Svalbard

I WAS FORTUNATE to work JW8AJA on Svalbard during the CQWW CW contest last weekend. An ATNO for me and a unique location that is one of the most northerly inhabited places on the planet. Located midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole, and north of the Arctic Circle, it experiences midnight sun in summer and polar night in winter. At 74° north, the midnight sun lasts 99 days and polar night 84 days which means my 20 meter CW radio contact was made during their “polar night”.

This is all even more interesting to me because I have long followed the life and times of Cecilia Blomdahl and her partner on Svalbard via her YouTube channel. She’s been sharing their life among the glaciers for several years. The unique location, pristine environment and uncommon lifestyle presented with excellent videography makes for an interesting viewing experience.

I don’t believe any radio hams actually reside on Svalbard (?), but they do travel and operate there enough to make it only 204 on the Most Wanted list.


Toys in the Attic

IN THE QUEST for the perfect cup of coffee I recently purchased a new electric percolator type pot to see if the perfect brew can be had using that ancient method. Turns out, it can’t. No matter how I adjust the grind of the beans or the amounts of coffee and water the result seems bitter. Looks like the new pot will take its place in a box in the attic.

With the big CQWW DX CW contest now in the rearview mirror the balance of the year on the radio seems slightly uninteresting. In the aftermath of that event I’ve been watching a few confirmations trickle in via LoTW at the typically low-rate that I’ve come to expect from CW contacts. Overall I see about a 60% return in my log from Morse activities while digital work yields over 90%.

That’s not to say that December will be all idle time. I plan to enter my results in the DX Marathon for the first time. Compared to almost any other DX chaser my results will seem downright sickly, but it’s been a good year (for me) in this regard with 125 Entities and 32 Zones worked so far during 2022.

There’s also some cable work that needs doing in the attic to prepare for the additional fire in the wire I expect to make happen in ’23. That along with my annual readings of Walden, A Year of DX, and The Complete DX’er should finish the month.

Oh, yeah, there’s also some big holiday in December…


CQWW DX Results

I spent a few hours this weekend in the CQWW DX CW contest. Band conditions were pretty good, at least the higher bands were happy. I hung out briefly on 40, but spent most of my time on 20, 15, and 10 meters. 130 total contacts with 34 zones and 77 countries resulted in a claimed score of 41,514.

Notables: JW8AJA, CN3A, 3B8M, and 3B9KW.

I used the IC-7610 at 100 watts into an R6000 vertical. Tough way to play in the biggest CW contest event of the season. Next year, an antenna I can steer and a kW along with a multitude of additional improvements.

Call: KE9V
Operator(s): KE9V
Station: KE9V

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: IN
Operating Time (hrs): 3

Summary:
Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
------------------------------
 160:                    
  80:                    
  40:   12     6       11
  20:   28    10       20
  15:   76     9       33
  10:   14     9       13
------------------------------
Total:  130    34       77  Total Score = 41,514

Black Friday

In case you hadn’t noticed, I gave myself a few days off this week. Hope you found the random links posted on Wednesday and Thursday of some interest…

Don’t be fooled by today’s post title, I have nothing to sell you.

But it is Black Friday and things are quiet around here this morning. My wife works in retail and had to go to work at 5am this morning so it was just me and the dog and cat. I quickly became bored and headed outside. Not to shop, but to get some coffee and write a few words. It’s currently 44F with cloudy skies here. According to the weatherman clear skies and 53F will eventually replace this gloom.

I’ve no great deals to recommend though I have noticed a lot of ham radio vendors are playing that game so take a look around, maybe you need something and don’t even know it?

Odds and Ends

I deleted my Mastodon account yesterday. Have you ever spent 30 minutes among real open source zealots? If you haven’t then I can’t adequately describe it. If you have, then I’m certain it felt more like hours, or days. Open source zealots are annoying and most of them misfits. While a chunk of hams made the move there from Twitter, I predict many will be disappointed in a land flowing with the descendants of Berkley hippies. YMMV.

Hopefully you have had better luck than me working the 5R8 team? I’ve spent several hours neck deep in big pileups on 30 meters trying to get in their log with no luck. They have had surprisingly strong signals here especially given their location, but I can’t seem to reciprocate. Who says FT8 is too easy?

This weekend is the CQ Worldwide DX CW Contest and what I hope will be a big finish to what has been a good year of DX for me.

It kicks off on Saturday, beginning at 00Z and running for 48 hours, the biggest CW/Morse code operating event of the year, with plenty of opportunities to work new ones or just have fun. The bands are going to be crowded with a lot of CW activity so feel free to hideout on the WARC bands if such a thing upsets you.

