Posts Tagged ‘band condx’

156th Anniversary

It was this time of year, from August 28th to September 2nd, 1859 that the Earth experienced what was to be known as The Carrington Event. On September 1st, a solar flare was observed by two British amateur astronomers, Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson.

This was a coronal mass ejection that occurred during Cycle 10. It was a solar storm of such great intensity that reportedly, people as far south in Florida and Cuba were able to see aurora. In the Rockies, gold miners woke up in the middle of the night and started preparing breakfast because they thought it was daybreak. The aurora was so bright here in the northeast, that people outside were able to read newspapers by the aurora's glow.

Telegraph stations (our forerunners) were hit particularly hard. It was reported that some telegraph poles threw sparks into the air. Telegraph operators reported that not only did they receive shocks when they tried to operate, but that they were also able to continue to operate their telegraph apparatus after disconnecting it from the power supply.

I can only imagine the damage that would occur today if we suffered a direct blast from the sun as we did in 1859. I'm pretty sure that not only would the power grid be very badly affected, but that telephone and radio communications of all types would probably be non-existent, and much, much more.

Here are some interesting links:

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

Busy weekend!

I know I promised the 2015 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Scoreboard would be published today, so my recounting of my busy weekend isn't an excuse for not doing that. Actually the spreadsheet has all been compiled and is up on Google sheets, but is being held private for the moment.  I got an e-mail yesterday from Randy KB4QQJ. He had submitted his results last week and did not receive the confirming e-mail from me ...... and that would be because I never received them. So I asked him to re-send ASAP and I will post the link later today or tonight, either way.  If I have to change things around due to his entry after the initial posting, I will - but something will definitely appear at some point later today. From his brief e-mail to me, I don't think his entry will affect the top five finishers.

The weekend was busy chore-wise. And normally, I wouldn't consider that such a great thing. The HF bands have been so crappy, though, that at least I've been too busy to bang my head against that ionospheric brick wall.  The few times I did turn the KX3 on for a few minutes, I thought both my antennas had disappeared, with one exception I will talk about later.

I spent Saturday mowing the lawns, front & back, as well as completing all the trimming in the backyard. It's kind of amazing how much lawn I've reclaimed by beating off and cutting back all my neighbors' flora overhang from my two side fences. Not only does the backyard look bigger now, but mowing the lawn will be easier. Each time I got near the fence on each side of the yard, I was being treated to whaps in the face by low hanging bush branches encroaching from their yards. Not a problem now!

On Sunday, I had the great honor and immense pleasure to be interviewed by Eric Guth 4Z1UG for an upcoming installment of his "QSO Today" podcast. I have no idea when it will actually be released, but someday soon you'll be able to hear my voice and you'll suddenly realize why I've stayed a CW guy all these years!

All kidding aside, it was a fantastic experience. Eric is a warm and friendly person who immediately puts you at ease. It was just like having a QSO with a dear, old friend. The interview lasted for close to an hour, but it felt more like five minutes. Eric has done a lot of really cool podcast interviews with a lot of deserving and interesting Amateur radio ops, so why he selected me is anyone's guess. But you should do yourself a favor and follow the link I provided and listen to some of them. He's performing a great service to the Amateur Radio community by providing fascinating conversations for us to listen to. This series kind of reminds me of the old Edward R. Murrow "Person to Person" TV show, but on an Amateur Radio basis.

After I finished up with Eric, I dove into cleaning up the shack. I'm not proud to admit that over the past few months, it became a dumping ground and a pig sty (however, I am Flying Pig #612, so maybe that's appropriate?). I ended up spending about three hours, cleaning, organizing and pitching "stuff". I ended up filling four of those large 30 gallon green trash bags with stuff I should have tossed a long time ago, but never did. 

As a bonus, I "found" a few items that I have been looking for and had misplaced. For instance, last Winter, I had ordered a few kite winders that I wanted to use for storing the radiator wires for my EFHW antennas. As QRPTTF and FOBB approached, I knew I had them, but I couldn't locate them.  I had put them down in the shack, and just couldn't figure out where - exactly. I found them yesterday and they are now safely in my portable ops backpack. Of course, it's as we approach the end of the outdoor QRP contest season - but I have them. Yay!

I actually have room to move around and breath in there now!  Don't get me wrong .... it's by no means an immaculate shack. I still need to dust and I want to re-hang my DXCC, WPX and QRP-ARCI awards on the main shack wall before I will consider the job done. However, I can now bring a visitor into the shack without fear that they'll be swallowed up like one of those hoarders you see on TV.

