, kit building, restoring antique radios, digital communications, satellites, VHF/UHF, contesting ........ whatever. The list is almost endless and there's sure to be something of interest for just about everyone.

Now for tonight.  The QRP Fox Hunts run from 9:00 to 10:30 PM EST (local time). I should get home around 9:30 or 9:45 PM.  Assuming I take the time to wolf down (pun intended) something for dinner, that will leave me roughly 30 - 45 minutes to grab a scent, and find and work two Foxes.  Think I can do it? Wish me luck (and propagation!).

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



Monday, November 10, 2014

Interesting

This is what the little propagation box was telling me about band conditions today:


I would normally look at that and say to myself, "I guess not today!" And yet, during lunch, I had a modicum of success. I worked W1AW/7 in Washington State and W1AW/0 in Kansas, both on 15 Meters. And, as an added bonus, I went up to the QRP watering hole on 10 Meters and heard Tom EA8YV from the Canary Islands calling "CQ QRP". I answered him and was heard the first time for a 2X QRP QSO.  Tom was about a 539 and I got a 529 back.  And at least on my end, background noise was negligible, so copying Tom was very easy, despite the less than gargantuan signal.

So I guess beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, as my lunchtime QRP session was better than "Fair". At least for me it was. It just goes to show you - it always pays to throw that fishing line into the water, even if it is murky and you think there may be no fish to be had.

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

Not bad for our first effort

The digital edition of the December 2014 issue of QST was posted today.  The first thing I looked at was the 2014 Field Day results.


SPARC and NJ2SP came in 3rd Place overall in the 2A Battery category - and only 21 points away from taking 2nd Place. Not bad at all for our inaugural Field Day effort.  Needless to say, improvements are being considered now, in order to elevate our score next June.

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

Veteran's Day - 2014


A very Happy Veteran’s Day and a very big “Thank You” from the bottom of my heart to all the Vets out there – as well as those currently serving. In my mind, as soon as you put on the uniform, you’re a Veteran. You have defended our freedoms so well for 200+ years, a debt we can never re-pay in full.

Also, a very Happy 239th Birthday to the Marines! Semper Fi, Marines!



Lastly, a Happy Veteran’s Day to my Dad. I was rummaging through some papers in my desk when I came across the Certificate of Condolence that the White House sent upon his passing in 2001. My Dad was a WWII Army Vet who loved to talk about some of the European “sites” he saw during his tour in Europe (including the Passion Play at Oberammergau). He never spoke about combat, though – not uncommon for his generation, it seems. I also came across his wallet sized copy of his Discharge Papers. He was not an Amateur Radio operator, but he was a graduate of the Signal Corps RADAR and Repeater School (which probably explains in some way, my love for Amateur Radio).  I also noticed for the first time that he was a recipient of medals for Combat in the European Theater, as well as a Good Conduct medal and one other. He NEVER spoke about those.

For all the Vets who have passed – Eternal rest, grant unto them Oh Lord, and may Perpetual Light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the Faithful Departed, rest in peace. Amen.

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

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Peanut Power Sprint Scores

The claimed scores for the 2014 NoGA Peanut Power Sprint were posted today; and I did really , really well!


Well enough to take 2nd Place in the Salted Category for the second year in a row!  "What's the big deal?" you ask? "You didn't win!" you say?

Heck........ I never win! But to place this high in the standings for a "giver of points" ain't half bad, in  my personal book.  So I am happy with it - although I have to admit, it WOULD be nice to actually win - just once.

I'll have to think about an even better portable antenna for next year. But in the meantime - a very hearty congratulations to all those who did take top place in their respective categories. Good job, guys - VRY FB indeed, gentlemen!

And, a very big "Thank You" to the NoGAnauts for putting on a very fun and successful event. You guys DO know you're going to have to do this every year from now on.......right?

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

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Zombie Shuffle Recap - 2014

Tough work week and last night, I felt like a Zombie!

I joined the Zombie Shuffle, already in progress at about 0020 UTC (7:20 PM Local Time). I got on 20 Meters and worked four fellow Zombie Hunters in pretty rapid succession. I thought it was going to be a great night.

I was a tad mistaken.