Here are the complete rules and a list of stations expected to be active this weekend. Good luck!


Dimming the Sun

Bill McKibben writing for The New Yorker:

The scientists who study solar geoengineering don’t want anyone to try it. But climate inaction is making it more likely.

If we decide to “solar geoengineer” the Earth—to spray highly reflective particles of a material, such as sulfur, into the stratosphere in order to deflect sunlight and so cool the planet—it will be the second most expansive project that humans have ever undertaken…

Dimming the Sun to Cool the Planet Is a Desperate Idea, Yet We’re Inching Toward It


The Truth Was Out There - On the Legacy of Art Bell

Jesse Robertson writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

ON THE NIGHT of September 11, 1997, the phone lines on the Coast to Coast AM radio show were open and unscreened, with a special line reserved for callers with inside information about Area 51, the infamous United States Air Force base long rumored to house captive UFOs. The show’s host, Art Bell — nestled within his home studio in Pahrump, Nevada — spent the first few hours fielding calls from listeners with far-flung theories of government deception.

But something strange happened midway through the broadcast…

The Truth Was Out There: On the Legacy of Art Bell


See You in Visalia

I’ve made plans to attend the International DX Convention in Visalia, California next April. I’ve wanted to attend for ages, but work always impeded those plans. I did make a virtual visit one year during the pandemic, but I relish the opportunity to attend in real life as the kids say.

Arrangements for the convention and the hotel have been booked, but I’ve not yet nailed down the travel. Flights from Indianapolis to Fresno, California are all-day affairs with stops in multiple cities along with crazy expensive airfares.

On the other hand, cheap flights to Las Vegas are plentiful and it’s only a five-hour drive across Death Valley from Vegas to Visalia. It would extend my stay by an additional day, but being retired I have more time than money. My only worry with going that route is the relative certainty that two hours into the journey by automobile I’ll start kicking myself for not having flown all the way to California.

The problem with life is that it’s short and filled with far too many decisions…


K1USN SST Nov 18

I haven’t played in a K1USN SST (Slow Speed Sprint) in several months. Too many other things crowded out the twice a week, hour-long sprint. The weird thing about it, I really do enjoy these events. I told my wife that I was blocking out everything from 4-5pm today so nothing would prevent it.

And there I was, at the appointed hour all ready to go. I had even updated the N1MM+ logging application because it had been months since I last opened it and I’ve been caught too many times at “go time” needing an overdue software update.

I was ready to roll.

And then I discovered a major malfunction in my plans. With the time change back to EST I should have been in the shack an hour earlier.

Nothing to do but make the best of it! I had about 15 minutes to make a few contacts before the window closed. I ended up with 12 contacts in 10 states all on twenty-meters. My score was pitiful but what else can you do besides better clock management next time.


A Radio Amateur in Kyiv

New book from a radio amateur in Ukraine. I haven’t read this yet, but thought it worth sharing quickly and without review.

War Diaries: A Radio Amateur in Kyiv

This story is about how war came into the life of an ordinary Ukrainian when Russia attacked Ukraine in early 2022. His family fled to Poland but he was trapped by martial law restrictions. He lost his job and freedom of movement, but his amateur radio hobby and friends around the world helped him cope with all the trials that he had to endure.


WWROF Scholarships Announced

The Worldwide Radio Operators Foundation will award up to two scholarships of $2500 each to amateurs who demonstrate active on-the-air operation, including entering contests or achieving awards such as DXCC or WAS. There are no restrictions on applicant nationality, place of residence, location of institution, or intended field of study. Preference will be given to applicants 25 years of age or younger.

The WWROF scholarships will be administered by the ARRL Foundation. Online applications are now being accepted for the 2023 awards. The deadline is Wednesday, January 4, 2023, at 12:00 PM (noon) EST (1700 UTC).

WWROF Chairman Tim Duffy, K3LR, commented, “We have received several donations earmarked for Youth programs. The WWROF created these scholarships to enable active young operators to continue their studies.”

For information on applying for these scholarships, see:

https://www.arrl.org/scholarship-descriptions

About WWROF

The World Wide Radio Operators Foundation (WWROF) was created in 2009 by a group of radio operators who saw a need for an independent organization devoted to the skill and art of radio operating. We believe that amateur radio contests provide a means of testing operating skill and that worldwide contest sponsors can benefit from the support we can provide. WWROF owns, operates, and maintains the log-processing systems and awards programs for contests sponsored by CQ magazine and others.

