I reprised my routine of looking around the bands early while the coffee was still brewing this morning. That was easier to do because I happened to have the IC-705 setup on the kitchen table, connected to the CHA-MPAS Lite antenna in anticipation of the Spartan Sprint last night. That limited me to just ten watts though that isn’t so much a disadvantage as it is a challenge.
Early morning, 20 meters, FT8, no problem. Signals from South America and Europe were steady as she goes. Nothing new there so I just played bystander and watched some of that action scroll by on the screen. Then suddenly a strong signal from down under calling CQ. I worked VK3GE on the first call. Geoff is located just a bit NW of Melbourne in a village called Diggers Rest. When the coffee was finished I uploaded my log to LoTW and saw that he had already done the same. Worked, logged, and confirmed in just minutes. It’s the only way to ham!
It’s good that I’m reminded every now and again how easy DX can be using low-power and a modest antenna because our search for a new place to live might be over. We found a home we like and have made an offer that has been accepted. It’s not a done deal yet as there are a few stones left unturned (appraisals, inspections, etc.), but maybe the search is over?
It’s a nice place with many features and benefits though excess room to grow an antenna farm isn’t one of them. There’s no prohibition against towers, but I can see how that might rile the neighbors. Besides, I have considerable experience and much success with low-power and modest antennas on a small lot and see this as just another engineering challenge. Big antennas and lots of RF energy are reserved for weak radio operators, right?
The unusually warm temperatures of the last week may have moved on, but dry weather remains. It’s 53F this morning which feels great. A high of 81F is expected with more sunshine. It’s perfect weather for kids enjoying their summer vacation though farmers in this area are becoming concerned. I listened to an AG report on the radio yesterday that said crops planted early in the season are probably okay while those planted later might be in for some trouble. The longer term forecast says to expect more of the same for the rest of this month so we will have to wait and see.
A somewhat cryptic message to the QRPTECH mailing list yesterday from Dieter Gentzow, W8DIZ that said simply, “Good News! KitsandParts.com is restocking parts! “Stay tuned…” This after the popular parts supplier had announced its closing and sale.
The June 2023 Adventure Radio Society Spartan Sprint is tonight, Monday evening - as always on the first Monday of each month. This time it is June 5th. It is a two-hour CW sprint around QRP calling frequencies on 80, 40, 15, 20 and 10-meter CW. Read the details.
Nick M0NTV designs, builds and tests a switching circuit for two RF band pass filters. This follows on from the last video about the construction of the filters themselves. Catch the video.
When the Titanic hit an iceberg while crossing the Atlantic in 1912, its telegraphers desperately sent out distress calls hoping somebody, somewhere might hear them. Among the first to respond was an amateur radio operator some 3,000 miles away in south Wales.
Registration has opened for the 70th W9DXCC Convention. The 2023 version will be Sept. 15-16 at the Marriott in Naperville, Illinois. We’ll provide more information by email and on the website as the convention gets closer, but a robust agenda is already in place. Contest-University, along with DX-U, will be Friday. The daylong session on Saturday will feature speakers, exhibits, QSL card checking and a CW pileup contest, as well as an evening reception and banquet. Ed Schumacher (WA9GQK) will again be chairman.
2022 DX Marathon Results
I’m an old hayseed harp player, not a big dawg DXer. Never will be. So I couldn’t be disappointed with my results in the 2022 DX Marathon which were published today. First time I’ve ever played in this pool and spent the entire year using a hundred watts and a 17-foot ground mounted vertical with a single radial stretched across the backyard. Despite the ultra-modest setup I managed 31 zones and 122 countries for a total score of 153 and am happy enough with that result.
The DX Marathon seems a great way to maintain interest in chasing DX without the need for QSL confirmation which is what really attracted me to it. Well, that and the scoring is drop-dead simple (zones+countries) and everyone resets to zero on January 1st.
I don’t expect much improvement year-over-year this time around as I’ve been off the air for about six weeks already and I expect a lot more downtime in the coming months. Despite that I had been working at a good pace through mid-April with 76 DXCCs worked out of just 342 total contacts made.
My score wasn’t enough to fall into any of the “high score” listed categories, but I’ll take it and look forward to more DX next time around.
CWTD Podcast Redux?
Been keeping a close eye on this email thread about a possible return of the Chat With the Designers (CWTD) podcast.
From George Heron, N2APB:
“Nonetheless, and FWIW, a few of us are thinking of reviving the Chat With The Designers program, keeping to the theme of being quite down in the technical weeds on a single topic per episode like before. This isn’t to take away from the excellent SolderSmoke and Ham Radio Work Bench podcasts, as each has its own wonderful flavor and style. We’ll see”.
End of May
I didn’t get out as early as usual this morning for my walk and when I finally did it was uncomfortably warm. Sweating and swatting gnats are pretty low on my list of fun things and suddenly I remembered why summer isn’t my favorite of all seasons.
We’re stuck in a stretch of dry weather right now with no rain having fallen in the last week and none is expected anytime soon.
I haven’t been on the air in a few weeks as most of my station is packed away now. The IC-705 remains readily accessible and I’ll be using it for my annual backyard Field Day operation in just 23 more days. Last year the goal was a hundred contacts and given the circumstances this year, I’d be pleased with a repeat performance. I’ll admit the event is more enjoyable with others, but I see Field Day as an exercise in preparedness. A portable setup using battery power in the backyard seems a better “test” to me than a big cookout with the club. I wish we could do both!
We have narrowed our search for a new home and with that has come waves of panic as I realize that not only will we be moving soon, but shortly after we will need to prepare not one but two houses for sale. Those thoughts have made for a lot of restless nights and I’m certain that’s not healthy. The last time I moved I was in my forties and now that I’m in my sixties it feels like a much bigger deal and I don’t recommend it.
