Dust to Dust

I’ve been kicking around the notion of selling my KX3 lately. There are no problems with it and it remains one of my favorites. But it isn’t seeing much use these days and I can’t help but to have noticed how much the price for it has risen and continues to rise. Given the supply chain issues that make delivery of a new one take an entire baseball season and it’s easy to see it as a rare commodity. So if a person was going to sell their KX3, right now would be a great time to get top dollar for it.

In days gone by I frequently bought new equipment, used it for awhile, then sold it to help fund the next purchase. I always kept original manuals, receipts, accessories, as well as the original boxes as I found that all helped when the time came to sell it.

And then one day I sold my TenTec Eagle, a gorgeous bit of CW goodness that was pristine in every possible way. As it turned out, that transaction made my life a living hell for a season.

The guy I sold it to drove me nuts with constant questions via telephone and email. Had I been charging even a modest hourly rate for tech support it would have been a nice income stream.

In addition to his need for frequent hand holding when using the equipment there was also the occasional insinuation that something might be wrong with it. “I hear an odd signal on 14.003 early in the mornings - did you ever hear that when you had it?”

Being a nice guy I always responded and tried to help him, even offering to take it back and refund his money several times. But the experience was an endless nightmare until the guy suffered a stroke and was no longer able to communicate. I hate to say it, but his horrible affliction improved my quality of life by leaps and bounds, does that make me a bad person?

Since then, I have been much more inclined to reduce the build-up of too much ham radio gear by chucking perfectly good equipment into the dumpster instead of trying to sell it. And there has been a lot of that going on lately as one of my retirement projects has been downsizing all the “stuff” that naturally accumulates during the life of a ham.

So after a little more thought, I concluded that life was simply too short to sell my KX3. I’d rather it live out its days unused and returning to dust than risk another transaction like the old Eagle. After all, the fully-loaded KX3 is a complicated gadget and absolutely no one reads the fine manual anymore. That, and I’d really hate to have to hope for a serious medical condition on a clueless buyer just so I can get a good nights sleep.


Winlink Practice

While waiting on coffee this morning I checked for Winlink messages via a 40 meter gateway station in Tennessee. Checking every other day has just become part of the routine. Most mornings there’s no traffic waiting for me though lately I’ve been exchanging messages with a buddy who lives a hundred miles down the road. Why? I don’t know, why don’t we all just text message each other and forego the antenna work? I like to think it’s practice for the day when the shit hits the fan even though I prefer to hope that day will never come.


Three Hundred

I resumed the hunt for POTA activators on New Year’s Day.

There is just so much field activity going on that it’s almost difficult not to bump into it. To make it a little more interesting for me I’ve been using CW and and 10 watts only this year. (Remind me to tell you sometime how ten watts has become the new five watts in the low-power world). I’ve logged 41 park contacts in 2023 and it seems that was enough for another award, this one for having worked 300 unique reference areas.

The Parks on the Air program continues it’s rapid growth and is easily the fastest growing facet of amateur radio in the United States. And since opening up internationally, it’s appeal is quickly adding operators around the planet. Take a look at the POTA 2022 Wrap-Up video detailing that expansion. By the way, I wasn’t even aware until recently that organizers were producing these videos regularly so subscribing to that channel was an obvious choice.

Despite some success at hunting others I have yet to activate a park and I hope that will change soon. But probably not this week as a Winter Storm Watch for the next several days was just issued for my area. They say to expect 5-9 inches of snow by Wednesday afternoon. I’ll believe it when I see it, but I probably won’t be taking a radio into the field any time soon. For now I’m happy enough to continue hunting those hearty enough to venture out in all kinds of weather – from the warmer side of the window.


Winter Field Day

When I got up to let the dog out this morning I noticed there was a trace of snow on the ground. An hour later and the grass is covered. Not expecting much more as the forecast was for 1-2 inches, but I’m still a little surprised. Winter has been missing this season with the exception of that arctic blast we got a few days before Christmas. Even though the temps dipped well below zero then we only got a couple inches of snow. Our average snowfall for January is 5.6 inches and so far 0.1 inch has been recorded. Not counting today’s precipitation, so it will be a little higher, but we are quickly running out of January…

But not before one more event.

