Woke up this morning to the sound of rain falling. It’s 42F so no worries about the white stuff. Just gentle precipitation falling out of hopelessly gray skies. Makes it easy to justify a morning in the shack with a lot of coffee. I see where band conditions are supposed to be poor-to-lousy for the next 24-48 hours. Great. That hasn’t stopped some POTA activators from hitting the field. I just worked N8BB at a park in Michigan on 40 meters and now I’m listening to Brian, N1BS in Rhode Island working a pack of hunters. Signals are a little light, but still seem workable. Being the beginning of a new month I briefly considered doing something out of the ordinary, like doing nothing but —fill in the blank– for the entire month but I never came up with anything good so its just radio as usual again this month.

I’ve been trying to gather enough gumption to take on some year-end accounting, ham radio style. For instance, a quick review of my LoTW awards account shows that I have 47 states confirmed on 80 meters, 49 confirmed on 40 meters, and 49 confirmed on 20 meters. This seems some low-hanging fruit that, if picked, would yield another award, five band worked all states. I haven’t paid attention to my WAS account after earning the Triple-Play award and didn’t realize I was so close on another bit of wallpaper. I’ll have to do something about that.

There’s also some final bookkeeping to be done to complete my DX Marathon submission for 2023. This event has held my interest in DXing for two years and I look forward to another. I didn’t expect to even make the 100 entity threshold this year having been off the air for several months due to family issues and moving to a new location. Last year I managed to work 122 countries and 31 zones for a total score of 153. My goal this year was to improve on that considerably which didn’t happen, I’m currently at 104 entities and 30 zones. Less than I had hoped, but much better than I expected after witnessing the year fall apart like it did.

Bottom line, there’s always busywork to be done and I like that my lifelong hobby continues to hold my interest and keeps me busy. In fact, I think I’ll jump in the SST this afternoon. I can only offer the propagation gods a paltry ten watts of RF on the altar today thanks to the IC-705. That will just have to do, and honestly, it usually does.


I removed the IC-7610 from the operating desk recently to prepare it for shipment to Michigan for a display replacement. In it’s place I have setup the IC-705 with the AH-705 auto-tuner on a more permanent basis so I can continue to play radio. By comparison, the enormity of the “hole” left by the 7610, its two matching speakers, and the ICOM power supply was striking. The entire experience has me questioning the common sense of maintaining such equipment. And it’s not just the desk space required, the double-boxed radio that I will drop off at the UPS office is massive, and the shipping bill alone, impressive. This only serves to reinforce the notion (at least to me) that smaller footprint equipment is just smart ham radio strategy.

This month-long switcheroo of equipment on my desk brings with it additional challenges. The IC-705 was designed to be used laying on a rock outside. Same goes for the Elecraft KX3. The cables all connected on the sides which is a logistical nightmare when trying to use this stuff on the desktop where you would want the transceivers sitting up for easy access to the controls. Right now I have a veritable rats nest of cables running in and out of the 705 and I haven’t even connected the microphone. All things to consider carefully when selecting equipment and building a shack. I’m going to have to quickly come up with some sort of cable management system for the 705 on a desk just to feel better about it. The same would be true of the KX3 if I choose to use it over the coming month.

Yesterday, with the replacement radio cooking along at 10 blistering watts of HF CW, I managed to easily work ten stations, most of them POTA activators in the field. To be honest, I’ve never seen much difference between ten and a hundred watts so long as I’m using a decent antenna. Hardcore QRP enthusiasts will expend many brain cycles trying to convince you that there’s only a negligible difference between received signals at 100 and 5 watts, yet most also will tell you using 10 watts instead of 5 watts is a way too much power kind of sacrilege. Go figure.

Fortunately, I’m not a purist and 10 watts falls into a category I consider to be “low-power” and I’m good enough with that. I’ve often said my long affiliation with the QRP world has nothing to do with power levels. I’d run a kilowatt if it was safe to do so in a package that I can carry in my hand and it would run off a small battery. Since that’s not possible, I fall in with the QRP crowd for the portable equipment, the kits and home brew projects, and for the whiff of self-sufficiency I get when fraternizing with the best of these. Five watts, ten watts, psh. Who cares?