For more information visit www.wwrof.org


Consequence of Null

It started when Pete, N4ZR asked if anyone had contact info for OL7D. Turns out that call sign had recently appeared in the WAE RTTY but since that station’s QRZ entry lacks a Detail Page all of the Reverse Beacon Network spots for it are being mapped to Antarctica at 0 degrees.

The problem is that right now every spot of them is in Antarctica. They display as a set of vertical lines from each spotter, down to somewhere on the Antarctic continents where they all turn east or west to 0 degrees longitude. Really messes up the map.

It appears that when no grid square is present in its database, QRZ sends AA0aa, which is in Antarctica. This needs to be corrected because while not having a grid on QRZ’s Details page is rare, it is not unheard of.

Most DX stations (outside of North America) aren’t listed in the QRZ database until they submit their information. This was the case originally with OL7D. The operators HAVE listed their information with others, for whatever reason, but did not originally do so with QRZ. So there is a real possibility of legitimate calls not listed, or not listed with full information.

I guess the old adage is true; everybody has to be somewhere…


The Art of Money Getting

The American showman P.T. Barnum published a book of rules for making money called The Art of Money Getting. Here are the 20 rules from the book:

  1. Don’t mistake your vocation
  2. Select the right location
  3. Avoid debt
  4. Persevere
  5. Whatever you do, do it with all your might
  6. Depend upon your own personal exertions
  7. Use the best tools
  8. Don’t get above your business
  9. Learn something useful
  10. Let hope predominate but be not too visionary
  11. Do not scatter your powers
  12. Be systematic
  13. Read the newspapers
  14. Beware of “outside operations”
  15. Don’t indorse without security
  16. Advertise your business
  17. Be polite and kind to your customers
  18. Be charitable
  19. Don’t blab
  20. Preserve your integrity

New DX Marathon Tool

KI2D recently announced he’s testing a new tool for summarizing your data for the annual DX Marathon. The browser-based tool works on all platforms and the data remains on your computer with the output showing up in your browser.

I tested this by first creating an ADIF file from my main log (MacLoggerDX) for all contacts made this year. Next step was visiting the tool Web site: https://marathon.ham2k.net/

Two seconds after pointing to the ADIF I had a nice looking summary of my DX footprint for 2022 in my Web browser.

The tool helps you figure out your score, select the best QSO for each entity and zone, validate them against AD1C Country File data, and export it in a way that can be used for your final submission.

Keep in mind it’s an alpha version still being tested and the author is looking for feedback if you spot problems. The first time I ran the tool I got no output. A quick email netted a fast change and then positive results so your mileage may vary.

The DX Marathon is an annual contest sponsored by CQ Magazine.

Starting January 1 of each year, the DX Marathon is the perfect answer for the DX-er who needs that extra incentive to get on the air every day! Simply work as many countries and CQ Zones as you can in each calendar year, regardless of the band or mode. Each country and zone counts only once, so you can concentrate on working new ones rather than working the same ones on multiple bands and modes. Many awards are given for the top overall scores in four classes plus top scores in modes, bands, US call areas and more!

Related: DX Marathon in Transition


Hiding Out on the WARC Bands

Leroy: It’s a shame that CW has become a dying mode. Try as you might it’s harder than heck to scare up even one CW contact these days. I blame FT8 for this, it’s just pathetic.

Dave: What are you talking about? The CQ WW DX CW contest is coming up soon. It’s one of the most heavily participated events in amateur radio, the bands will be filled with CW signals for an entire weekend. It’s literally a smorgasboard of Morse code.

Leroy: Oh I don’t do contests, I hate them almost as much as State QSO Parties and Field Day. All that noise and the bands stacked deep with people calling ‘CQ’. Using a LOT of power too. No, I hideout on the WARC bands during big contest weekends, it’s quiet there. Look, I’m just saying CW is dead and FT8 killed it. Know what I mean?

Dave: Sigh.


The Legend Lives On

Today marks 47 years since the Edmund Fitzgerald freighter sank in a terrible November storm on Lake Superior. The ship first sailed in 1958 and was over 729 feet long, bigger than even most modern-day ships on the lakes. The largest freighter on the Great Lakes went down about 17 miles off the shore at Whitefish Point with the lives of 29 men in 1975. The bell from the ship, recovered from the wreckage, is on display at the Whitefish Point Museum in Paradise, Michigan.


End of an Era

It’s the end of an era, not only in Florida but in ham radio in general and in the contesting world in particular. W1YL, who was instrumental in the founding of two big contest clubs, died peacefully on Saturday while many of us were operating SS CW. Virtually everyone who was active in contesting in the 1960’s - 1980’s knew Ellen. Most old timers probably knew her better than I did, but for the benefit of the next generation of contesters I thought it might be beneficial to give a superficial overview of Ellen’s biography to highlight her impact on ham radio and contesting.