Somewhere back in my long ago I wrote a short story about about a secret society of hams in a little country town where all is not as it seems… Cornbread Road was originally produced in audio format in 2011. Thirteen episodes of about ten minutes each released once each week between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox that year. I haven’t kept it online because of bandwidth limits and associated costs though I have brought it back for limited runs several times since its initial release. I plan to release the entire series again this summer using the original schedule. Episodes will begin reappearing here on the solstice (June 21) with one episode released each week until the equinox (September 23). It’s a progressive story intended to be told in sequence.
It was always my intention to follow up Cornbread Road with other, similar short stories in audio format, but my career went into overdrive about the same time and I simply never found the time. Having solved that problem, my interest in the production of other audio ham radio related stories has returned. Hopefully this re-release will be the beginning of additional new audio programs.
For those who have never heard Cornbread Road, here is the MP3 file for the first episode. I’m afraid I’m not the best voice actor, and this story is getting pretty long in the tooth, but it will give you a feel for the program and hopefully whet your appetite for the rest of the series beginning in a few weeks.
Cross Country Grid Activations
Lance Collister, W7GJ is currently on the road on a month-long cross country road trip to New England. Along the journey he plans to activate grids on 6m FT8 both ways. Antenna is an M2 HO Loop mounted 3-feet above the roof. Transmitter is 150 watts output from a TE Systems amp being driven by a KX3. Got him in the log yet?
Through a Glass Darkly
I get a great deal of satisfaction from just looking up at the night sky. Been doing it since I was a kid. Literally. During summer months when school was out and the nights were warm a neighborhood friend and I would often recline in lawn chairs in the backyard, each of us with binoculars, spending hours looking into the heavens and talking about life, such as it was for thirteen year-old boys in Indiana.
Funny how that memory is burned into my brain yet I can’t remember a single mosquito bite, and you know there had to have been plenty of those!
We especially watched for shooting stars and saw plenty of them, even if a few did turn out to be fireflies doing their thing. Sometimes we would track a pinpoint of light from one horizon to the other, guessing these to be planes or maybe even satellites. We didn’t know and it didn’t really matter. We knew even less about the constellations that appeared overhead, but night after night the sky always seemed a familiar appearance.
When I got a little older I still enjoyed looking up.
A telescope helped a little, but I was never bitten hard by the astronomy bug. I think what amazed me most was when I understood that this view was basically unchanged for endless millennia. The sky view I enjoyed was identical to that viewed by America’s Founding Father’s, Napoleon, Caesar, and countless generations before them. My Father, Grandfather, and so much further up the family tree all gazed upon the exact same view. Having that common touchpoint really seemed special to me.
Now I read that scientists are warning Stars could be invisible within 20 years as light pollution brightens night skies.
Twenty years will take me to the end of my time here, but I’m incredibly saddened to think my grandchildren might not have the same opportunity to stare into forever and dream dreams the way I did.
In 2016, astronomers reported that the Milky Way was no longer visible to a third of humanity and light pollution has worsened considerably since then. At its current rate most of the major constellations will be indecipherable in 20 years, it is estimated. The loss, culturally and scientifically, will be intense.
“The night sky is part of our environment and it would be a major deprivation if the next generation never got to see it, just as it would be if they never saw a bird’s nest,” said Martin Rees, the astronomer royal. “You don’t need to be an astronomer to care about this. I am not an ornithologist but if there were no songbirds in my garden, I’d feel impoverished.”
Losing this common link to our ancestors - and our humanity - is a tragedy like few others if you ask me. I don’t want to live in a world where the only view of the heavens is from an orbiting telescope controlled by a government agency.
I might not have to, though I’m sad to think of all those who will come after me who may never be able to simply look up and see Orion the Hunter in all his celestial glory with their very own naked eyes.
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
It’s finally Friday and the start to a long holiday (Memorial Day) weekend here in the US. Since I retired holidays and weekends don’t hold as much value for me, but it does mean our kids will get a day off work (Monday) and hopefully we will get to hang out with them a little more. The weather looks good here too so I expect a lot of backyard grills will be working overtime.
The Indianapolis 500 will run this weekend and while it may be billed as the greatest spectacle in racing most people I know around here, including me, despise it. That’s because us “locals” don’t get to watch it live on television due to it being blacked out in this area. It doesn’t pay to be a race fan around here so there’s little reason to take an interest in what’s going on fifty-miles down the road at the Speedway…
This weekend is also the traditional beginning of the summer season. Schools are out and all the swimming holes and splash pads will be open for business. It doesn’t exactly line-up with the astronomical start to summer, but it’s close enough. No matter how you measure it, we’re entering our warm season and all that brings with it.
This weekend is the CQ WW WPX CW contest. That will keep many occupied between mouthfuls of potato salad.
Curt, K2CWM reminds SKCC members staying home this weekend and looking for something to do might use the time to add to their Brag totals before the month of May ends next week.
If you played in the Canadian Prairies QSO Party a few weeks ago then you need to submit your log no later than May 29th.
I saw an email from George Heron, N2APB from Midnight Design Solutions that said the N2CX Rainbow Tuner is again kitted and available for sale:
Some may recall the Rainbow Tuner Kit back from the NJQRP’s early days, as designed back then by our good friend Joe Everhart, N2CX. Since those first (big) runs of this nifty and colorful, resistive-based SWR indicator and tuner for 30m/40m EFHW antennas, we’ve always planned to make follow-on runs. Heck, we even talked about it multiple times on episodes of the CWTD podcast, but things (and parts availability!) always seemed to get in the way.
But the Rainbow Tuner is back for another limited run! You can read all about it in the documentation and article on this web page, and you can order kits right now.
Deliberate QRM Initiative
Interesting, and I hope it yields results. I’m not certain what they have in mind, but if there is a solution to the problem of deliberate QRM (DQRM) it will have to be technical in nature and electronic in implementation. Peer pressure and “Codes of Conduct” have failed to put a dent in the problem. And don’t kid yourself, it’s a big problem that’s only grown worse with time. So much so that unchecked, this facet of our hobby may simply cease to exist. The DX community is likely to spend millions on a final solution and this seems like a good start.
The Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) recognizes the negative impact deliberate QRM (DQRM) is having on our hobby. We believe this is a problem that can be mitigated by amateur radio operators applying their vast knowledge and creativity to the advanced receiving and direction finding technology currently available. In order to spur research into solving this problem the NCDXF Board of Directors at their April 2023 Board Meeting allocated $100,000 for grants to develop DQRM solutions.
NCDXF will entertain grant proposals from individuals or groups that specifically outline their approach to identify bad actors. A group of NCDXF Directors led by Craig Thompson, K9CT and Don Greenbaum, N1DG will weigh the probability of success of their proposals as well as monitor the progress of the grantees.
Funding will be available for R&D as well as implementation of technology proposals. It is hoped that manufacturers will also assist NCDXF and grantees with equipment and other resources.
NCDXF will shortly outline specifics for how to apply for these DQRM grants. We have created a webpage devoted to this project.
It's Getting Hot in Here
The search for a new place to live continues. We’ve seen a few homes that were nice, but not perfect. Today is yet another that will be spent touring homes and evaluating different places to live in this area. It’s weird to think whatever we decide upon might be the last place we live — and last time we ever move. That realization may be adding some pressure to an already difficult process. It’s obvious this moment is one for home sellers and not buyers. The local inventory is low and sales move so quickly it makes my head spin.
I’ve tried to keep amateur radio in whatever decision we make though it’s difficult. The nicest places available so far have even smaller yards than where I currently live. Still, when first approaching these places I’m already imagining how and what kind of antenna I could install there. Anything with an HOA is obviously unacceptable, but places with tall trees are getting second and third looks. A ham has got to ham!
I passed the one year mark a few days ago in the long wait to purchase a mercury IIIs amplifier without being contacted. The deal was you put your name on a waiting list and in less than a year they offer to sell you an amplifier. I did my part. It’s been more than a year and given everything that has transpired recently, if they ever do offer me a chance to purchase the amp I might decline. I’ve never had an HF amplifier in my 46 years as a ham and now uncertain where we will live or if I’ll have room for antennas, maybe I don’t need one?
I’ve been showing some deference to those homes that already have alternate forms of heating. This based on our recent discussion about the need to not freeze to death during a harsh winter when the power goes out. For the record, I’m a firm believer that we will experience more frequent and longer power outages along with increasingly extreme weather on the road ahead.
My dark winter scenario obviously depends on where you live. In this region it seems more likely that a power outage during a very cold winter presents the highest risk. But desert areas are much more at risk during hot seasons when the power goes out.
A recent article in the New York Times says the combination of a heat wave and blackout might send half of Phoenix to the emergency room. The research cited in the article warns that nearly 800,000 residents would need emergency medical care for heat stroke and other illnesses in an extended power failure.
While Phoenix was the most extreme example, the study warned that other cities are also at risk.
This summer, two-thirds of North America, including the Southwest, could experience shortfalls in the electrical grid, particularly during periods of extreme heat when demand for air-conditioning spikes, straining resources, according to an analysis released this month.
While I’m busy looking for a new home with a fireplace or wood burning stove as a way to keep warm during a winter power outage, maybe I should be looking for a place with a large natural gas powered generator for all seasons, just in case?
My Lab599 TX-500 Scorched Earth Odyssey
It has been 77 days (2.52 months or 0.21 years) since March 7, 2023. That’s when I shipped my Lab599 TX-500 transceiver to the US repair center for service because the display had gone bad. A few days later I received an email reply that the unit had been received and that repairs would begin the following week.
I have no idea if that’s adequate time for repair before I should become concerned that there is some issue with the process, but communication ground to an immediate halt. That email was the last I’ve had from the repair center. I keep saying “repair center” because my TX-500 was manufactured in Russia (before the war), but there is someone in the US who handles repairs for them.
With nothing but silence after several requests for some update, I eventually directed my question about the status of my transceiver to the support email in Russia and have had one reply (April 18) saying that the US service fellow had pneumonia and requested my further patience. Well yeah, what else can I do except be patient, they have my hardware and are ignoring all requests for updates?
I’ve decided to forget about it. Write it off as having been ripped-off and move on with life. If it ever happens to find its way back home I’ll discard it. You learn from these things and I discovered something important about the value of reliable support after the sale, especially when it’s something more than a trinket. I’m more than twelve-hundred bucks into the TX-500 with accessories and I can’t even get them to send it back to me un-repaired so I can scrap it for parts.
The TX-500 was a perfectly capable and enjoyable portable transceiver that I had previously praised for its unique design and ingenuity. Obviously, I no longer recommend the transceiver to anyone due to what I see as poor service after the sale.
What’s more, since I purchased it from Ham Radio Outlet I don’t think I’ll be giving them any more of my business either. I admit that to be unfair collateral damage given they weren’t involved in the after-sale support for this equipment, but when you feel ripped-off some scorched earth emotions are bound to surface.
Staying Radio Active
With Dayton/Xenia now in the rear-view mirror for 2023 I expect our attention will turn to summer time activities in this part of the world. Field Day, perhaps most notably, but also many smaller hamfests and tailgates and hopefully, more time operating from the field. And right on time the weather here is turning warmer this week. It seems our chilly mornings will be gone until autumn rolls back around.
I’m almost certain to be spending a lot of time with the IC-705 and portable antennas this season. That’s because the main station and antennas will be coming down soon. I doubt anyone can match the success of N6HI who has used the 705 to make more than 10,000 contacts over two and a half years (CW,RTTY,Phone). And most of those using a half-watt into a 20-foot end-fed wire antenna. Downright amazing results and gives me plenty of encouragement that I’ll be able to continue modestly disturbing the aether despite what lies ahead.