Now, where is my new Elecraft KH1? Ordered it at 2pm on October 20th, six weeks ago. So far, nothing but crickets out of California…

Burning Questions

There are a few things I have been wondering about and figured why not ask the audience of readers who frequent this somewhat questionable establishment. Apologies in advance if you think these to be simple questions easily understood by everyone except me. Feel free to provide answers in the comments.

1. When someone includes VOTA in their FT8/FT4 CQ transmissions, are they indicating that they are a VOTA station or that they are only interested in working a VOTA station?

I understand that Volunteers on the Air is an ARRL program that awards points for working certain officials and other volunteers. And there is a year-long effort to tally those points for some sort of award credit. My question is what is the caller indicating in this case? If the same caller put “DX” in place of “VOTA” then I understand he is only interested in working DX stations — but this VOTA thing leaves me scratching my head in wonder and I avoid replying because of my uncertainty.

2. Do POTA/SOTA stations prefer that those chasing them use as much power as is available?

In other words, would they prefer not working QRP stations? It seems a fair proposition considering the activator has probably spent time and money to head to the field and may themselves be using battery powered QRP field gear with a compromised antenna, a tough proposition even when working more powerful stations. Perhaps this isn’t the best time to try and engage them using QRP power levels?

3. Is ignoring stations that don’t use LoTW rude behavior unbecoming of a genteel radio operator?

I only QSL via LoTW and I employ the software option with WSJT-X to color highlight stations known to make use of Logbook of the World. I figure it’s wasting my time to work anyone via FT8 if there is no chance of a confirmation. I would certainly chew the rag with any other ham using voice or CW, but since the FT modes are an exchange of the smallest amount of data, what’s the point unless it’s worth something like DXCC or WAS credit?

4. What’s the deal with the attitude of some digital operators who insist on receiving levels of confirmation on the air in order to “count” a contact as valid?

I visit the QRZ page of almost everyone I work via FT8/FT4. It’s the only way to find out where they are and anything about them. Sorry, I haven’t committed every maidenhead grid square location to memory. Many of those pages have some bio info and very often I see something like this, “if we worked and I don’t copy that final 73 from you our contact is NOT going in my log”. Why? If you send me 73 and I send you 73 one of us could always be left to wonder if the other fellow actually received that final-final acknowledgement. So what exactly is the point of this nonsense? Perhaps it makes you feel a little better about something, but I come away with a rather dim view of you (LID) in the process.

5. How is it possible that Raul Midón, AE3RM has never been invited to play Bottom Cycle Blues at DX or Contest University in Dayton?

A little extra credit and not a serious question, but come on, he’s an amazing musician who hasn’t received nearly enough attention in the amateur radio world. In my humble opinion. Check out the video before you answer.


For most of the last few months my CW activity has centered on hunting POTA and a few SOTA stations and steadily adding them to my log. Though I wasn’t on a mission from God like Jake and Elwood, I found it pretty easy to work three or four of them while the coffee was brewing. Six a day seemed a nice clip. And then there were the regular CW practice sessions. You know, the weekly SST and CWT events. It was easy to snag another 20-30 contacts for the log with each of these. Add to these a few monthly sprints and the occasional big contest and working a lot of CW isn’t particularly difficult.

If you think about it for even a moment you begin to realize this is spending my life, time I can never get back, exchanging ten seconds of data with masses doing the same thing. I made a public comment recently about POTA being like a “contest” and immediately drew friendly fire from all around. Some folks want to believe that contesting is an unclean activity while hunting POTA is more noble, but that notion is built on a shaky ladder of facts. Speaking as a ‘hunter’ I visit a Web page to see who is operating and where, then I spin the VFO and call them. We exchange signal reports and SPC and more infrequently, a quick 72 or 73 and it’s over. Tell me how the hell that’s the least bit different than a typical contest exchange? In a few cases it may be even shorter than a contest exchange. And the POTA pile-ups have grown to insane levels — just to work some guy sitting on a park bench in Alabama. I’ll sit in a pile to try and work a guy on Bouvet, but Alabama? Look, I enjoy POTA, it has revitalized outdoor radio activity in America, but if you truly believe it’s more than just another contest you probably also believe Field Day is something more than a contest — but you still keep score.

