Thursday, January 18, 2018

Larry, W2LJ noted a couple of weeks ago in his blog that a cache of old ‘Radio Boys’ books were available for free download from Amazon (he included the links). It’s a nice collection at an even better price, you should download them.

There were thirteen titles in the collection published during the 1920’s by Grosset & Dunlap. The author of these juvenile fiction books is listed as ‘Allen Chapman’ though that was just a Stratemeyer Syndicate pseudonym.

Which is an interesting story of its own…

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I’m probably just not understanding this ARRL International Grid Chase event. Best I can tell, you work anyone, anywhere and you both upload your contact info to LoTW, then your score goes up. Is that about it?

“In the spirit of the Fred Fish Memorial Award, VUCC, DXCC, WAS and WAC, we bring you a world-wide event in which all Radio Amateurs can participate where the goal is to contact (each Month during 2018) as many maidenhead 4-digit grid squares as possible on all amateur bands.”

Hmmm…despite having worked nearly fifty stations already this month, only 12 of them have confirmed our contact. And a grid score of 12 gives me an overall rank of 8399.

Doesn’t seem like riveting action, does it?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My plan has always been to sell the Eagle. I’ve just never gotten round to listing it for sale. It has been idle for the better part of last year but returned to service when the 7300 was sold and while waiting for the new KX3 to arrive.

The Eagle is an excellent performer, especially on CW and though it has very few bells and whistles, it’s a joy to operate and I’ve started to consider just keeping it.

It’s value has fallen considerably due to the demise of TenTec but service is still available for it and instead of taking a bath on its sale it could just remain in storage until the next time it’s called into service.

Monday, January 15, 2018

I received a note on Friday that my order from Elecraft had been shipped and would arrive later this week. That was a surprise given that just a few days earlier, they told me it wouldn’t be available until at least January 24th. This is good news as I’m anxious to deploy the KX3 as soon as possible and it looks like that may happen this weekend.

The wooden stand I ordered for it from W4KLY and the North Georgia QRP Club arrived last week.

And then Rose from Roses’s Elecraft KX3 Case and Covers sent me an image (for approval) of the new dust cover she’s handcrafting for me. Looks like it will arrive about the same time as the new transceiver.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

In addition to the month-long SKCC K3Y Celebration, this weekend also happened to be the Weekend Sprintathon (WES). Having had my fill of the straight key for awhile, I decided to work ten more in the sprint and call that enough.

That happened quickly with all but one of those contacts on 40 meters. The other was on 80. One of the stations worked was WA5RML down in Texas who mentioned during our QSO that he reads this journal.

Thanks Andy, much appreciated!

Since obtaining the clubs Tribune level nearly five years ago, I haven’t done any of the necessary accounting needed to move to the next level. I probably have enough contacts in the log, now comes the hard part, sorting it all out and sending it in. I’m going to start work on that this week.

I’m prompted to advance because of the large number of newer members now sporting the “S” or Senator level, leaving me behind with my “T”. It’s amazing how much CW activity this club has generated and so long as it remains fun, I’m in it for the duration.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Yesterday was another rare weekday spent at home. It felt like a foretaste of what’t to come when I retire. I turned the radio on early and spent a little time in the shack. Then I left the radio tuned to a popular 40 meter watering hole with the volume up enough that I could hear it in another room and got busy with other things.

Not a lot of traffic, but over the course of the day (I worked from home) I would hear the occasional ‘CQ’ and walk back to the shack and answer it. Under more normal circumstances I might have an hour at the end of the day to walk into the shack, sit down, and play radio for the proscribed period before closing station.

This was much more casual and enjoyable and it seems like what retired life will be like when everyday is a Saturday and every night a Friday night.

At some point in the early evening I heard a light signal calling ‘CQ’ but I wasn’t paying close attention. It was just background noise in my head until I realized the station calling was F5UQE. I had to double-check that I was parked on 40 and not 20. I gave him a quick call and we had a nice chat. Band conditions continue to mystify me. This time it was a nice treat, next time it will be bitter disappointment.

Our weather was a mixed bag yesterday. It started out at 36F with rain. Then the temperatures began to fall and it turned to ice. As the mercury kept dropping it started snowing. By the end of the afternoon it was a bit of a mess. When I went out to clean off the car and warm it up, my windshield wipers were solidly attached to the glass.

I discovered that when I tried to turn them on and the wiper motor linkage broke. So today’s main goal is getting the car to the repair shop to see if they can fix it today. It’s always something…

Friday, January 12, 2018

I got to spend a rare weekday evening at home yesterday and that allowed me to work K3Y/1 which was the last one needed for a US Sweep in the SKCC event. Band conditions have been so pitiful that I was beginning to wonder if I could manage even this but with it accomplished, I think I’m done with this challenge for another year.

Oddly enough, there is one exception to the poor propagation. I worked F6HKA a week ago on 20 when he was operating K3Y/EU. I’ve worked him more than a dozen times in the last few years. I can hear him daily, no matter how poor the bands. He needs only to touch the key for his transatlantic signal to pound into my shack.

