My Most Recent QSO's

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Day at the Hospital

A "cut and paste" from an e-mail sent to a few of my best friends:  

This morning in the pouring rain, I headed to the doctor early in the morning to get the 13 staples in my lower back removed from my surgery two weeks ago. I drive a very old Hyundai and the drivers side window jumped out of the track. I barely could get it closed to keep out the rain. I arrived at the doctors office but he wasn't in the building today. (he took a long weekend). The nurse was afraid to remove the staples because she wasn't authorized to do so; and if the wound in my back should "open" back up, they wouldn't be able to close it again. 

I had to drive about 60 miles to the hospital, in the pouring rain, with the drivers side window still ajar. Traffic on the Interstate was terrible with big trucks speeding by and bad weather conditions. I decided to take the rural back-roads to the hospital. It was a good thing I did so because there was a terrible wreck on the Interstate. Traffic was backed up for 20 miles. 

As I drove about 40 miles into a small town, I stopped for a "red light" and my old 5 speed transmission would not go back into gear. It's still pouring the rain. I have the 4 way flashers blinking as the clutch pedal finally goes clear to the floor. I have a mechanical background and finally get the old car into first gear by matching the RPM's to the clutch gear and slowly ease my way off the road into the Veterans of Foreign Wars parking lot where I simply mash the break pedal to park the dang thing. It's till pouring the rain. 

The VFW isn't open. 

I walk to a "shoe store" in the immediate neighborhood. I get my "AAA card" out and call them with my "go phone". The battery is only about half charged in the go phone. There was a major "computer crash" all along the East Coast this morning due to some "hacker organization" having a little bit of fun with all of us. I barely get the basic information to AAA because the service person (help desk) had to write it all down on paper.....

I get a call into my wife who needs to drive 40 miles to rescue me. The cell phone battery is down to it's last few electrons before it gives up the ghost. I wait, and wait, and wait. I gave AAA the "shoe store phone number" fortunately, The tow truck driver finally calls (30 minutes later). He only has to drive 30 miles to reach me. It will take him another hour to reach this little town. He says he heard about a bad wreck on the Interstate. It may take longer.... 

My original appointment at the hospital was at 1:30 pm. It's noon now. It's still raining. 

My wife calls the shoe store too. She is in the worst traffic jam she's ever seen, even in New York. I give her directions to the rural back road to get to me and the car. 

At 1 pm she arrives, I leave the keys to the car under the floor mat. There is an auto shop about 3 miles from me. No one can drive the dang thing anyway, and there's nothing in it worth stealing. (the salvage value of this thing is about $400 ) . As we approach the hospital, the tow truck driver makes a courtesy call to my wife's cell phone and says he's just loaded a small gray colored old Dodge on his truck, at a Baptist church in the town, and will get it to the garage for me at no charge. (AAA is a good deal if you drive an old car). I remind him I'm driving a green colored Hyundai with "radio stickers" and a Veterans license tag on the trunk. Well... that's not good he says, I'm glad I called, and oh yes, I see it on the VFW lot now. 

We get to the hospital almost at the appointed time. I rush in while my wife is parking the car. I see a nurse in just a few minutes. She removes the 13 staples quicker than a jack rabbit can jump. I get a flu shot while I'm there and we walk across the parking lot (it's still raining) to the car and look forward to the long drive home on the back roads again.  

Can things get any more stressful ? 

Almost as soon as we drive off the hospital parking lot, the "low tire pressure" light comes on. There's been a very slow leak on the right front drivers side tire for months now. It's a mystery because NO ONE can find the leak.  

This will be a piece of cake after all the stress today. (it's still raining cats and dogs) - I keep a little battery powered "air compressor " in the trunk of the car at all times. I pull off the road, air up the tire (it was down to about 20 lbs). Despite being wet, cold, and frustrated, this should be the last of it! I'm really looking forward to the "tire light" on the dashboard going off. (it normally takes a few revolutions ) I drive about the length of a football field and the light is still blaring into my eyes.  

I pull into a little elementary school parking lot a couple of miles down the road and angrily yank the air compress out of the trunk again. I "air up" all the tires this time.