Ellen had served as the contest branch manager at the ARRL for decades alongside her husband Bob W1CW who oversaw DXCC. I was reminded in preparing to write this email that Ellen was the first licensed woman to work at ARRL HQ when she and Bob joined the staff in 1952.

Ellen and the rest of the Whites were instrumental in the founding of Murphy’s Marauders, which morphed into the Yankee Clipper Contest Club. Thanks to some crackerjack detective work by K1CC who unearthed the original Murphy Messages and very helpfully scanned them, I can pinpoint February 21, 1968 as the first meeting of 29 W1’s who formed Murphy’s Marauders.

Surviving charter members of Murphy’s Marauders include (according to the first Murphy Message):

K1GUD (K1BV) K1JHX (K1RM) K1THQ (K1WA) K1UDD (K1DD) K1ZND (K1ZZ) W1ARR W1RAN WA1DJG (K1CC) WA1HOL (AF3I) WA1JCX (K6JJR)

Other members present were Ellen W1YYM, Bob W1CW. and Jamie White (then unlicensed, later to be WA1NNC).

Bob and Ellen retired from the ARRL and moved to South Florida in the 1980’s. Hurricane Andrew destroyed their home in SFL in 1992 and they moved to the Tampa area to be nearer to K1ZX. In Seffner, Jim and Bob built a formidable contest station with a 40m yagi to soothe Bob’s insomnia and sufficient other antennas to support multi-op and competitive single-op entries in major contests by K1ZX/K4OJ. Highlights included several competitive M/S and M/2 efforts in the CQWW and ARRL DX CW contests and a 3-peat in Multi-op in SS CW from 1996 - 1998. This station formed the core of the very successful (and perhaps still the record score for W1AW/x) W1AW/4 effort in the 2002 IARU contest, and sadly was the site of the W1CW memorial M/M in CQWW CW 2003.

While attending the annual FOC Florida Dinner in the early and mid-1990’s, Jim, along with G4BKI got the idea to form a Florida-based contest club. They recruited Jim’s long-suffering parents, who were happy to provide their living room again. The first meeting of the Florida Contest Group was held in the White’s living room in Seffner in about 1994. Attendees included all three Whites (again) as well as AC1O, G4BKI, WC4E, WB4TDH, K4XS, and a handful of others (unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of having the FCG founding documents electronically).

Sadly, Bob passed away in 2002 and Jim passed away in 2004. Ellen lived for another decade in the White House, though after Jim’s death all the towers but one were taken down. In 2015, Ellen sold and moved out of the White House and into a condo with no outside antennas in the Tampa area. She had resigned herself to not being active on CW any longer. Fortunately, thanks to the generosity of a number of FCG members and of K5RC, we were able to purchase and provision a RemoteRig box and K3/0 for Ellen’s use. With local IT support from W4LT and K1KNQ, Ellen was able to be on remote from the W7RN station quite often, resolutely working her way through the JA callbook and maintaining friendships on the air with her FOC confederates, thanks to the magic of the internet.

Ellen would have been 96 years old next month. She was endlessly optimistic and enthusiastic about life, and specifically about ham radio’s role in her life. Until July (according to RBN data) she was active on the air frequently, most often between 0800 and 1100z when the other W7RN remote users were asleep.

Ellen was a fierce proponent of the ARRL, and received her 70-year member pin in 2016, having joined shortly after she earned her license in 1946. At the time of writing, I don’t know any arrangements or memorials that may have been set up in her memory, but I can theorize that a contribution in her memory to the ARRL would be most appreciated.

Feel free to share this email with other groups who you think might appreciate it. Any errors of fact above are mine.

73/OJ to LN…

Chris Plumblee, W4WF
President, Florida Contest Group

The official ARRL News story on the passing of W1YL can be found here. If you've read this far you probably won't want to miss this touching tribute from Shin, JA1NUT.


Shot in the Arm

My expectations for the CQ WW DX SSB contest have been exceeded. I had previously reported 19 new countries worked on phone during the event and lamented that few of those would likely confirm via LoTW. Mea Culpa! So far 12 of those have indeed confirmed adding nicely to my chase for DXCC phone.

Raw scores for the event are available here.

It might be another year before I get a shot at wrapping up DXCC phone and that’s okay. Phone is a definite weak spot for me and one that needs a lot of work. Next year I want to shift my focus to improving my contesting skills. But that’s next year, right now it’s time to wrap up DXCC CW by the end of 2022.