Winter Field Day is a communications exercise. WFD is held on the last full weekend in January. WFD can be worked from the comfort of your home or in a remote location. You can participate by yourself or get your friends, family, or whole club involved. Winter Field Day is open to participants worldwide. Amateur radio operators may use frequencies on the HF, VHF, or UHF bands and are free to use any mode that can faithfully transmit the required exchange intact. Similar to the ARRL’s Field Day, bonus points are earned in several ways, including using non-commercial power sources, operating from remote locations, satellite contacts, and more.

Find all the details here.


Busy Weekend

An early morning on the radio hunting, or at least looking, for a few POTA stations to add to the log. Since the program went international it has become a bit more common to find a few Europeans out in the field while it’s still pre-dawn and pre-coffee here and that’s paid off on occasion. This morning I copied just one station in the UK on 17 meters, but after a few calls without success I decided coffee was more important and gave up.

While the coffee was brewing I worked K2EAG in K-1394 on 30M so the early morning wasn’t wasted. There was more to be had at that hour, but I decided to ride along with a friendly bunch on a 75 meter AM net. Most of these operators are located in the upper midwest and obviously still enjoy their boat anchors and the kind of rich, melodious audio that used to be common on the bands.

The North American QSO Party (SSB) takes place this weekend and I expect to wade in for at least a few hours. Other plans for this weekend will cut this short for me, but I hope you have an opportunity to jump into the fray. Good luck!


On the Roof Gang

This is shaping up to be another winter that never happened. So long as you don’t count that arctic blast with less than two-inches of snow in the few days leading up to Christmas. These gloomy, depressing, days of 38F and light rain get old. They also keep me indoors and looking for ways to pass the time without endless napping. The quest for FT8WW in the log has been fruitless and I’m bored with radio at the moment.

I was catching up on some reading that’s been stacking up over hot coffee this morning when I came across an interesting book review in the December 2022 edition of the Gray Line Report, the Twin Cities DX Association newsletter. The TCDXA book review was provided by Mike Cizek, W0VTT.

'The US Navy’s On the Roof Gang' was written by Matt Zullo, CTICM, U.S.N. (retired).

There are actually a couple of books (Vol 1 & 2) covering the discovery of Japanese katakana code being sent via continuous wave shortly after the end of the First World War. It begins with a radio amateur, Harry Kidder, PI1HK, a Navy radioman stationed in the Philippines who was possibly the first to copy CW signals that weren’t quite like the Morse he was used to receiving. Eventually, he determined that he was copying Japanese Navy transmissions.

This put the Navy on a long path to making signal intelligence a real thing.

This was the 1920’s and while the US wasn’t at war, the burgeoning field of radio was becoming better recognized as a mechanism of war. Once the Japanese code had been cracked the Navy set up a training station for other radiomen (and women) in a cinder block building on the roof of the main Navy building in downtown Washington, DC. Thus the moniker, “On the Roof Gang”.

Over the next decade multiple intercept receiving stations were setup across the Pacific. Using HF direction finding techniques the Navy got pretty good at snagging these signals and determining their points of origin. These intercepts were then forwarded to Washington for decoding and analysis.

By the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 the US Navy had assembled a network of radio intelligence that would become useful during World War Two. (pity it didn’t prevent Pearl Harbor - or did we know about the attack ahead of time?). While the work at Bletchley Park and how that impacted the War in Europe is well known, personally, I’ve been clueless until this morning about the use of radio signal intelligence in the Pacific and its impact on the war.

The review also included a link to an interesting video from the WW2TV channel on YouTube (who knew that was a thing?) with a nearly 90 minute author interview. I enjoyed it so much I bought the two books and look forward to devouring those and taking a deeper dive on that World War Two YouTube channel.