Actually, I think I do have a mission in piling up CW contacts: Contrition. I’ve been working a lot of FT modes while chasing DX lately. My station is modest, but my goals are oversized and it’s been easier to use digital than CW in this quest. Even with these currently good band conditions. Especially with these good conditions. A hundred watts and a vertical is considerably more potent using FT4 or FT8 and I have been taking full advantage. So while the digital side of the ledger grows I think I have been attempting to balance the CW side with piles of trite CW contacts. I tell myself it’s still good practice, a CW man can never have too much practice, right?

My feeling of guilt about all this having been exacerbated by recent diary comments from K3WWP.

John has implied on several recent occasions that it’s getting much tougher to find anyone with which to have an actual CW QSO. He’s been using CW POTA contacts and practice sessions (SST) to help continue his long streak of making a QRP CW contact a day and I get the feeling this has been unsatisfying. He would obviously prefer a little more conversation than is gleaned from a hundred rapid fire RST/SPC exchanges that is all that can be found on CW these days. To test his theory, I just spent eight days without sprints, POTA, or SOTA and I gotta be honest, John isn’t wrong. CW has become a desolate land if you exclude those activities. But if you spout off about that in any of your social media spaces you too will draw rapid fire. Almost everyone will insist that CW is alive and well and growing and if by that they mean that more people have figured out how to send and decode “599 TU 73” they might be right.

Now ask the next guy you work via CW if he has had to rake many leaves this year and it’s likely you will draw a quick gotta go 73 because he has no clue what you just sent…

Assorted Candies

The SKCC Weekend Sprint (WES) was this weekend. I joined the fun at the opening bell and quickly made 13 contacts. I started to think a 50 or even a 100 Q sprint might be in the offing, but I went for a second cup of coffee at that point and never came back. It was what it was and I need to remember to submit my paltry results.

I did manage to work the Botswana operation (A25R) on 12, 15, and 17 meters using FT8 in F/H mode this weekend. I was hearing them well on 20 meters too, but they weren’t having anything to do with my RF there. That’s an ATNO for me so happy dance all around as those are becoming tougher to find, work, and confirm.

Having been an enthusiastic user of Twitter, back in the before time, and who abandoned it earlier this year, I admit to some curiosity about the new-ish Bluesky social service. So when an invitation code arrived this weekend I signed up and took it for a spin. It looks exactly like the old Twitter. That may be one of its charms? I haven’t found many hams there just yet, and may never. There are so many social media options these days that the herd has been split into many smaller chunks. If you have an account look for me

+ Will Saturn’s rings really ‘disappear’ by 2025? An astronomer explains

Lara Parker Dies: ‘Dark Shadows’ Scene-Stealing, Spell-Casting Witch Angelique Was 84 – RIP. Notable passing for me since we rewatched the entire original Dark Shadows series a year ago. I had watched much of it during its original run when I was still a kid in grade school, rushing home daily to catch up with the assorted creepiness. Watching it again as an adult I admit it was definitely campy, but an original masterpiece in its own way. ‘Angelique’ was the witch who turned Barnabas Collins into a vampire during an alternate timeline so her place in DS history is forever secure.

I have concluded my hunt for POTA. Whether forever or just for the season has yet to be determined.

At 1849 UTC Nov 11 SpaceX launched the Transporter-9 mission carrying over 100 satellites from many different companies and countries to orbit. Details at via Jonathan McDowell

Imagine a high school student whose passion for science is ignited during a summer program and goes on to become a groundbreaking scientist. That’s the kind of transformational journey that the Summer Science Program (SSP) has been fostering for decades. To support this important work, 1969 program alumnus and a founder of Qualcomm — Franklin Antonio — donated $200 million in his will, Antonio passed away in May of 2022.