Minimalist Receiver Challenge

Looking for something to keep you busy on those long winter nights yet to come? Here’s a challenge from QRP-ARCI that will keep the midnight oil burning and solder melting in your shack.

Announcing - the FDIM2023 MINIMALIST RECEIVER CHALLENGE!

We QRP enthusiasts have developed a great reputation for doing more with less. Whether that is trying to break a record for mile per watt in a QSO, or designing a transceiver with fewest components, the design skills of our colleagues is indisputable. QRPARCI is presenting our community with an opportunity to show off these QRP design skills with the FDIM2023 MINIMALIST RECEIVER CHALLENGE! The challenge is simple: Design and demonstrate a tunable 40M CW receiver with the greatest sensitivity using only TWO active devices. This event will take place at 8:00 PM Friday, May 19, 2023 during FDIM, and the winner will be recognized at the QRPARCI Banquet on Saturday, May 20.

The circuit is to utilize no more than two active circuit devices. These may be BJTs, JFETs, tunnel diodes, single or dual gate MOSFETS, SCRs, IGBTs, or vacuum tubes. No ICs or multiple-device vacuum tubes may be employed. There are no limits on the number of diodes, inductors, resistors, capacitors, crystals, or transformers. Any receiver type may be used - TRF, regenerative, super-regenerative, superhet, etc. A 0 to 24v power supply will be provided, but any higher voltages must be provided by the builder.

The receiver is to accept a 40M CW signal in the 7.000 to 7.125 MHz range. During competition, the builder will demonstrate his entry by tuning it to demodulate the input into an audio signal in the 300 to 3000 Hz range. The receiver output will feed an audio RMS voltmeter with a 600 ohm impedance. The RF input connector may be a BNC, SO-239, or RCA connector. The audio output is to be a ¼” or ⅛” jack. The MDS of the receiver will be determined by reducing the amplitude of the RF signal until the RMS output audio signal is 6 dB above the noise floor. The receiver with the greatest sensitivity will be the winner!

All circuit components are to be visible for inspection, though the receiver may be enclosed and shielded during operation. A schematic of the circuit shall be provided with each entry. The winner of the FDIM2023 MINIMALIST RECEIVER CHALLENGE will be recognized at the QRPARCI Banquet Saturday May 20, 2023.

Questions regarding the MINIMALIST RECEIVER CHALLENGE may be addressed to David Cripe NM0S. Good luck and good building!


Last Handbook

Earlier this week the FedEx guy dropped off the 100th edition of the ARRL Handbook, the special hardback edition.

We have arrived at a milestone. The 100th edition of The ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications is here: Handbook 100. How do you celebrate the most widely used one-stop reference and guide to radio technology principles and practices? By continuing to fill the pages of another edition with the progress and achievement of radio amateurs. Handbook 100 is written for everyone with a desire to advance the pursuit of wireless technology. Here is your guide to radio experimentation, discovery, and innovation.

I ordered it because of it being a special milestone, not because I’m looking for the latest reference information. It’s on my desk still wrapped in the cellophane it was shipped inside. And I’ll tell you a secret, last year I ordered the 2022 edition of the Handbook and it’s still wrapped in cellophane too. I’m not a book hating Luddite, the 2013 and 2018 editions are on my bookshelf and well-worn. I usually buy a new Handbook every four or five years as the core material doesn’t change often enough to warrant it more frequently than that.

Normally I wouldn’t have ordered one at all this year, but being it’s a special edition I wanted it as a collectable. I may never open it. I don’t need to since I also downloaded the electronic version of the same and with a few exception prefer it to the actual printed book.

But I have decided that this will very likely be the last ARRL Handbook I purchase. Unless I survive to see the special 125th edition available in which case I’ll repent and order it too.


CQWW Phone Results

I spent a few hours in the CQ WW SSB contest this weekend. Mine wasn’t so much a contest effort as it was an opportunity to move the needle on my DXCC Phone totals, my weakest category by a wide margin. I had just 35 confirmed to my credit when the contest began so I assumed that almost anyone heard and worked was a potential new country on the mode.

Having a lot of other things to do this weekend I dropped out after just 50 contacts and that didn’t take long, it’s the most popular radio contest event of the year. Still, I was in early and the big dawgs weren’t yet scrambling for mults from an American station running 100 watts into a vertical and barely disturbing the aether. Many of my calls went unanswered from stations who were well over S9 here.

Those 50 contacts yielded 29 countries in EU, NA, SA, and AF.