Small school kids can be unbelievably cruel. School bus drivers also have very loud horns. It's a good thing all the kids were out of "ear shot" as they got on the bus. Everything you've ever heard about "cursing sailors" is true. My previous years of Navy military service came out of me whether I wanted it to or not. I asked God for forgiveness. My wife says maybe after dinner, you owe me one.  

The rain finally stopped....  

We're home now, and after buying dinner for the wife tonight, it's 9:40 pm. 

My old Hyundai Accent will be repaired about mid-week. The mechanic will pull the entire engine out of my old car to replace the clutch. (I'm glad I gave up that trade many years ago)  

I'm glad the staples in my back are finally out. I plan to get back into shape soon. It's going to feel good back in the YMCA swimming pool and working out in the gym again. 

Sincerely Yours, 

John N8ZYA  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Lightning Bolt from Nowhere

I've never worried much about lightning because I use indoor antennas. My Isotrons and the random wire are NOT in the attic of our home. I have those antennas in the same room as my Icom 703. 

The following pictures are NOT of our home. The following pictures are of the house which is three doors down the street from us. The house is now missing about a hundred of its heavy roofing tiles. 

The pictures shown here were taken several days later. The lightening strike happened around 11 PM at night. 

To make a long story short; my neighbors cars are a real mess; they look like they've been through a "hail storm". Some of the roofing tiles were blown clear across the street. The big difference between hail and hard rocks is that they make holes and scratches on everything they touch. I can't imagine the repair bill to remove heavy dents and re-paint at least two vehicles.

I'm very surprised the neighbors home that took a direct hit wasn't set on fire or had major structural damage.

The lightning bolt came straight out of nowhere. It was NOT even raining at the time. We soon discovered the upstairs bathroom lights were not working. A quick trip to the basement breaker box revealed "one" switch needed re-set.

My radio room is in the adjoining room. All my gear appeared to be working normally. The bathroom is directly between my radio room and our small office. All the computers functioned normally, All the lights in both rooms were normal.

Much to my dismay, a few days afterwards when I turned on the Icom 703 to make a quick contact, it wouldn't transmit at all.

I'm fortunate to have only minor damage. 

I'm thinking the coils in the Isotrons had something to do with voltage and amperage getting into the radio. There wasn't damage to anything else in the house.

The Icom service center in Michigan did a wonderful repair job on the rig. Replacement parts were only about six bucks.

I'll be more careful now and always disconnect the antennas as soon as I year the first thunderbolt.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dayton Hamvention 2016

My friend Eric AC8LJ and I made a quick trip to the Dayton Hamvention yesterday. Our trip (there and back again) on Friday was a good time for me to quickly survey the new gear on the market but to mainly talk with a few hams.

Rick Robinson W8ZT always occupies the same space every year at the Dayton Hamvention . I enjoyed my brief time at Dayton talking to the hams associated with the  WV DX Association 

My specific interest in Ham radio has been, and always will be, small portable QRP CW radio. Yesterday the talk of the town was the spanking new Elecraft KX 2 Sitting around the campfire (WV DX tent) I actually talked to the owner that bought # 43 of the  48 KX2's sold yesterday. I was also able to put my hands on it and spin the dial. Hi Hi

This is a very impressive 10 Watt radio! 

I got the distinct impression (right or wrong) that "software defined radio" is going to capture much of the upcoming ham radio market. I'm quite amazed at the number of rigs I saw with digital dials and visual readouts.

The effectiveness of small Morse code radios never cease to amaze me. All hams have their special niche in the hobby. To me, the greatest thrill of ham radio still continues to be HF QRP CW radio.

I can't think of another mode of radio that allows transmitting from a moving train, kayaking on a lake, sailing on the ocean, or simply sitting around a campfire or operating from a picnic table in the park.

My two purchases at the Hamvention this year were a new t-shirt and a coffee mug with the "ARRL National Parks on the Air " logo.

My thanks again to Rick W8ZT for the comfort he provided us with chairs and cold water when needed. Rick attended our WV Chapter breakfast last week and I hope he continues to do so. I've been watching the live feed from Dayton today. It looks like a great time for all.

My thanks also to Eric AC8LJ for the long drive there and back again.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hurricane Wave Pool Park Outing

The West Virginia Chapter of the NAQCC club operated from the Hurricane Wave Pool Park on April 19th 2016. We had good weather and had a good time operating from shelter number two in the park. The operators were myself N8ZYA, Dave Higley WV8DH and Jim Stephens NX8Z.