SWODXA DX Dinner

The Southwest Ohio DX Association DX Dinner® will take place on on May 19th, 2023, at the Dayton Marriott Hotel (free parking). The event is known for great door prizes including a major grand prize (ICOM IC-7610) and the dinner (7pm) features a notable keynote speaker. A cash bar is available before and after dinner and provides further opportunity to rub elbows with fellow DXers.

Tickets are available online from SWODXA.


The DX Mentor

The first episode of The DX Mentor podcast was released this week (an introductory episode debuted in November).

The Excitement of DX [1:28:13]

In this episode, renown DXers W8GEX - Joe, K0MD - Scott, and AA7A - Ned, discuss the excitement and fun of talking to amateur radio operators in other countries. The host AJ8B - Bill, covers many topics including the thrill of “working” DX and being DX!

Visit your favorite Podcast service, download The DX Mentor and subscribe. More information can be found by emailing thedxmentor@gmail.com, or via Discord (TheDXMentor) or by calling 1-513-855-3980.


Given Up For Dead

A nice little ditty from the Smithsonian Magazine that includes a bit about Morse code, Steve Galchutt, WG0AT, and tradition. Yeah. Remember tradition?

Looking to Ditch Twitter? Morse Code Is Back

Reviving a 200-year-old system, enthusiasts are putting the digit back in digital communication

Worldwide, Galchutt is one of fewer than three million amateur radio operators, called “hams,” who have government-issued licenses allowing them to transmit radio signals on specifically allocated frequencies. While most hams have moved on to more advanced communications modes, like digital messages, a hard-core group is sticking with Morse code, a telecommunications language that dates back to the early 1800s—and that offers a distinct pleasure and even relief to modern devotees.

The only sad thing in that article is the public notation that the ARRL was formerly the American Radio Relay League. An obsequious nod to some overpaid, boneheaded consultant who suggested the name from a bygone era was what was keeping young people from joining the hobby. Sigh.


DX Marathon

I submitted my DX Marathon entry for 2022 today, one of my end of year / first of year paperwork chores. This was my first entry in the Marathon and while I did okay, there’s no high-score plaque in my future. I ended the year with 125 entities worked in 32 zones for a total claimed score of 157. My entry class was 100 watts formula using a ground mounted vertical on all-bands and modes.

Based on last year’s scores that will put me in the lower half of all entrants and that’s okay, it’s a race against myself. What intrigues me most about this format is that scoring is simple, it’s total countries worked plus zones. No weird multipliers, etc. and no QSL cards required. The event kicks off on January 1st of each year and ends on December 31st. Each year entrants start over from zero, nothing is carried forward from the previous year.

It’s been a good way to maintain interest in chasing DX thanks to the fresh start each year. 2023 is a good example as this is only the 4th day of the new year and though I’ve only made 45 total contacts so far, 30 of those have been with unique entities which is a good start on 2023. By the end of this first month I expect to have worked a hundred though it gets considerably tougher after that!

The program recently transitioned to new management and there are plans for several improvements including a new Web site and updated scoring tools. If you’re interested in playing this game start with a visit to the primary web site. And of course there is a mailing list.

I’d also recommend getting your hands on the book, A Year of DX by Bob Locher, W9KNI — the author’s personal account of the challenges in pursuit of winning the CQ DX Marathon and a recommended read.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Today marks the start of another new year, with new hopes, new challenges, new opportunities, and new realities.

That’s the way most of us were feeling this time last year and then a few weeks later we witnessed Putin’s Folly in Ukraine unleashing suffering on innocents for absolutely no reason other than insanity. Instead of health restrictions from a global pandemic we got geopolitical turbulence and nuclear threats.

Little wonder that some people, including me, are replacing grand ambitions with more realistic expectations for 2023.

In this regard I’m with Erin Monroe, who suggests a different approach to this new year:

“I think we need to set some expectations,” she announced with fervor. “I don’t need 2023 to be my year; I need it to not be a soul-sucking drag through earthly purgatory. I need 2023 to come in, sit down, shut up and don’t touch anything,” she added.

So Happy New Year, but let’s keep 2023 on an even keel.