19 would be new entities for me on Phone assuming they all confirmed our contact. I’m not holding my breath. My experience working contest club stations is that despite most claiming to use LoTW many will take more than a year, if ever, to upload their logs.

Despite a possibly dispapointing confirmation rate I’m still pleased with the potential outcome.

My log indicates that phone contacts account for just 4% of all contacts made this year. The opportunity to add even a small slug of new phone contacts on a single Saturday morning of tuning the bands makes the effort more than worthwhile.

Long before the contest had ended the paperwork was complete. My log has been submitted to CQ WW, and my claimed results uploaded to 3830. Nothing left to do now except wait and see if the LoTW results will reflect some upward movement.


Morning DX

It was 33F when I started the coffee brewing this morning so I decided to drag my feet on the daily walk. I’ll still go, but I’ll let the sun warm things up a bit first.

I’m glad I procrastinated.

Ended up catching TY0RU on 12 meters. I’m pretty sure they are near the end of their operation from Benin and I hadn’t worked them yet. Earlier, before sunrise, I also worked stations in Fiji, England, Albania, Romania and Germany.

The 12m band is becoming one of my favorites.


Better Morning Coffee

Woke this morning to rain, something that has become a semi-rare occurrence of late. I like it. Not only does the ground get a needed break, so do I. It’s a good excuse to stay inside and enjoy a little “me” time. We’ve been working outside at a frenetic pace (whatever that is for old people like us) trying to get some things done before it turns cold. Painting and a small project requiring concrete that has to be finished while it’s still warm enough.

Funny how having the day “off” dramatically improves the aroma and flavor of the morning coffee!

  • The 40th AMSAT-NA Space Symposium and Annual Meeting took place last weekend in Minnesota. Proceedings from that event are available now to AMSAT members via the Member Portal.
  • Daniel Estévez, EA4GPZ announced a new stable release of his gr-satellites is now available. This includes support for some recently launched satellites, a phase unwrap block for precise phase observations, bug fixes and small features.
  • The CQ WW Phone contest is this weekend, possibly the most popular contest event of the year. Expect the bands to be crowded and noisy with thousands of stations on the air.
  • Looking for a new logging program? Club Log maintains a listing of the various logging software products that have been detected each month.
  • Dave Winer announced: “…my newest product, FeedLand, is open to anyone who wants to use it. Hopefully a foundation for building out the user side of feed reading.” Interesting, but it does require a log-in from Twitter. Screenshot here.
  • DP0POL/mm is now permanently accessible via QO-100. The new station was officially commissioned aboard the research vessel Polarstern in an opening ceremony. Andreas DL3LRM, operator of DP0POL/mm and Peter DB2OS at station DK0SB of AMSAT-DL and Observatory Bochum, performed the initial connection. After that, the satellite station is permanently available for general radio calls via QO-100, of course only as long as the free time of the radio amateurs on the ship allows it.

In Search Of...

…fresh apple cider. It’s that time of the year when I like to imbibe on fresh, cold, delicious apple cider. It’s a seasonal favorite that’s usually easy to find around here, but my two favorite sources have recently closed. These have been family orchards for decades and sadly one that’s been around for generations lost enough of their trees to some fungal infection that they were forced to close for good. The other, also a small family orchard finally ran out of family to run the place when the matriarch passed away earlier this year.

+ 31 Comforting & Cozy One-Pot Dinners for Fall

Locating a new supply that can be trusted to provide safe to drink cider feels like a challenge. I won’t buy apple cider in a grocery store. Real apple cider isn’t pasteurized which means it doesn’t last as long as apple juice which is filtered and pasteurized giving it a longer shelf life. I prefer apple cider and we usually go through about five gallons of the sweet stuff each season, most for drinking and some for cooking.

Today’s task will take us on a journey out in the county looking for signs proclaiming, “Fresh Apple Cider”. Wish me luck!


Fallen Leaves, Fallen Doublets

A few nights ago the national weather service issued a freeze warning for the area. Temperatures dropped and a little sleet and snow was seen falling. It’s early but not unheard of for snow to fall before All Hallows’ Eve here.

+ Work of filmmaker who chronicled Hartford life to get refresh

Now come the wet leaves on the ground after the cold snap, the wind, and a little rain and snow mix. Picking them up is the annual battle that will be joined from now until Christmas. It’s the price paid for living with a lot of old trees. We talk every year about removing a few of them to reduce the fallen leaves, but I can’t bring myself to kill the trees, most of them older than me.

We do this same dance every year and find some way to be okay about it.