In 2005 my Mom had just passed away and we thought my 77 year-old Dad might need some help. So when a house nearly across the street from him came up for sale we bought it. All but one of our kids were grown and gone by then and there didn’t seem to be a need to live in a larger house so we happily moved into this small ranch across the street from Dad. It was far from ideal, but our expectation was to be here four or five years, just until Dad passed.
But as it turned out, my Dad didn’t need much help and he lived independently for nearly another twenty years.
Now that he’s gone we’ve begun the process of finding a new place to live. There isn’t much inventory of homes in this area that meet our criteria, but our realtor tells me to be ready to act quickly when something comes available. After we get moved into something new I will sell our existing home and my Dad’s house.
Packing up the ham gear and taking down the main antennas while the weather is good just seems prudent. I hate the unsettled feeling that comes from living out of boxes while waiting for the next housing opportunity, but that seems to be what’s in store for the next several months. Hopefully we find something quickly, get moved in, and get the antennas back up before the fall/winter radio season?
In the meantime, I’ll be using the IC-705 and portable antennas for the next few months and I intend to view this as a good thing, another radio adventure!
If you’ve ever had to work at remaining active while in such a transition drop me a note. I’d love to get your suggestions and feedback on how this all worked for you. Thanks!
I keep staring at the About page for this site yet remain completely blocked by what to put on it. My intent had been to knock together a few details introducing myself to any new readers and briefly explaining what I’m trying to accomplish here. I can’t imagine why that has me so blocked. Other than I hate writing about myself and after more than twenty years blogging here I still don’t know exactly what I’m trying to accomplish.
Going out on a limb I’d say maybe that’s why this has been so difficult. Details about me are revealed here in the blog posts — kind of bite-sized McNuggets of my life. But I realize that few readers want to sift through the archives to discover that minutia so a basic summary seems mandatory. Besides, whatever I come up with here will be probably be regurgitated on my QRZ bio which is as bare and empty as the ABOUT page here at the moment.
The explanation for WHAT I’m trying to accomplish is even tougher to generate. When I started blogging in 2002 the whole mechanism seemed ideal for sharing my adventures in amateur radio with a wide audience. But honestly, beyond general evangelism for the hobby this has always been a pretty vapid enterprise. By that I mean I’ve never done how-tos, construction articles, or deeply technical product reviews, etc.
And doesn’t that seem somewhat obligatory for a ham radio blog?
No, all I’ve done here has been to share opinions (about a lot of things), regurgitate radio history that’s probably only interesting to me, and occasionally document my results from a contest or Field Day. During the journey I did write numerous bits of radio fiction that were well-received and produced a couple of audio programs that were quite popular. But that was more than a decade ago now, time slips away so easily and without notice…
Enough with the melancholy and tears in my beer!
I retired a little more than a year ago and have now fully entered the third act of my life and I’d really like to make the most of it. With more time available these days I’d like to convert that into more ham radio, more adventure, more fun, more life. And apparently, I’ll continue chronicling it all here because that makes me happy too.
Oh, and if I can’t resolve the ABOUT page problem, well I can always remove the pesky link and get on with my life.
AMSAT 2023 Election News
Call for Nominations – 2023 AMSAT Board of Directors Election
AMSAT solicits nominations for the 2023 AMSAT Board of Directors election, to be held in the third quarter of the year. The seats of the following four incumbent Directors expire in 2023 and will be filled by this year’s election:
– Jerry Buxton, N0JY – Joseph Armbruster, KJ4JIO – Robert Bankston, KE4AL – Zach Metzinger, N0ZGO
Further, up to two Alternate Directors may be elected for one-year terms. A valid nomination for Director must be written and requires either one Member Society or five current individual members in good standing to nominate an AMSAT member. Written nominations, with the nominee’s name, call sign, and contact information, as well as the nominators’ names, call signs, and contact information, should be sent to the AMSAT Secretary:
Jeff Davis, KE9V PO Box 11 Yorktown, IN 47396
AMSAT bylaws require that the nomination be written and in the form specified by the Secretary who has elected to accept written nomination materials via mail or in electronic form, including email or electronic image of a paper document. Fax transmissions cannot be accepted.
Email nominations may be sent to jdavis@amsat dot org
No matter what means are used, petitions MUST be received by the Secretary no later than June 15th. The Secretary will verify the qualifications of candidates and nominating members or Member Societies as petitions are received, and will notify candidates whether their nominations are in order by the end of June.
Live Stream - Contest University
Live from Dayton Hamvention
Thanks to Icom America, Dayton Contest University ROOM ONE will be live streamed from the Hope Hotel near Dayton, Ohio on Thursday May 18, 2023 starting at 8:00 AM EDT - 1200 Zulu. CTU will finish at 5 PM EDT - 2100 Zulu.
You can see what will be presented in CTU Room one by going to the course outline:
The You Tube link for the stream that will be active on Thursday is here:
The Tuna-Tin 2
I was still in high school, a full year from graduation, when QST ran the construction article, Build A Tuna-Tin 2 (May 1976) by Doug DeMaw, W1CER. Sub-titled, Ham radio lost its kick? Go QRP with this weekend-project transmitter! WAS with a 40-meter half-watter? You betcha! The article went on to describe what would become the quintessential low-power homebrew project.
As I fondly re-read that old article I couldn’t help but remember the prolific author as one of the true giants of our hobby. Though DeMaw passed more than 25 years ago, vibrations from his work continue to be felt to this very day.
The QCWA memorial had this to say about him:
Acclaimed ham radio icon Milton F. “Doug” DeMaw, W1FB, died September 28, 1997. He was 71. One of the most widely published technical writers in Amateur Radio, DeMaw was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and had been in failing health in recent weeks. DeMaw was first licensed in 1950 as W8HHS. An electrical engineer, he was a member of the ARRL Headquarters staff for 18 years–from 1965 to 1983–and served as Technical Department Manager and Senior Technical Editor from 1970 to 1983. During his tenure at HQ, DeMaw served as editor of The ARRL Handbook. In 1970, he engineered the shift in emphasis toward solid-state design in QST and the Handbook. He has hundreds of articles in QST and other publications to his credit. DeMaw also was founder and publisher of VHFer Magazine. (His wife, Jean, W1CKK, also worked on the Headquarters staff.) DeMaw was a life member of the ARRL and a senior member of the IEEE.