$200+ Million Bequest Will Support Science Research For High Schoolers

Four Horsemen

Life has been slowly returning to normal and that has resulted in a little more time for ham radio. I have been finding time each day to spend in the radio shack and that has worked out pretty well as I continue to plug away at the basic DXCC Challenge by filling needed slots on all bands and modes. I’ve continued to chase POTA and SOTA stations almost daily, and I still hope to level-up my SKCC membership with a few hundred new contacts between now and the end of the year to earn Senator level.

That one needs the most work, but the November WES is coming up this weekend.

The bottom line is that I’ve been busy on the air lately and that’s been a good thing. It’s been fun and keeps me plodding toward my HF goals. Plus, it reduces the available quiet time — the last thing I want or need this year.

POTA award for working 500 unique reference areas

I recently processed some documentation so I could apply for a few new things and as a result DXCC certificates for both 20 and 15 meters arrived from Newington. I’m anxious to get those framed and on the wall along with the others. That Triple Play Award plaque I ordered a month ago still hasn’t arrived. I need to follow-up and find out where that is in the process. It may sound like a lot of paperwork when actually the entire process was done online, click-click, credit card. All of my ARRL awards have been from LoTW confirmations as I made a clean break from paper years ago. That meant starting from scratch, but it simplifies the application process as there’s no longer a need for card checking, etc.

The point of all this recent ham radio busy “work” is that there are many goals I want to accomplish and life is short. Having been a ham for such a long time most of these should have been completed ages ago. The time for chasing DX for me was decades ago when band conditions were so much better. Now I’m taking advantage of a decent solar cycle to get what I didn’t get before. I’m trying to finish as many of these as possible as several other high-priority (bucket list) goals will soon change my focus from HF to much higher frequencies…

I can hear hoofbeats of the four horses of the gray hair apocalypse approaching.

On the Air

I granted myself the entire day off yesterday. No chores, no yard work, no housework. Not even radio made the cut. It was just family, food, and football. The kids came over along with their kids, and we enjoyed a nice day of rest that was sorely needed. All good things end, however, and this morning we were back in the grind. I took my early morning walk in the chilly 40F air and by the time I got back home it was time for Brenda to go to work while I, being the retired guy, spent the next several hours playing on the radio.

With my SKCC quest having turned to Senator, I spawned a new log to keep track of just those contacts. I worked three qualifying contacts and need 197 more.

I stopped by the POTA spots page to see who was in the field and managed to hunt down seven of them before giving up and making myself a pumpkin spice latte. Break time is important!

During the afternoon I did a lot of listening. Just spinning the dial and eavesdropping on conversations while making note of procedures used. These change from time to time and they probably shouldn’t. Your Novice Accent And What To Do About It remains the seminal work on the basics of CW procedures. I used to believe that so long as both operators understand each other then procedures were for graybeards. But now that I are one, I suddenly see the value.

It’s kinda like how my Dad got smarter the older I got…

I also caught AA7OY on a SOTA adventure in New Mexico this afternoon. He was on 20 meter (CW) and sounding every bit the part of a QRP station on some yonder mountain, which of course he was. I prefer chasing Summits on the Air operators because nearly all of them are using QRP gear. I find that more challenging and perhaps a bit more interesting to review the locations where these folks gain some altitude.


The sun simply doesn’t want to wake up on this early Friday morning. Already a couple of stations in the log and that’s probably a good thing. We have lined up several chores later this morning that will probably keep us busy for most of the day. 64F and mostly cloudy right now. Rain tonight looks likely, then much cooler temps will move back in. The high tomorrow is expected to be twenty degrees cooler than today’s high. Happy Friday, hello weekend!

K4SWL noted on his blog today the increased usage of “72” at the close of many POTA contacts. 72 is sent instead of 73 to indicate that QRP power levels were used for the QSO. I’ve noticed the same and think it’s a nice touch too!

Blogs.Radio is a mega aggregation of ham radio blog feeds that is becoming one of my most visited spots on the web.