I finished up the evening, by returning to the shack after dinner to see how 80 Meters was behaving itself. It sounded relatively quiet, so I guess that's another depressing sign that Autumn is on the way. (My regular readers know that I'm a Spring/Summer kind of guy and that Autumn bums me out because I know that Winter is not far behind.) I plunked down around 3.561 MHz and tried calling CQ for a bit. For my efforts (no real big effort!) I was rewarded with a QSO from Lee K4ISW in Chartlottesville, VA.  Lee just recently acquired a K3S and I was one of his first week's worth of QSOs on the new rig. Lee's K3S sounded great and Lee sounded happy - so I'm thinking a win/win situation is occurring at the K4ISW shack.

80 Meters sounded great after a Spring and Summer filled with static crashes and loud background QRN.  The return of 80 and 160 Meters into useful Amateur Radio bands is the ONLY good thing about Fall and Winter, in yours truly's humble opinion.

Take care guys/gals - QRP and CW on!

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

On a scale of 1 to 10

Today was about a 30 - maybe even more.

The day started sunny and bright. As soon as I walked outside at 7:00 AM, it was easy to tell it was going to be a hot one. Summer! I love it!

I set out one of my 12 Volt SLA batteries on a patio chair in the backyard and hooked up one of my small solar panels to get it charged up.  I had used the battery as a power source so I could program the Juentai VHF/UHF radio in the house, as well as to do some test transmissions.  At 20 Watts out, I depleted the battery rather quickly, so I took the opportunity to use sunny days both yesterday and today to get it back up to full capacity.

I had gone to Mass on Saturday evening, so I used the quiet time (and "cool" morning) to install the Jeuntai into the Jeep. I mounted it "sideways" to the front console in the Patriot, where the transmission gear shift stick is. This is a really lousy photo, but it will show you what I mean:

I had to go to Home Depot to get some shorter sheet metal screws. The ones that came with the unit were about 3/4" long. I put my hand up and in behind the housing/fairing and could not feel anything vital behind my proposed mounting area, but I still wanted shorter screws. I got some 3/8" ones that did the job magnificently. The unit will sit a few inches from my right knee, but it is completely out of the way and non-interfering with the operation of the car. Not that I use it that much, bit it's great to have VHF/UHF in the car again.

Shortly after, I went down the basement shack to see if I could work any lighthouses during International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend.  The bands were terrible!  I managed to hear and work one - W8F, the Fort Gratiot lighthouse at Port Huron. Michigan.  QSB was terrible, but I gave Stan a 579 and he gave me the same.

Then at 1:30 PM, I left to take a short drive over to Dave KD2FSI's house. Dave was hosting the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club's Digital Rookie Roundup effort.  He had his two Yaesu's hooked up and raring to go. He also had on display a Heathkit transciever that he recently bought at the Sussex County Amateur Radio Club Hamfest in July.  Talk about pristine!  Dave "lifted the hood" and let us take a look inside - it looked like it was built yesterday. It is immaculate, and looks like brand spanking new. And on the table next to it was an HW-8.

The bands were as terrible at Dave's house as they were at mine (surprise!). There wasn't a lot of Rookie RTTY activity, so Dave graced us with demos of PSK31 and the other digi modes and we had a great time shooting the breeze. Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU were there in addition to a couple of Dave's neighborhood friends.  I think between Dave, Marv, Drew and I, we gave his friends a good enough rundown on Amateur Radio that they could have passed the Tech test had we given it to them!

I had to leave at around 3:30 PM as I had promised my son Joey and my wife Marianne that I would accompany them to the community pool this afternoon. They've made use of the pool a lot this summer, and I haven't - so I promised I would go today. As I was leaving Dave's house and saying my good-byes, Dave says to me, "Make sure you don't leave without your radio." All I could do was shoot him a "?????" look.  "The HW-8 ..... it's yours."

I was speechless. He had said that he had read somewhere (guess where?) that the HW-8 was my first QRP rig and that I had very much regretted parting with it years back.  He had his son scour eBay for a good deal and acquired it for me.  I was still speechless.  I managed to croak out a "Thanks, Dave - you shouldn't have". But that is soooooooo inadequate. Dave has a heart of gold and as much as that HW-8 means to me, Dave's frienship means even more. I can't ever re-pay his generosity, but that sure doesn't mean that I'm not going to try - somehow, someway, someday.

As you can see, the rig is in pristine condition, besides the writing on the power supply, there's not a mark or scratch on it.  Whoever had it made one modification that I can tell, they traded out the original RCA connector that was used for the antenna connection with an SO-239 - so that's perfect! This baby is going to get a lot of use. Yes, it's a HW-8, but I now have one back in my hands, and it's also a testament to the generosity of a great Ham and better yet, a great friend.