From there, it got slow - real slow - shuffle slow - slower than shuffle slow.  This Zombie ended up doing a moon dance - looking like he was walking backwards. The perceived lack of participation or lack of good band conditions was a bit of a disappointment.

I stayed on for two hours and worked 13 stations - which somehow seemed appropriate. At that point, while the KX3 was merrily calling "CQ BOO" for me, I actually started to nod off for a few seconds. Being the conscientious, law abiding Amateur Radio operator that I am, I decided it was not a good thing for the Control Operator to fall asleep behind the key. So I accessed the local control point, pulled the big switch and made my way upstairs to get some much needed ZZZZZZZs.

Thanks to fellow Zombies WA5TCZ, KG9DW, KA5T, N5GW, N8RVE, W3KC, W1PID, W3ATB, AB9CA, N1ABS, VE3CBK, WA8REI and WB8WTU for the contacts - lotta good friends there, It was a pleasure to work you all! Five on 20 Meters, six on 40 Meters and two on 80 Meters (which was beautifully quiet without hardly any background QRN - oh if there had only been more Zombies there!).

By the way, I was one of the Elvis stations again this year - so if you worked me, I was worth extra pointage. And as always - special thanks to Paul NA5N and Jan N0QT for running another spectacularly fun event, my own tiredness notwithstanding!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

And now for something completely different

A few weeks back, I was looking at Chris KQ2RP's blog, "Signal to Noise - KQ2RP". I was intrigued by his entry, "Show Me Your QSL, And I'll Tell You Who You Are."

Ever since my Novice days, I have used QSL cards of my own design, with varying degrees of success. My mother was VERY artistic and had a lot of artistic talent. My sister, Ann Marie, inherited the major portion of that.  She has a degree in Arts Education, is a talented weaver, painter, sketch artist - an all around good and talented artist.

Me?  Not so much.  I could cobble out a cartoon, as I did for my very first QSL card back in 1978.


Not terribly original, and kind of primitive, but it was artwork done by my hand.

My most favorite QSL, that I came up with was also "heavily borrowed" from a NASA photograph.


Again, the drawing was actually more a tracing of the outline lines from the photograph.  What I liked about this card (apart from the concept of manned space flight) was that the printer (who has since gone out of business, at least the QSL business, anyway) did the stars in gold ink, which I think you can make out from the scan. The stars, which I did freehand, are kind of goofy looking.

In my latest QSL design, I wanted something different. This time I relied on photography, which is actually my trade. I was a professional photographer for a while and was involved in the professional photographic industry (in various capacities) for over 30 years.


I wanted a reflection of my interest in QRP and CW, so I took a photo of my K1 (which has since been sold - to afford my KX3) and one of my Morse Express Christmas keys. This was taken outdoors in my backyard, using natural light. The rig is on top of the patio table glass top and you can see some grass there in the background.  This was "OK", but still not quite what I wanted out of a QSL.

Then I saw Chris' post. And I contacted Jeff K1NSS and asked him, "OK, Jeff - my interests are CW and QRP, what can we do with that?" And in very short order, he came back to me, asking me to tell me more about myself, what my interests are, and please send some photos of whatever I thought would be relevant. And so, I did that. I explained my love for CW, portable QRP operating, this blog, the Skeeter Hunt and probably a lot of other stuff that was superfluous. Jeff came back to me and said to give him a couple of weeks, as he was busy working on some other jobs.

A few weeks later, Jeff came back to me with two sketches.  One was a really neat Art-Deco design of my hand on a bug.  The other was a sketch of me as "The Keeper of the Skeeter Hunt".  I liked them both!  The question now became, how could we somehow combine the two concepts? Jeff knew, oh yes, he knew! And this is what he came up with:


How cool is this?  THIS is going to be my QSL card!

He incorporated CW, QRP and the Skeeter Hunt all in one shot! All my Amateur Radio passions in one beautiful design (love that blood drop from the end of the Skeeter's proboscis). And not only that, but it's unique. I could never have come up with this on my own. If you gave me all the art materials in the world and a thousand years, I would have not dreamed this up. This was a great experience!