The antenna farm requires tending year-round. Sure, I’m ready as I can be right now, but aluminum will bend, wires break, and cables fail during the long, cold season to come. After all, if it doesn’t fall down or break it wasn’t big enough. Repairs will need to be made in the snow and ice with the wind howling around my head while standing on a ladder during a storm.

We do this same dance every year and find some way to be okay about it.


IC-705 Ranting and Raving

Now that I’ve had a few days to play with the IC-705 I have a few comments and a hefty rant. But I want to be perfectly clear that I’m already smitten with the transceiver and well pleased with the purchase. No regrets, I’d buy it again in a heartbeat.

I’ve made numerous HF contacts with the 705 using SSB and CW. All stock settings, stock hand microphone and received enough complimentary audio reports that I have no plans of changing anything about the microphone or the settings. The front-facing speaker is pure delight especially when compared to other QRP gear that isn’t.

+ Amateur Radio W9BRD Then and Now

Yesterday I spent time configuring the 705 to do DSTAR with my hotspot and after a little futzing, that all worked as expected. I’m not a fan of DV but when you have a transceiver that literally does everything you kinda want to see it do everything.

Start of rant.

The ICOM IC-705 is a high-end radio. It does a lot of things and its price is commensurate with the capabilities and performance it delivers. This is no cheesy knock-off QRP rig. It’s a Cadillac. But when I took it out of the box and set it on my desk it promptly fell over. Again and again. Like a dead bug the damned thing just will not sit pretty. At least not without more money.

I get that this equipment will be used by a diverse audience and everyone will have a better idea about how it should be mounted. Some will use the versatile base to put it on a camera tripod or maybe in that expensive backpack that ICOM also sells for it or in any of a hundred other combinations. And yet I’m struck by the fact that a radio costing nearly $1400 (US) will just fall over like a dead drunk guy right out of the box.

I find this fairly incredible and terrible form for ICOM who either don’t have a mechanical engineer in their employ or who purposely did this in order to sell a mount. This has already spawned a healthy aftermarket for all manner of holders and cages to support and protect the precious cargo, but come on man, it would have cost ICOM all of two-dollars to bend a small piece of aluminum with a 1/4-20 hole in the middle of it and toss it in the box.

But did they? No!

So for fourteen hundred bucks I can’t even push a button on the touchscreen without knocking the whole thing over, or without first picking it up and holding it in my hand before propping it on a rolled up towel which is how I’m using it at this moment.

End of rant.

I told you, I’m still enamored with this radio so I’ve ordered one of everything to go with it. A metal mounting plate, the 705 auto-tuner, micro USB cable, microSD cards, flexible VHF/UHF antenna to attach directly to the radio, a small dedicated power supply for it…

I figure the IC-705 will feature prominently in my ham radio future and I look forward to the fun I expect it to bring - as soon as I can keep it from falling over when I touch it.


My Little Town

I live on the outskirts of Muncie, Indiana. Born and raised here and with the exception of a decade spent chasing a few career aspirations this has always been home.

Muncie is roughly 60 miles north and east of Indianapolis and is the seat of Delaware County. Most call this East-Central Indiana, hams know it as grid square EN70. It’s completely flat farmland at 932 feet ASL. If I were to drive 35 minutes due east of here I would cross into the hinterlands of western Ohio. My annual pilgrimage to the Dayton Hamvention takes less than two hours (one-way) by automobile.

This is home to some 65,000 people according to the latest census. It’s also the home of Ball State University along with its 21,000 students. It was founded in 1917 by the Ball brothers, industrialists famed for creating the Ball canning jar and decades later, Ball Aerospace. Though Muncie is no longer the headquarters of Ball Corporation, the city continues to benefit from monies the company generously bestows upon it year after year.

The city has a long history of manufacturing and industry that has been contracting as long as I’ve been alive. My Dad tells me when he was a young man anyone here could quit a job at 10am and have another by noon. Though jobs are a little tougher to come by these days, the growth of the University along with new medical, financial, and even software development companies have helped transition Muncie from a factory town into a thriving service economy.

Muncie is also home to the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of model aviation as a recognized sport as well as a recreational activity. It is the largest organization of its kind with a current membership of approximately 195,000 members, with nearly 57,000 of these being youth members under 19 years of age.

With a thousand acres of clear skies on the east side of town (along with a Model Aviation Museum) its perfect for the many competitive flying events that take place there each year. The AMA attracts a large crowd of overnight visitors prompting the addition of several new hotels and restaurants to handle the business that generates.