I did go to the pool with Marianne and Joey and even went in the water. I stayed at the shallow 3 foot end as I never learned how to swim as a kid.  Even so, Marianne, Joey and I stayed there for about two hours, enjoying the cool water and we played a game of catch with this "Wubba" pool ball (small, soft, floats, unsinkable) that Joey had purchased when we were up at Lake George.

The evening was rounded out with a delicious dinner of grilled Teriyaki chicken, baked taters and corn, all consumed while leisurely sitting around the patio table in the back yard. We were able to enjoy the cooler evening air and each other's company.

So, yeah, on a scale of 1 to 10, today was about a 30 - heck, maybe even a 50!

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

Conditions sucked yesterday

Apologies for my bluntness, but it is what it is.

After completing a bunch of yard work, I got set up for the QRP-ARCI Summer Homebrew Sprint. All I heard was a bunch of nothing.  I ended up working K4BAI and N4BP and that was it. Discouraged, and thinking that it might be my portable antennas (which performed just fine for Field Day last weekend), I left the park early and came home. The HF9V and the W3EDP antennas connected to the shack KX3 weren't hearing any more or any better, so I guess it was just a bad propagation day.

So this morning, I noticed a post from another Ham in the Facebook Field Radio group. He didn't have any luck either in his own personal portable ops trip yesterday. He was wondering whether it might be his antennas or a case of an unacceptable SWR ........

So of course, someone had to pipe up with "Try a 100 Watt radio next time. Life is too short for QRP."

That just burns my biscuits. So I fired back with, "Propagation sucked yesterday, and can we do without the "Life's too short for QRP" line? Not only is it untrue, but it's really overused."

A bit later, I got a pang of conscience, feeling that I might have been a bit harsh with that line, so I added, "I've got nothing against QRO (use it myself sometimes). I have been at this Ham Radio thing since 1978 and have been 99 and 44/100ths % QRP since 2003. I'm not trying to make it a "religion" or force anyone into it, but I still get amazed and shake my head sometimes as what 5 Watts will accomplish. But still ...... whatever peels your potato. If you like QRO, fine - QRP, fine - CW, fine - SSB, fine - digital, fine - there's room for all of us. The more the merrier."

Really, there's no reason to ever demean or diminish what someone likes about Amateur Radio. Even if for the life of you, you can't understand why someone would like to spend hours chasing after some little island in the middle of nowhere, or why someone chases signals that you can't even hear with your own ears, or why someone just won't give up on an old, antiquated form of transmission that was invented over 100 years ago and has been dumped by just about everyone else in the world, or why some people seem to get together for hours just to kibbitz about old times or enumerate their aches and pains, or even why someone would "waste" their entire weekend working a contest while simultaneously "clogging up the bands".

If it's what you like, then that's all that's important - and don't let anyone tell you different.

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.

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

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!

"QRL?" – please !!!!!

I did go out to the Jeep during lunch today, and no, the bands were NOT dead. But before I go there, I must digress.

I was involved in a 2X QRP QSO on 14.060 MHz with Tom, KC9RXI in WI. He was about a 449 to me; and I'm sure I was no better to him, but we were having a QSO.  I'm sure at times, that to people who may have been listening to the frequency, that it sounded like it was dead.

It wasn't.

All of a sudden, out of the blue, another QRPer started calling CQ/QRP on frequency!  The call will be omitted to prevent embarrassment (but it is forever burned into my brain).  Not so much as a single, solitary "QRL?"

Yes, I am sure that both Tom and I were weak, but we WERE in the middle of a QSO.  Coming on to a frequency, plopping yourself down and commencing to call CQ without asking is just - arrgh! And to top it off, the CQer was calling CQ DE WXXXX/QRP !!!!  I'm sorry, but QRPers, above all Amateur Radio ops, should know better. No excuse - period. If he had sent "QRL?" waited for a bit AND THEN had started calling CQ on top of us, I may still have been annoyed, but I would have thought to myself, "Well, he just didn't hear us."

Unfortunately, while Tom was trying to talk to me, I had to transmit "QRL. PSE QSY". He immediately QSYed (so he was able to hear me!), but at that point I had lost what Tom was trying to say. Shortly after that the QSB went off the Richter scale and the QSO came to a premature end. The "meat" that I could have copied was drowned out forever by needless QRM.

A bit after that debacle, I went to 12 Meters and tuned around for a bit. I heard 7QAA in Malawi quite loudly.  He was loud enough to work - even QRP. I don't think I broke the pile up, as again there was a lot of QSB. If I had more time (lunch hour was running out) I'm pretty darn certain I would have worked him. This time I had the patience - I ran out of minutes.

So , even with the G4 geomagnetic disturbance, Malawi was coming in the best I've heard them so far. Go figure.  Luckily, the station will be on the air until early April and I'm taking a vacation day on Friday. I just may make it into their logbook yet!

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

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