Often I listen without calling. He’s a world-class radio telegrapher and a joy to copy.

Listen to this 90 second audio clip I recorded of him yesterday at 1630UTC on 20 meters. I’m using the TenTec Eagle with the DSP filter cranked pretty tight but the band is otherwise eerily silent…except for F6HKA.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

It’s been a week since I ordered the KX3 that was reported as being in stock. I emailed them today to get an update on my order. Turns out, it’s not “in-stock” and they estimate it will be next month before I get it. I’m disappointed but remain a customer. But I’ll never order online from them again. I’ll call and speak directly with someone.

Received this nice looking QSL in the mail today from K1ARR in Vermont for our New Years Day QSO. On the back of the card he wrote that his age is 75 but he’s only been a ham 11.5 years and should have gotten into the hobby 60+ years earlier!

Thanks for the card Art, mine will be headed right back at you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Not long ago I would have said that I could spend all of my radio time on 40 meters. It’s ham radio’s favorite HF band, a place where there’s always activity and it reliably delivers the goods, even when not in good shape.

But we’ve reached a point in the doldrums of this fading solar cycle where 40 can be just as fickle as 20 meters and it’s even been completely closed from time to time. Having an efficient antenna for 80 meters is becoming less of a “nice to have” and more of a necessity.

My current antenna is a compromise at 3.5 mHz and not very efficient. It loads with the tuner, but there’s a lot to be desired about its performance. I’m making plans to replace it once the weather breaks but in order to fit more wire on my lot I’m going to have to go higher.

My center support is thirty-feet off the ground now but I’m looking at a few options to install a forty-foot support. It will have to be guyed but the only other option is a single wire in an inverted-L format. But that requires ground radials…

With eight inches of snow headed this way, this is a project for May or June and I’ll just have to tough it out between now and then.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I’m a member (#1753) of the North American QRP CW Club.

The NAQCC is a well-established organization with no dues or membership fees and is open to any licensed radio amateur or shortwave listener (SWL) worldwide with at least some interest in CW/QRP operation.

The club publishes a monthly newsletter and the January edition includes a farewell address from club founder John Shannon, K3WWP that was prefaced with this:

As has already been announced, John, K3WWP, has now completed the final phase of his retirement from club work with the end of the December sprint processing and cross-checking. It is not an exaggeration to say that the NAQCC would not exist without the countless hours of work that John has dedicated to it and we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He will be missed but he has certainly earned a rest.

I’m only guessing that K3WWP will remain plenty busy. He continues his streak of nearly 24 years of making at least one QRP CW contact every single day without fail. John has always been a busy fellow and though he has now passed the torch of club maintenance to others, he’s far from being finished putting his unique stamp on ham radio.

Monday, January 8, 2018

And just like that, another weekend at home is done and I’m back on the road for a few days. I made a little more headway in the K3Y event despite tall odds. Band conditions were abysmal, or at least dreadful adjacent. I’m lacking K3Y/1 for a US sweep and that’s disappointing, but I’m confident that one will be in the log soon enough.

It might just be my imagination but it seems there are fewer K3Y stations this year. So in addition to poor band conditions, the event seems to be dragging along more slowly than usual and that makes it tough to hold my interest. I might just get the US sweep and declare this year “done” for me.

On another note, my son (N9AVG) lives in Champaign, Illinois about three hours due west of here and he put a new openSPOT online this weekend. That has enabled us to chat via DMR and we’ve taken advantage of that several times this weekend and I look forward to that while I’m traveling the highways and byways.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

I finally found the adapter I needed to use my straight key with the Eagle and jumped back into the K3Y Saturday afternoon. Things were moving slowly. When the ARRL RTTY Roundup got rolling it really churned things up on 40 and I managed to work only a couple of needed stations during the early afternoon.

While tuning a very quiet 20 meter band, I slid up near 14.060 looking for QRPers and noticed some weak signals at 14.062. It was SOTA activator KX0R. I worked him and shortly thereafter worked the Goat Man - WG0AT. Steve is well-known for his pack goats and his videos so it was great fun to work him from W0C/SP-096.

Be sure to check out the QRZ bio of KX0R, he has certainly enjoyed an amazing radio life!

After dinner I was back in the shack for a short run. Band conditions were generally lousy all over. I saw Jim, W4QO who lives in North Georgia on the SKCC sked page and suggested we meet on 40 meters. Nothing. Nada. Zip. He couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t hear him. But following our failed attempt I got a call from Bill, WB9CAC in Tempe, Arizona with a big signal and we had a nice chat.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The weather has been all the conversation here for the last few weeks. We’ve not been above freezing since before Christmas. That’s all set to change tomorrow as warmer air is supposed to roll in and the ten-day forecast says high temps will be in the 30-45F range for awhile. Some will say “it’s about time” but me, I like the cold weather.

I arrived home last night eager to jump back into the SKCC K3Y event but it was not to be.