Wayne Burdick, N6KR was a guest on Coffee and Ham Radio last night. I haven’t seen it yet, but assume it was a discussion about the new Elecraft KH1.

Speaking of the KH1, none other than WG0AT just carried one to a summit and he has some thoughts on its performance as an ultra-portable field transceiver.

A note went out to members of QCWA warning of a recent phishing attempt circulating among members, falsely representing the Quarter Century Wireless Association and soliciting donations through gift cards. Don’t be fooled! The organization will never ask for donations or gift cards through email or any other form of communication.

Good luck in the CQ WW DX Contest (SSB) this weekend!

More than a year ago I re-published The Unicorn in the Garden, a short-story by James Thurber that was originally published in The New Yorker in 1939. It remains the most read post on this blog and continues to receive the lions share of daily attention here. Go figure.

Early Bird

It was a year ago today that Elon Musk bought Twitter, ruining the service and the brand. At least that’s my view of how things went down. Having been an early adopter and frequent advocate for Twitter as a tool for radio amateurs, I deleted my account some months later and haven’t really looked back. As it turns out, I still have another account. Something I created a few years after my ham radio call sign account. I have re-visited the social network a few times using that other account, but it’s not the same and I don’t really use it. So much water under the bridge that makes me wonder, do hams still use Twitter?

I had this Early Shift Hunter award in my POTA account this morning. It says it’s for “Making 100 QSOs as a hunter during the Early Shift” which isn’t too surprising considering I’m frequently on the air before the sun comes up, but there was nothing to inform me what time the early shift begins and ends?

The W3LPL Propagation Report was prefaced with this today:

“Despite very unusual low sunspot and geomagnetic activity for solar maximum, some of the best HF propagation in 20 years is likely to continue through at least Saturday October 28th by Frank Donovan, W3LPL”

That might be good news for the crowd expected to participate this weekend in the SSB edition of the 2023 CQ World-Wide DX Contest. Or as this week’s editor of the ARRL Contest Update N1ADG wrote, “With propagation on the higher frequencies being some of the best we’ve seen in decades, 10 and 15 meters will be a great place to find multipliers and run, run, run.”

Yeah. Do that!

Hump Day

It’s been cool here for the last week. Not unusual, and welcome relief from the summer heat. The days have been pleasant and the nights cool enough for frost some early mornings. It’s been great weather for walking and we’ve been taking full advantage. Then yesterday it got up to nearly 80F and is expected to remain around that for the next few days before retreating back to normal for this time of year.

After dinner and our evening walkabout last night I was in the shack, tuning around working the occasional POTA or SOTA station when I decided to call CQ. That’s something I rarely do anymore and I’m not sure why. I guess I prefer searching and pouncing on others calling CQ. I was on 20, around the QRP watering holes, when I called and got a speedy reply from a Texan with a nice signal. We exchanged the usual Morse code pleasantries and then he sent me his SKCC number. I switched to the straight key and then we officially exchanged numbers. It was a nice chat — I need to start calling CQ more often.

This morning’s walk was equally pleasant. The Fall colors have become about as vibrant as they are going to be here in Central Indiana. Halloween decorations are out everywhere and it’s obvious our new neighborhood is much younger than the one we left a few months ago. Lot’s of kids and activity. Lot’s of life.

Back in the shack for another hour or so this morning and it’s more POTA hunting. Including one worked whose license is set to expire tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow. At least that’s what QRZ says about it. I decided not to mention it because there was a short stack of other hunters waiting to work him. And for all I know he’s already taken care of it and might think I was just being nosy?

My to-do list is endless as are most such lists. Today it’s going to be paying the November bills at a minimum. But other items on the list include a lot of yard work. I’ve got one small tree and several bushes to cut down. And the temporary warm spell is perfect for some of the power washing tasks we have identified. And there is new baseboard trim to be installed in one of the bedrooms. And it’s Fall so the leaves that need to be raked are endless at this point.

I remember when “Hump Day” meant the work week was half over.

But for us old retired guys, the chores are never fully done. Sigh.

See you on the bands!