Monday, May 30, 2016

C’est la vie....

Roughly translated, it means, "that's life"  And so it is.  I called CQ for about an hour.  I know my signal was getting out there:

But no takers....

Ah...  The life of the QRPer.  Maybe it was the 3 million people leaving the Jersey Shore all at once because it rained all day.  Who knows?  Time for some tail ending assertiveness.  I have to get at least one one QSO for the day!!

72/73 de N2ICZ. :)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Four Days In May and the Elecraft KX2...

All eyes and ears are on the Dayton Hamvention right now.  And rightfully so.  It is, after all, the amateur radio equivalent to Ham Radio Mecca.   If you are physically and financially capable, a good ham radio operator should undertake the pilgrimage to this extravaganza  at least once in their lifetime (despite the etched memories of some who experienced the Dayton Hamvention sewage eruption of 2011).

"Four Days In May"is the annual QRPer's convention held the day before and then concurrent with the Dayton Hamvention.  It's in the next town over from the hamvention and they have shuttle bus service over to the Hara Arena.   I like the fact that they start the day before and sort of steal a little thunder from the Dayton Hamvention.  After all, as QRPers, don't we steal a little thunder from the "big guns" when we "search and pounce" in a big contest?

Cheez, I'm all over the place today... lol.

The big news in the QRP world came from  FDIM keynote speaker, Eric Swartz, of Elecraft, and the introduction of the new Elecraft KX2!!  Man o' man.  What a radio folks.  This may be the one radio that will force me to open the N2ICZ radio vault a bit more than usual (XYL approval, withstanding).  From what I can see, it is extremely trail friendly with a killer receiver.

To learn more about the radio, let me share with you the Ham Radio 360 Podacst featuring Eric WA6HHQ as he describes their new offering, the future of Elecraft,  and QRP.  It's a great interview.  Enjoy.

Friday, May 13, 2016

It never gets old...

The thrill, that is QRP!  Had a quick but nice QSO with Romeo, IK2DJV in Italy.  Both of us QRP. on 20 meters (which has been horrible for me lately...but not today :) )  Thanks for the good ear, Romeo.

Almost 1,000 per watt.  Almost....  There's always next time.

72/73 de N2ICZ

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sure, N0HYD...rub it in!

The propagation princess was fickle today.  While other hams, like N0HYD, Burke in Missouri, were having a blast on 20 meters, my propagation on 20 meters was equivalent to this:

All kidding aside, I'm happy for Burke.  Really, I am (bang the moon, Alice!).

At some point, the princess must have had pity on me and waved her magic wand.  Finally, 40 meters opened a teeny bit and I had a couple of chats with Larry, W8IX in Indiana, and Steve, N4LQ, in North Carolina.  After that, everything closed up again.

A wacky day for propagation, indeed.

72/73 de N2ICZ

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fun with 1 watt...

Some of my ham friends think I'm crazy. As band conditions continue to wax and wane, I've been lowering my power more and more.  No, I haven't been channeling the Marquis de Sade and wishing for pain.  Although pain, at times, when it relates to QRP operation, can be exquisite.

For the past week or so, I've reduced my operating power from 5 watts to 1 watt.  It's no big deal, really.  In fact, the  QRPp crowd think running 1 watt is equivalent to running a rig with an amplifier. They run milliwatts!  For now though, 1 watt is my new 5 watts.

1 watt is not a lot of power nor does it have a lot of energy. Let's put it into a bit of perspective.  The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska has one reactor that puts out about 470 Megawatts of power and that's considered to be small output in comparison to other reactors.  The measly and solitary watt can just about light up a small light emitting diode.  Now... hold that dimly lit little LED high above your head and imagine you're trying to light up and find your way through the vastness of infinite space. get the idea.

However, 1 watt can still provide reliable communication even when propagation isn't cooperating. Here's what my 1 watt looked like last night on The Reverse Beacon Network.  All had at least a 15db or higher signal into the skimmers: 

And here is a map of the actual contacts over the last few days with varying band conditions.  The mode was CW, the antenna is the old reliable 30 foot end fed wire up about 40 feet.  The bands were mostly 40 meters and one QSO on 20.  RSTs were at least 559 and some were better:

Fun with 1 watt!  Pretty cool, huh?  Comment and let me know how you do with just 1 watt.  Soon, I'll be milliwatting.  Can't wait. 72/73 de N2ICZ

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ham radio encounters...and farewells.

I was going through some old file boxes recently (in my never ending effort to de-clutter my life) and ran across some of my first paper logs I kept as a novice.  They're about 35 years old and although the paper has turned a nice antique yellow and the ink has faded a bit, the memories have not.  I got to thinking about these hams I had contacted,  What happened to them?  Are they still active in ham radio? Are they even still alive?

Coincidentally, a fellow blogger on here, Shin, JA1NUT in Tochigi, Japan,  was thinking the same thing.  With his permission, I'm re-posting his thoughts here:

A Nuttycellist's Monologue: Encounter and farewell:

I think Shin captured the sentiment well.  As hams, we communicate with and make friends with many people.  Some of these friendships can last a lifetime.  Each encounter whether it's one time or multiple times, is unique.  And sadly, sometimes, when we learn that someone has become a silent key, we say farewell.   QRP, CW, morse code, antennas and's all fun.  But the greatest appeal for me in amateur radio is the art of communicating and fellowship.  That's really what has kept me interested in this hobby all these years,   72/73 de N2ICZ.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Propagation woes...

I have the full weekend off this weekend.  That might sound strange to some of you who always have the weekend off.  However, I work in an industry that only allows me one weekend off per month.  I hate using cliche's but here it comes -"one has to do what one has to do".

When I do have the weekend off and after doing the usual errands and "honey do's", I like to immerse myself in amateur radio and simultaneously offer up a sacrifice to the propagation princess hoping she doesn't have a tantrum and screw things up. After all, when running QRP, propagation is everything.  Or is it?

I have three  propagation sites I haunt while my rig(s) is warming up.   I'm sure you haunt them as well.  If you're new to the game, here are a few sites I think you'll find interesting.

 At around 1700Z here's what things looked like on Paul Herman, NB0NH's site.  Overall it's a "meh" for the daytime hours.

40 meters is my favorite band (day or night). 30 meters is my next favorite.  And today, I felt like working 30 meters.  30 meters can be a bit fussy at times.  It sometimes acts like 20 meters and sometimes acts like 40 meters. Sometimes the band opens and closes in the blink of an eye.  It's also a band that IMHO doesn't get paid a lot of attention by the ham community.  But that's another post for another time.

My next propagation stop was the site  "Band Conditions"   I usually leave this site up and running while I'm on the air because it's supposed to show "real time" propagation allowing one to see band openings as they occur.  So off I go.  Whoa. "Band Conditions" is telling me that within the last hour or so, 30 meters is hovering around a value of "13".  A value of 13 pretty much means, "Larry?  Pack up the tent and go home".

Ah...but then we come to my favorite propagation site, VOACAP.  I plug in my numbers and I'm greeted with a delightful transmit radius for my 5-watt qrp peanut whistle on 30 meters:

CQ CQ CQ de N2ICZ, N2ICZ, N2ICZ.  I'm soon answered by W90RW, Bob in Indiana.  We had a great rag chew for about 15 minutes.  He was running QRP as well on his KX3. I was on the trusty MFJ-9030.  Some sort of propagation and the universe had aligned. I was happy.

I tend to drive myself crazy with whether the propagation is cooperating or not.  In the end, I just need to sit back, relax, send CQ a few times and see who answers.  Someone usually will despite the conditions.  72/73 de N2ICZ.