After retiring to the family farm in Luther, Michigan, he was elected chairman of the Lake County Board of Commissioners and continued to write books and articles. He also tried his hand in the Amateur Radio business as proprietor of Oak Hills Research. Among his other books, DeMaw wrote W1FB’s Design Notebook, W1FB´s QRP Notebook, W1FB´s Antenna Notebook, and The ARRL Electronics Data Book, which remain popular. In recent years, DeMaw also penned a regular column for CQ magazine. A former ARRL colleague, Membership Services Manager Chuck Hutchinson, K8CH, counted DeMaw among his friends. “Doug loved to experiment with circuits and antennas. He also loved to encourage others to try their hand at building,” he recalled. Hutchinson said DeMaw not only wrote prolifically about ham radio but also about gardening, another of his avocations. “He was an avid gardener and cook,” he said. DeMaw also was an outdoorsman and hunter. “He loved to hunt with bow and rifle–both modern and muzzle loader. He was very good at throwing a knife or hatchet,” Hutchinson said. Paul Pagel, N1FB, also was one DeMaw’s colleagues during his days at ARRL HQ. “Amateur Radio benefited greatly from his work,” Pagel said. “He was a multifaceted man. I doubt there was anything he couldn´t do if he set his mind to it.” Jerry Hall, K1TD, who also worked with DeMaw during his years at HQ, called DeMaw a writer of “uncanny” ability. “Doug could write it once, and it was done,” he recalled.
It’s well-worth visiting that QCWA memorial page to read the follow-up from George Dobbs, G3RJV. It includes a description of the time George and Dick Pascoe, G0BPS visited DeMaw at his home in Michigan following a long-weekend at the Dayton Hamvention.
From a ham radio historical context, it’s pure gold.
Cloudy skies with some rain and a high of 74F here today.
We’ll be watching to see what’s new from Hamvention this week. Only rumor I’ve heard is Kenwood may have a replacement for the discontinued TH-D74 handheld. Given that the company didn’t even show up last year that would be kind of a big deal. I don’t know what else to expect but there are always a few interesting surprises. As usual there are some good looking days in the weather forecast and a few chances for rain. What can you do, it’s Dayton in May.
Complying with New RF Exposure Evaluation Rules:
The ARRL has reminded amateurs in the United States that it is making its resources available to help licensees comply with FCC rules on RF exposure limits. Those limits went into effect in 2021 and a two-year transition period was granted to permit hams to conduct evaluations and make necessary changes for stations that do not conform to the exposure rules. The ARRL issued its reminder to hams just as the transition period ended on May 3rd. Hams are not exempt from conducting such evaluations even if they transmit at very low power.
I enjoyed learning that the Rooster Net will soon celebrate 24,000 daily sessions on 3.990 MHz. That’s a long time!
Saw a news item this morning about Americans keeping their cars longer than usual due to sky-high prices and increased borrowing costs. My vehicles are old, I rarely buy new and keep them until they fall apart. One personal trait that has probably saved me a fortune over my lifetime is my disgust for automobiles. A bad day for me is when I finally have to purchase a replacement. I dread everything about the selection and purchasing process and I hate dealing with the insurance, license plates, and then watching birds crap on it. How dumb must we be to pay $40,000 for a car at noon that’s only worth $30,000 come dinner time the same day?
Those Were the Days
It’s going to seem weird not going to Dayton this week.
I’ve tried to do a reconciliation from foggy memories of my many visits and I think I’ve been to Hamvention 39 or 40 of the last 46 years. Living just 90 miles away it’s an easy annual sojourn.
I don’t feel bad saying that while the move from Hara Arena was necessary and non-optional, it hasn’t really felt like Dayton Hamvention to me since. There are obviously many things about the new facility that are better, it’s just a different experience. I have so many fond memories from Hara that I don’t suppose it will ever be the same for me. New hams can form their own mental connections with Xenia, I’ll continue to reflect warmly on the way we were.
To be honest it’s not so much Hamvention that I’m going to miss this year. It’s Four Days in May. FDIM is a long-running QRP happening that began in a previous century (yeah, I was there then too) when some wise guys got the notion to tack an extra day onto the normal Hamvention three-day weekend. Over the years it became one of the top QRP conventions on the planet. I’ve been to all but a few FDIM’s since they began and I’ll miss it most of all.
My own entry into the modern QRP movement can be traced to the explosion in the late 1990s. It was an exciting time when new hardware designs and techniques were bursting onto the scene no doubt assisted by the fact that everyone finally had email and the web. Elecraft tossed more fuel on the fire with the release of its K2 transceiver and the rest is literally history.
I’ve had a lot of fun and learned so much running with the low-power crowd exclusively for many years while drinking the five watt kool-aid. That all has cooled in recent years though. QRP ain’t what it used to be. I blamed a lot of that on the pain brought by Solar Cycle 24 and the poor propagation that attended it. With the higher bands closed tight for long periods of time it sorta felt like the QRP movement was losing steam.
More likely was that those of us who were a part of the 90s explosion just got old, and tired. And a few became Silent Keys. Sustaining a movement like that at a fever pitch for years on end requires constant infusion of new blood and it’s tough to say if there is enough available to keep it flowing. A brief resurgence brought back some of that old time religion when Parks on the Air first got underway, but now POTA seems mostly dominated by 100 watt portable stations.
Over the last several years a hundred QRP blogs have fallen silent and most of the clubs have been abandoned. One of the few that remained in operation simply forgot about one of their own popular operating events a few years ago, they missed it.