+ Revisiting Zane Grey’s Historic Destinations

I enjoy the four seasons of weather that visit this region each year though I’ve noticed a disturbing trend of longer, hotter summer weather, probably a result of climate change. There are no hurricanes here but the occasional tornado does visit the area. Each year we see some snow (22 inches) and sufficient rainfall (40 inches) to satisfy the many farmers that surround the region.

It’s particularly satisfying that a short drive in any direction from my home will put me smack into farming country, and depending on the direction, Amish country. I guess what I’m saying is that Muncie isn’t some small hick town in the middle of nowhere, but it’s close enough to be nearly perfect for me.


Last Chance

This weekend is your final chance to join-in on a (US) State QSO Party as the annual season draws to a close. These weekend events are great fun and popular ham radio operating events that often draw big crowds on the air. They also serve as the perfect opportunity to nail down that hard to catch State needed to complete your quest for Worked All States.

+ Use Every Part of Your Pumpkin for Tasty Savings

The New York QSO Party is a twelve-hour event commencing at 1400Z, Oct 15 to 0200Z, Oct 16 (10AM Eastern). Phone, CW, and RTTY / Digital are permitted. Stations in New York State may work everyone. Stations outside of New York State work as many New York stations and as many New York counties as possible during the contest period.

See the Web page for complete details including log submission instructions.

The Illinois QSO Party also takes place this weekend on Sunday from 1700Z, Oct 16 to 0100Z, Oct 17, 2022. The event is sponsored by the Western Illinois Amateur Radio Club with activity from 160 through 2 meters, excluding WARC bands (60, 30, 17 and 12 meters). Illinois stations give RST and county; others give RST and state, province or country. Several classes and categories are available with plaques and certificates awarded to high scoring stations in many categories.

See the Web page and download the rules for complete details including how and the deadline for log submission.

Good luck this weekend!


ICOM IC-705

When ICOM introduced the IC-705 a few years ago I chose to ignore it. I had too many QRP transceivers on the shelf as it was and the thing looked a little too delicate for me to imagine using it in the field. I’ve nothing agains ICOM, my entire shack is filled with their equipment. I was simply concerned that one gut-wrenching drop would instantly convert it from a thing of beauty into an expensive brick.

Now I find myself suddenly interested in obtaining one in order to facilitate my growing interest in VHF, UHF, and microwaves. It’s feature set and portable footprint make it nearly ideal for that use-case and the fact that it also includes HF is an added bonus.

My search for a used 705 wasn’t successful. I get it, no one wants to spend more than a kilobuck for anything only to give it away few months later. Still, I have a certain threshold for what may seem a “bargain”. If I can buy something new for a thousand bucks I might pay you six-hundred for your used unit, but any more than that and I’d prefer to just pay more and buy new leaving any of your potential headaches for someone else.

With no luck after a brief search for a deep discount in the used market, I checked for new at HRO and DX Engineering. Funny thing, HRO had none available where DXE had them in-stock and ready to ship. I placed an order and received notice that the new transceiver would arrive here on Friday.

Then in typical DXE fashion the notice was updated a few hours later to let me know to expect the shipment today. It’s why I keep going back to DX Engineering time after time…


Thank You

A million thanks to all the DX stations who worked me and confirmed our contact via LoTW. Sending you deep gratitude. This certificate will be taking its place on the wall in my shack along with select and treasured others. Thank you.


Random Bits

If you were so inclined to travel to Indiana to enjoy the colors of autumn you most likely would visit the parks in the southern part of the state. Where I live in East-Central Indiana is never part of the leaf-peeping conversation, but this season nature is just downright showing off for us. The colors are spectacular and though I’m no expert, I would guess that we are at, or very close to peak colors here. Simply gorgeous and a terrible pity it can’t stay this way for about six months each year.

I’ve gotten into the early morning habit of listening to the radio while the coffee is brewing. This morning while waiting on the first Cup of Joe I snagged BG0CAB on 15 meters using FT8 (1200z). He confirmed via LoTW 30 seconds later. Yeah, I know, FT8 will eventually kill ham radio, but hey, long before that happens Vlad the Insane is going to nuke the planet. So eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die and can stop fretting about the evil mode and it’s long-term impact on ham radio…

Speaking of HF digital, I stumbled into VarAC yesterday. Not sure how. One minute I was reading about it being a “modern HF P2P real-time chatting application” and the next minute it was installed. Five minutes later I made my first contact. I managed a few more before deciding it might be useful to read the manual. It helped that I already had the Vara HF modem installed from a seldom used WinLink installation. The only problem is that I don’t see where LoTW supports the VarAC mode so I’m not quite sure how to handle QSLing. Otherwise, impressive software!