It's as obvious as the nose on your face that Jeff is a creative genius, and is a great artist and designer. But because he's also a Ham (K1NSS), he just plain "gets it", he "gets" us, what we like, what drives us, what makes us tick.  He thinks like we think, which may or may not be a good thing! I would not hesitate for a nano-second, in recommending Jeff's services to anyone.

And I think it's plain to see that whomever gets this QSL, they will definitely know who I am.

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

BTW, a big "hat tip" to Chris KQ2RP for his blog post and inspiration.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This never gets old!

I was able to head out to the car at lunch time for a shorter than usual QRP break. Work has been a bit busy lately, so today I only got about 30 minutes of free time, about 1/2 my usual lunch break.  15 Meters seemed to be hopping today. There were lots of loud, clear signals.  I worked W1AW/7 in Wyoming (again) and tried to break through the morass surrounding W1AW/KP2 with no success. I didn't want to linger and spend my entire break trying to bust through that wall.

Knowing I had limited time while at the same time noting that conditions seemed to be so nice, I decided to head on down to the lower part of the band to give calling CQ a try, for a change.  Much to my delight, I was answered almost immediately by Laci DL5JLC, who gave me a 599 signal report. Laci was running 100 Watts from a Kenwood TS-590 to a 3 element beam up around 35 feet. Laci reported that it was clear in eastern Germany (his QTH is near Chemnitz), but was around 44F (7C), while we were experiencing a relative balmy 65F (18C) here in NJ, with cloudy skies. We ended up having a pleasant 14 minute "rag chew" which was very, very nice as well as very, very satisfying. Laci proved to be a most gracious and welcoming QSO partner.

 Courtesy of DL5JLC and QRZ

No matter how long I do this, Amateur Radio in general and QRP in particular just never get old for me. It fascinates me to no end that only 5 Watts of RF energy can traverse the globe some 4,000 miles and can sustain reliable communications over that distance. Yes, I know that Laci's 3 elements at 10 Meters was the major part in making that a reality - but it still seems so very cool to me that QSOs like this can happen at all.

What a great way to spend lunch time!

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

Kaboom!

Most of you have undoubtedly heard by now that the Antares rocket, launched from NASA's Wallops Island Launch Facility in Virginia, blew up 6 seconds after lift off.


Unfortunately, the rocket was carrying various OSCAR satellites, specifically the GOMX-2 and RACE CubeSats.  Fortunately, it appears that no ground personnel were injured or killed by the mishap.

According to the ARRL:

"The 2U GMX-2 CubeSat was intended to test a de-orbit system designed by Aalborg University in Denmark. Karl Klaus Laursen, OZ2KK, is listed as the “responsible operator” on International Amateur Radio Union frequency coordination documents. The Amateur Radio payload proposed using a 9.6 k MSK data downlink on 437.250 MHz. Also on board was an optical communications experiment from the National University of Singapore. The mission also hoped to flight qualify a new high-speed UHF transceiver and SDR receiver built by an Aalborg University team.

The Radiometer Atmospheric Cubesat Experiment (RACE) CubeSat was a joint project between The Texas Spacecraft Laboratory (TSL) at the University of Texas-Austin and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It carried a 183 GHz radiometer, a new science instrument designed by JPL. The primary objective of the RACE mission was to collect atmospheric water vapor measurements. The spacecraft was equipped to transmit using GMSK at 38.4 k and CW telemetry on a downlink frequency of 437.525MHz, as coordinated with the IARU. TSL’s Edgar Glenn Lightsey, KE5DDG, was listed in the IARU coordination documents as the responsible operator."

The Antares rocket is a design of the Orbital Space Sciences group. It was on a re-supply mission to the International Space Station and had 5000 pounds of cargo as well as more than two dozen satellites on board. Mankind has been launching payloads into earth orbit for 57 years now. This just goes to show, that as much as this is "rocket science" - that stuff still happens.

On a related note, I was able to visually witness a very nice pass of the ISS this Monday evening.  It was about a 60 or 70 degree pass just around local sunset.  The ISS was very bright and showed up on the horizon right on cue. Wonderful how that works, isn't it?  As I watched it fly overhead, just over the waxing crescent moon, I was reminded of the many passes of RS10/11 and RS12/13 in the 90s. I used to work those LEOs a lot, and had many pleasurable contacts over them.