Yeah, I’m going to miss FDIM this year. It’s the largest gathering of the old gang who still share ideas and techniques with whoever will listen. But mostly they share warm memories from those days when every issue of QST and CQ magazine had more QRP content than would fit in the pages available. Now those were the days.
Just My Imagination
The upcoming Ducie Island VP6A operation scheduled to take place next month will be one of those moments where some hard decisions will have to be made. The operation is billed as a ground breaking remote operation DXpedition to a rare entity. Contacts made will most likely be via one of a number of operators who will not be anywhere near the island:
A total of 14 operators based in North American, Europe and Asia will operate land based remote controlled stations around the clock. There will only be three local operators at Ducie: W6IZT, KN4EEI and AA7JV. This small team will set up and maintain the stations and operate locally from the nearby boat. They will visit the island once a day to refuel the generators and do any necessary maintenance. In line with the minimum foot-print concept, there will be no camping on the island.
This will be the first full DXpedition utilizing the RIB concept that features a large number of remote operators with a small footprint on a remote island. Four RIBs (Radio In a Box) will provide a total of 5 stations capable of 24/7 operation on 10 bands.
Not to overdramatize the moment, but this is obviously an inflection point where DX chasers must decide how they really feel about remote DX operations. The concept isn’t brand new and has already been used in the process of tens of thousands of contacts. But this will be the first major operation to make use of it and if successful will no doubt become a prototype for many future DXpeditions. Maybe even ALL of them.
After all, there is some common sense at play here. Moving and deploying smaller footprint operations with a few maintenance operators can result in significant cost savings. Besides, some of the locations on earth that hams have decided are rare entities are rare enough that governing authorities don’t want teams of humans stomping over the floral and fauna and permission for overnight stays can be difficult to obtain; going forward perhaps even impossible.
And we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the transmitter and antennas used will actually be located on Ducie Island. It’s just the operators who will be faraway, connected to the business end of the station via internet satellite.
Still, when I think about DXing my imagination conjures Don Miller, Danny Weil, and Gus Browning sailing in small boats from island to island across the South Pacific. And when I imagine working them I know their toes are wiggling in the warm sands on the beaches of those islands. I can honestly tell you that never even once have I imagined working Danny or Gus while they sit in their pajamas in an air-conditioned apartment in Pasadena handing me credit for some rare island in the South Pacific…
Some folks will argue that this is the future of DX and they are probably correct. The question remains, however, is this kind of operation something I want to chase, or ignore? I’m tempted to say “ain’t nothing like the real thing” and skip it, but I need Ducie Island, it’s #56 on the Most Wanted List. Not an easy decision.
In some ways this feels like just another brick in the wall of this fake world we’ve created. Fake news, fake media, fake political leaders, fake wars, fake television, artificial intelligence. We’ve handcrafted a delusive life where nothing is real. Against that simulated backdrop it may be too much to expect ham radio explorers to actually travel to and operate from the exotic places we mortals imagine working them?
I hate the future.
It happened again. I read an interesting blog post from a fellow reviewing a unique bit of ham radio equipment and I wanted to leave a comment thanking him for the review. But it didn’t work. Despite having a button that said “Press to Comment” nothing happened. This is an all too common occurrence and it’s annoying as hell. It’s bad enough that many of the management systems (Wordpress, Google, etc.) require you to have an account and log-in to comment, but it adds insult to injury when those don’t work.
I stopped doing commenting here years ago. It would be a lot of work to incorporate it into my site since I don’t use a standard CMS and when you couple that with the maintenance necessary due to spam comments it just wasn’t worth the effort. Still, if you’re going to “advertise” that comments can be added to your blog you might want to check that function to make sure it works on occasion. Here’s a hint: it’s broken on more than half the ham radio sites I visit.
K9ZW recently commented on the impact of AI as a scraper of copyrighted content. That’s one problem. I think the far larger problem is that the planet will soon be flooded by (even more) auto-generated misinformation at a rate that will make the maintenance of a democracy like America impossible to maintain. This New World experiment will crash down like a crumbling old barn in a tornado and I don’t know what anyone might do about it. Cockroaches and 75 meter phone nets could be the only thing to survive and I wouldn’t look to science for a solution given that more than 30% of all scientific papers are already fake. Sigh.
Last time I looked at my site stats I saw that readers using Linux make up just over 10 percent (10.7) of all visitors. That’s not much different than a decade ago, but I’m impressed to see folks still using Linux on the desktop (Android reports separately). I rolled my first Linux kernel back in about 1993. I don’t recall the exact date, but it was pre-1.0 from a Slackware distribution. Those were my own halcyon days of personal computing and I quickly became one of the zealots predicting “total world domination” — and that did eventually happen, though not the way we expected. These days I still use Linux for all kinds of things other than my desktop. This Web site runs on Ubuntu.
Let’s just say that Wayne Green, W2NSD has inspired me. Again. Yesterday’s post mentioned my re-reading of several old 73 Magazine editorials from the 1960’s while stranded in hospital rooms last week and I’ve decided to pivot a bit here and follow his lead. I believe in open web publishing without paywalls or advertisements. But much more than that, I want to write whatever I want, without restrictions and without concerns for offense.
That likely means some will be offended. Sorry. Not sorry.
Look, I’m an old retired guy who can’t be canceled because someone doesn’t like something I said. I have no job, no social media accounts, there’s nothing to cancel. That doesn’t mean I intend to suddenly turn rude, but you know how it’s become in our culture sensitive world, a lot of folks dance around what they really want to say for fear of offending someone or of reprisal. How much freedom is that? Those hypersensitive to the truth probably won’t like it here anymore, if they ever did.
Life is too short for political correctness.
Never Say Die
I’ve been reading old editorials from Uncle Wayne, W2NSD again.
You know, those novellas that appeared in the front pages of 73 Magazine. I’m talking about the older stuff. From the 60’s. There’s a lot of history in that content, but there are also other details of note. For instance, periodical publishing must have been a more lucrative business in those days given the size of the publication. Some of them ran more than 150 pages of content with each having to be written, assembled, printed and then sent via postal mail to subscribers. Surely such a monthly venture was at least marginally profitable?