I had to modify the size of the key plug on my straight key to use it with the 7300 which has a 6.35mm jack. But the 7300 is gone now and I’m back to using the Eagle which requires a 3.5mm plug, and guess what I couldn’t quickly put my hands on last night?

Despite this minor setback, I’ll be on the air this evening looking for more K3Y stations. I always try to get each NA call area into the log during the first weekend, and then use the rest of the month of January to sop up whatever else I can.

Filling in all of the possible bandspots is the last thing I work on.

You can follow my progress here though it sometimes takes a few days for all the results to be updated.

Friday, January 5, 2018

In what will be the first of several aftermarket accessories for the new KX3, I ordered a wooden stand for the transceiver from the North Georgia QRP Club. I emailed Paul Kelly, W4KLY who makes the custom stands about availability and he replied that he had just made a few this week but has been unable to lacquer finish them yet due to the cold weather but that would only be a short delay.

I’ve seen these handcrafted NoGA stands at FDIM and always thought they looked good. The unique operating angle of the KX3 requires something like this when used on a desktop and while there are several similar models to choose from in plastic, I prefer wood.

That it’s made by a member of the NOGA QRP group is an added bonus. Paul makes several different models, some that hold both the KX3 and the Panadapter and for other QRP transceivers as well.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

I ordered a fully-loaded KX3 today. The Elecraft Web site lists everything ordered as being in-stock so I hope to see it sometime late next week. The transceiver is an excellent performer and has been around long enough to have worked out all the kinks.

In fact, my only reticence about ordering one at this point is that given it’s been out for more than five years, I can just imagine Elecraft announcing a replacement for it at Visalia or Dayton in a few months.

I didn’t order the amplifier or the panadapter. Either or both could be added easily enough at a later date but the panadapter seems to me a feature coveted by DX chasers but unnecessary for casual operation.

It’s much more likely that I’ll add the 100 watt amplifier around the time the weather breaks and it turns again to antenna season.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My ‘back to basics’ approach to the hobby in this New Year has already manifested itself with the order of several ARRL MINILOG books. I haven’t maintained a paper logbook in at least twenty years but still believe in the utility of paper and pencil.

Ritual is defined as a solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. For me, that’s time in the shack with cans clamped to my head while exploring the aether. A hot drink, warm light, paper logbook and a well-engineered key are adjuncts that convert the mundane into ritual.

It’s not a reasonable work-flow for those who log thousands of contacts annually, but I’m a casual operator who averages just five-hundred CW contacts a year. It also permits me to remove the computer, a source of frequent distraction and interference, from the center of the operating position.

I can transfer data from the MINILOG into the computer later when it doesn’t interrupt the ceremony I’m trying to cultivate.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The SKCC’s annual K3Y celebration is underway. I worked K3Y/0, K3Y/3, and K3Y/6 within hours of the event kick-off. You’d be amazed at the pile-ups for a station in Illinois. Partly because the event began on a very cold holiday evening when ops had little else to do, but mostly because the Straight Key Century Club has become a very large group. 18,075 members and still growing strong. The event runs the entire month of January, still plenty of time for you to join the fun.

Looks like Gary, KN4AQ is nearing his final curtain call with HamRadioNow. Pearce announced his intention to retire from the program during a recent episode though he still plans to produce video for a few more events. The program will continue to be produced by Doug, W0DHG who has been co-hosting the program. Gary will appear as a co-host “now and then”.

Happy New Year!

Wow. We blew right through 2017 and have arrived at the beginning of yet another New Year. Though time seems to move faster the older I get, I do enjoy this day and the reset it provides. It’s the adult version of getting a “do-over” in life. A time to reset and make plans for all the wonderful things we intend to do in the days ahead.

This Year Will Be Different

Better health is almost always at the top of everyone’s list, isn’t it? Same for me. I’m old enough that this stuff is getting more important. I have a few issues that will require attention in 2018. Beyond that, it’s eat better, exercise more, lose weight. You know the routine. This year will be different.

Back to basics. Despite the strong appeal of shiny new things that make interesting noises, there always seems to be some internal tug to get down to basics. For me this manifests itself as a desire to use simple, low-powered gear and CW. I don’t plan to “chase” anything this year. The only operational goal I have my eye on is to make more contacts from the field than the shack. This year will be different.

Eyeball QSO’s. I plan to attend OzarkCon in April. It’s an annual QRP conference conducted by the 4SQRP group that I’ve wanted to attend forever but it takes place shortly before Hamvention and I never could get time off to attend both. This year will be different.

Reading and writing. I intend to do a lot more reading and writing. I enjoy both but have not set aside time for either lately. This year will be different.

Have more fun. When it comes to the hobby, I don’t have time to waste running down rabbit holes. Or said another way, if it isn’t enjoyable, I don’t want to do it. I’m getting too old to waste time on things that are silly or are at best, ephemeral. This year will be different.

That’s it for me. Manage my health, get back to basics when it comes to radio, attend a conference, read more, write more, and have more fun.

Here’s wishing you and yours all the best in 2018!