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sad

Julian G4ILO passed away the other day.  You can read the details from several of the blogs in the blog roll.  I knew Julian only from occasional private correspondance and from his blogs.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to also know (from reading between the lines) that Julian was also a loving husband and a very brave man, who fought his condition with grace and dignity to the very last. He bore his suffering well.

He will be sorely missed.  Amazing how a person who lives some 3,000 miles away from you, whom you have never met face to face, can have such a profound effect on your life. Prayers and thoughts to Olga and the friends and family of Julian Moss.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Best laid plans

I took another vacation day today, in order to have another long weekend. I was hoping to get back up to Washington Rock and get some more outdoor QRP in.  However, while the Nor'Easter we've had the past two days is pulling away, it has left a mostly cloudy day, with raw, stiff breezes in its wake as it leaves.

So, to quote Clint Eastwood from "Heartbreak Ridge", it's time to "improvise, adapt and overcome". So I am spending the day doing the house chores that I would have done tomorrow. And according to the weather prognosticators, tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and about 10 degrees warmer than today.

A good day to spend a couple hours in the park with a KX3 and a wire in a tall, tall tree.  And also on my side ...... it appears the effects from that solar flare we had the other day are waning as well. So tomorrow may be a better solar weather day, too.

BTW, I managed to work VK9DLX the other night on 15 Meters.  I tried for about a 1/2 hour with 5 Watts and gave in to turning the KXPA100 up to 90 Watts. (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa - recited while beating breast!) That's what I bought it for, after all. Another new one in the log.

I just had the ARRL update my DXCC standings from new countries worked via Log of the World.  I am up to 171 countries now - officially.  I have several more that I have to direct QSL (with the appropriate bri ..... I mean green stamps). Counting those, I should be pert' near 180 countries confirmed.

Oh, another thing I hope to acomplish this weekend .....get all the Skeeter certificates out.  Keep an eye peeled on your mailbox for the next little while.

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Interesting discussion

going on over at QRP-L about portable antennas.  The catalyst for the "debate" is this article.

http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/blog/5-most-popular-hf-portable-antennas/

Lot's of good input by lots of people who know what they are talking about.  And as always, for portable operations (my emphasis), it seems to boil down to efficiency vs. ease of use.

Both Steve Weber KD1JV and Ron Polytika WB3AAL, who have done a lot of operating from the Appalachian trail, point out that while classic dipoles may be the most efficient antenna to use, there are practical logistical problems associated with them.  There may not always be trees available, and even when there are trees available, there may be so many and so close together, that hoisting up a dipole may not be practical.  I have to agree with Steve that hoisting a dipole or doublet in the classic sense, in a portable situation (especially when you are by yourself) can be an experiment in frustration.

Steve is a proponent of the End Fed Half Wave, while Ron likes a version of the portable vertical that he has designed and yields quite acceptable results for him.  I have used both and personally prefer the end fed wire for the ease of deployment. Don't get me wrong. I have verticals antennas and love them. My Butternut at home and my Buddistick on top of the Jeep have both done very well for me.  But as always, the ground plane is crucial.  Close to 60 radials at home and the Jeep's metal body acting as a ground plane for the Buddistick make all the difference in the world.

The thing that surprises me though, is that when speaking of dipoles or doublets, everyone always seems to think of them in the classic flat top or Inverted Vee configuration, which of course, requires three supports. I have used doublets, such as the NorCal doublet as a sloper and as a vertical dipole with a modicum of success.  My first Flight of the Bumblebees effort used the NorCal Doublet as a sloper and I was quite pleased with the results.

What it boils down to, of course, is that you have to try different things and see what works best for you. There is no single correct answer to the question of  "What is the best portable antenna?" What will work in one situation may be totally unsuitable for another.  No archer carries only one arrow in his quiver.  Hams who are adroit in portable operations always seem to be carry more than one antenna configuration into the field with them, as long as they meet the requirements for portability and ease of use. And I think all Hams who love portable operations are on a constant quest for the "Holy Grail", an antenna that is lightweight, quick and easy to deploy, and will work as many bands as possible.

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