Wayne’s printed editorials could probably be considered a prototype of the online blog. He wrote about anything and everything without constraint. It wasn’t just about the magazine or amateur radio. No topic was off-limits and W2NSD covered a lot of territory in those pages. Sure, they were considerably longer than a typical blog post, but he was only able to broadcast his message once a month as opposed to more frequent postings that are typical of today’s blog. The point being the total monthly output from a single blog might approach the word count in one of those epic-long 73 Magazine editorials.
The difference from blogs is that these days most readers reject long-form editorializing. I’ve tried it here and noticed that the average time spent on the page of any post longer than 350 words is too brief to have actually read the content. It’s the old “too long; didn’t read” (TL;DR) syndrome that afflicts today’s attention deficit population who demand short, pithy blog posts. By contrast, 73 Magazine was a printed publication and readers could carry the magazine around with them wherever they went permitting them to ingest those Words from Wayne in bite-sized pieces over the course of an entire month.
No matter, I remain smitten with that old format. I find the wide assortment of topics that Wayne Green chose to share with his readers to be compelling proof that W2NSD was certainly not some one-dimensional caricature of a radio amateur. The many topics he touched on in his editorials, sometimes even outside the realm of amateur radio (gasp!) convinces me that he was an interesting person who could no doubt pontificate about many different subjects during the course of a QSO without resorting to the excruciating minutia of yet another damned EFHW hunk of wire. Good grief!
W4DXCC 2023 Convention
Things are a bit chaotic around here at the moment, but I hope it’s just a temporary situation. I like to think that by the end of September the old routine will have resumed and thoughts of retreating to the mountains of Tennessee seem about perfect. As it happens, there’s even more reason to make plans now:
Visit W4DXCC for Complete Details
What: 18th Annual W4DXCC DX and Contesting Convention
When: September 29 and 30, 2023
Where: Ramsey Hotel and Convention Center, Pigeon Forge
Why: Fellowship, learning, fun, food and most importantly, renewed friendships!
It’s time to make your hotel reservations!!
The Ramsey is only minutes from our previous venue and their convention/banquet area is outstanding. It’s very easy to get to and close to everything. The Ramsey offers a full breakfast buffet, a fireplace in the lobby, a lounge and bar - including a Tiki bar by the pool. Due to many fun things happening in Pigeon Forge, please make your hotel reservations ASAP by calling 865-428-2700. When you call, be sure to tell them you are with W4DXCC by SEDCO for our special room rate. You cannot make reservations online.
See you soon,
Dave Anderson, K4SV
Update from the Homefront
Almost two weeks ago I suggested there might be some interruption in the normal traffic flow on the blog due to my Dad breaking his hip. Broken hips and the elderly are always a bad combination so it was no great surprise when, after ten days and nights in the hospital, he passed away from complications due to the surgery. The last couple of days have been spent making all the necessary final arrangements that follow such an event.
Saying “goodbye” forever to someone you love is never easy, but my Dad was only a few weeks shy of 96 when he passed. His long, healthy life was filled with adventure and joy and it lasted so long we probably started to believe he couldn’t, or wouldn’t ever die. I got to spend a lot more time with my Dad than most others ever do and for that I’m grateful.
With all the family gathered round as he hovered between here and eternity we spoke about our time together with older relatives and I related to my sons and daughter how I never really knew my grandparents. All of them had died before I turned seven years old. To that my oldest son marveled, “and here I am 43 years old and still have a Grandpa”. It was a sobering reality.
Not trying to bring you down with my sad news, but I didn’t want to leave those who read my previous post wondering how that turned out. In the end, it wasn’t good news. Yet somehow we all still feel fortunate to have had my Dad around to share so many extra-inning wins – like meeting all his great-grandchildren.
This Too Shall Pass
Cycle 25 has certainly provided a much needed boost to the joy of HF especially coming on the heels of one of the weakest solar cycles in the history of radio. While many of us are taking full advantage of the improved conditions on 20-10 meters, it’s useful to note that current results are a temporary condition.
This solar cycle began in December 2019 which means we’re beginning to get in deep. Scientists who study these things don’t believe we have hit the peak portion of this cycle yet, but many say we are getting close to that event. The standard prediction says solar maximum will occur in 2025 — just two years from now.
But there are many solar prognosticators with many opposing theories about this science and some say Cycle 25 could result in a double-peak variation where there are actually two peaks during the over all cycle – which sounds good until you realize two peaks mean two minimums.
It’s all a bit confusing and opposing scientific theories don’t make it any easier to predict what lies ahead. That’s compounded by the fact that this is one of those sciences best explained after the fact. We will be two years into Cycle 26 before we really know how 25 turned out!
The only thing certain is that the higher frequencies are alive and well and those who enjoy chasing DX and the fun of maximum communications using modest equipment and antennas should be taking full advantage of these conditions right now.
Good radio propagation at HF should be considered a rare commodity and the only thing for certain is that these too shall pass.
I enjoy radio contesting, I’m just not good at it.
I’m not highly competitive and hold no illusions about ever being a “top” contest operator. I’m the guy who when we swap total contact numbers in the exchange has 43 worked while you have 1359. I’ve attended Contest University a couple of times and I know the basic mechanics of contesting, I just don’t take it seriously enough to amount to much.
That has never been more apparent than while reviewing my 2022 CQ WW DX CW Log Check Report. I only spent a few hours in that one and my goal wasn’t some impressive contest score (good thing!), I was really looking for select entities that I needed on CW. I worked 130 stations, several of which were needed making it time well-spent. I claimed a score of 41,514 which included 77 countries and 34 zones.
But the check log results exposed a few critical errors that would be even more humbling had I been trying to make a serious effort of it. After review, my score dropped to 28,462, a 31.4% reduction due to several critical errors.
3 (2.3%) not in log 9 (6.9%) incorrect calls 0 (0.0%) incorrect exchanges 0 (0.0%) missing exchanges 0 (0.0%) duplicates removed 1 (0.8%) calls unique to this log only (not removed)
The incorrect calls were CW copy mistakes like my logging ED7A instead of EB7A, etc. Those can be improved with practice, but I doubt I will ever be completely accurate copying 30-40 wpm over several hours, but clearly more work is needed here.
14014 CW 2022-11-26 1226 KE9V 04 HA7IB 15 correct HA8IB 21020 CW 2022-11-26 1256 KE9V 04 SA9A 14 correct HA9A 21028 CW 2022-11-26 1533 KE9V 04 TM6T 14 correct TM6M 7014 CW 2022-11-27 0245 KE9V 04 ED7A 14 correct EB7A 14015 CW 2022-11-27 1310 KE9V 04 SH7DX 14 correct S57DX 14033 CW 2022-11-27 1317 KE9V 04 SA8A 14 correct HA8A 21039 CW 2022-11-27 1354 KE9V 04 SH0R 14 correct S50R 28054 CW 2022-11-27 1654 KE9V 04 EA5LS 14 correct EA5RS 21020 CW 2022-11-27 1838 KE9V 04 ED7A 14 correct EB7A
On the other end there were three stations who copied my call incorrectly as KE9E, KE9H, and KE8V.
I’m still pleased with the outcome since I managed to add several new DXCC on CW during the event, but I’d like to add some focus on this particular facet of the hobby. There certainly is room for considerable improvement.
It’s raining. It always rains when bad things happen.
My Dad took a spill at home yesterday and fractured his hip. He’s in the hospital now awaiting surgery and whatever might follow. It’s bad news to be certain, but having lived independently to the ripe old age of 95 we choose to focus on his amazing life.
Dad was born the same week as Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis on the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic. He lived through the Great Depression and is a World War II Navy veteran. After the war he married, started a family, lived to see men walk on the moon, live in space, and welcome four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren into the world. He has never owned a computer or a mobile phone. He used to have a credit card but they canceled it because he never used it. He missed the 1919 pandemic by a few years on one end of his life then survived a bout with the Covid pandemic on the other.
We have all been amazed to watch him continue to live in his own home all these years. He has done his own shopping (he still drives) and bill paying and even the lawn mowing. In fact, he was last seen on the lawn tractor just two days ago! He has been a vibrant member of the Greatest Generation and a hero to our entire family.
I wanted to post this note to let you know why there may be some interruption here over the coming weeks. Maintaining the blog is trivial, but I hate visiting a personal ham radio site that has been seemingly abandoned without reason so I wanted to at least note what was going on. This may not be an issue given there’s nothing I can do at the moment and I seem to have a few excess cycles to burn while stuck in wait mode as this issue works itself to some conclusion.
I worked 5W1SA on Samoa, an all-time new one for me, while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing this morning. I don’t often pick up ATNO’s on 30 meters so this was a pleasant surprise. Samoa (5W) isn’t particularly rare, number 154 on the Most Wanted list.
But according to Club Log, actvity from the island peaked a decade ago and has been declining ever since. A little more than 50,000 QSOs were recorded in 2013 while only some 15,000 took place in 2022. Best I can tell there was an active club there with some 15 members many years ago, but the QRZ bio for Atsu, the operator I worked, says “I’m the only one active residential HAM on the Island” so I guess things have trailed off a bit there?
There were a handful of other contacts made, off and on, throughout the day and a few more band slots filled. In between those I spent several hours outside on lawn work. The weather forecast says we can expect several consecutive days of rain beginning tomorrow. The temperatures have been lovely the last few days. 50s and 60s during the day dropping down into the 40s at night. The furnace has only been used to knock the chill off the house in the mornings.
Good weather for sleeping and for working outdoors if you ask me.
Got back on the air today in bite-sized sessions. Stolen moments while waiting for the coffee to brew, etc. It’s been like that for the last month or so, too busy for radio. Ack!
It seemed the bands had bounced back nicely after the weekend rumble, but another glancing blow from another CME is expected to arrive tomorrow.
I copied T30UN just after daybreak on both 30 and 20 meters, called without success. Later I worked 9G5AR for a new one on digital. 8P6ET and V31DL filled a couple of 10 meter Challenge slots while PJ2MAN and 9Y4DG did the same on 15 and 12. The usual setup was employed. IC-7610, 100 watts, ground mounted vertical.
After leaping from winter directly to summer, literally snowing one day and 85F the next, our weather has turned more spring-like, at least for the next couple of weeks. There’s even a freeze warning for tonight which might kill a few flowers and slow the lawn growth but is no big deal. It’s just that time of season when the weather confounds the birds and the farmers. And given that we ran both the furnace and the air-conditioning on the same day last week, I’m confounded by this weather too.
I’ve made a few minor changes to the site by consolidating the archive listing into a single file. I had been breaking that into ‘years’ to reduce the size of the listing, but that was a kludgy solution that I’ve never been happy about and find it more acceptable to live with the longer archive listing. My propensity for making changes like this directly on the server without first testing them offline to minimize the risk of data loss isn’t recommended, but thirty years of HTML wrangling has left me with no fear about these kinds of modifications.
My dog, Marshall Tucker, got into a fight with a larger dog over a toy last week and ended up with several nasty bites on his legs. We couldn’t see how bad those wounds were until the vet shaved his legs revealing several deep bites requiring more than a few stitches to patch him up. While we wait for those to come out he’s forced to wear the dreaded “cone” on his head so we’ve been trying to keep him calm which is no easy task for such a high-energy fellow, but it has helped to take frequent naps - a silver lining!
Our usual Sunday routine is hosting dinner for the kids and grandkids, but given the need to keep Marshall calm (he gets pretty excited with a house full of kids!) we’ve suspended the ritual for this week and will instead enjoy a lazy Sunday doting on the dog.