Dave Higley WV8DH

Jim Stephens NX8Z 

Band conditions have been poor during the last few outings of other state chapters and our propagation was no different. Our contacts on 40 meters were all in the 300 mile range and the contacts on 20 meters were all around 700 miles. 

I've always said that radio is a lot like fishing. You never know what you're going to catch until you throw the line in the water. I was happy to work VE4AKI because he was the only Canadian station I've worked in the province of Manitoba. I now have all the contacts necessary for the NAQCC WAVE AWARD.   

Although no DX stations were worked on this outing, I was able to work club member KB5JO in Texas. Two stations were actually worked in that state but the remarkable thing about this contact was that he was using 800 mw to an eighty eight foot doublet. The RST was 599. 

Texas seemed to be popular as I also worked a special event station celebrating 180 years of Texas independence. 

Always a fun time regardless of working two dozen or only eight stations, it was a nice day and we enjoyed the sunshine and camaraderie of like minded hams. Lets all hope for improved band conditions on the next outing.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

WV Chapter at the Charleston Hamfest

The Charleston Hamfest was at a new location this year and there was a good turnout for the event. The activities this year were at the Emmanuel Baptist Church. Security concerns no longer allowed the hamfest to be held at the previous Army National Guard building near the airport.

The auditorium at the church is large with lots of room for people to wander around with the hopes of finding or selling radio gear. There was a large kitchen also with plenty of food and drink. I think everyone had a good time. My favorite activity was looking at the older tube gear which was abundant at the gathering.

Dave Higley WV8DH brought along his new rig and the associated stuff for setting up in the field. I posted the new WV Chapter Banner on the wall and displayed a couple dozen DX cards on the table. I had the new NAQCC Club video running on my laptop with the hopes of generating interest in QRP CW. I also brought along an external keyer and my favorite paddles.

It was great to see all the local WV Chapter QRP folks at the Hamfest. Eric AC8LJ was selling some items at the fest. I saw Jeff K9ESE, John W8GDP, Craig AB8DY,  Derek KD8ZEN, Mark KM8G, Bill NK8Y, Joe WA8SIE, Paul WV8PR, Charles KB8BFM and Steve KC4URI. Nathan KD8ZSS was awarded a prize for being the youngest Ham (16) at the event! 

Near the end of the hamfest I was asked to introduce the recipient  of this years Kanawha Valley Amateur Radio Operator of the Year Award to Jim Stephenson WV8JS. I was the winner of that award last year. 

The thing I enjoy most at a hamfest is camaraderie of like minded people in the fraternity of ham radio. I added some folks to our mailing list as a result of this years hamfest. 

I also added two new members to the West Virginia Chapter. We welcome Chuck Moles AB8FI and his son Bill KD8WBI to the group and look forward to hearing more from them when they're on the official membership list. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

March NAQCC Newsletter Now Online

The current issue of the NAQCC newsletter is now online. Our monthly newsletter is an excellent summary of the monthly activities of the NAQCC club. Come join us with the fun of portable QRP Morse code operations in the field.

Free lifetime membership to everyone. All we ask is that you spend a few hours every month participating in our activities. So...why haven't you joined yet?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Can you Work 20 Stations this Month?

The NAQCC Club has a neat game every month to encourage our members to make contacts on the HF bands. This month we encourage you to make 20 HF contacts while using your favorite "keys". Notice I used the term "keys" in the above sentence.... 

The specific rules for the event are listed HERE

 In addition to being a fun event, you will be eligible for a club certificate. 

For the certificate this month, the only requirement is that you use two different keys to make those contacts. I plan to use my straight key to make ten contacts and use my Iambic paddles to make the other ten contacts. 

Working twenty stations is very easy to do in a months time. I worked seven stations yesterday and will complete my first ten today. I plan to watch the DX cluster tomorrow and work my next ten stations in a few days time. 

Our monthly "challenges" are usually much more difficult to complete. Should you like the certificate this month, there will never be an easier way to get it. Let me forewarn you however, once you start these monthly games, they will become very addictive.  


Happy Days..... Task Completed !!  (3-4-16) 


Iambic Paddle: (all DX contacts) CO8LY HI8/N3SY S55DX S51WO CT1JOP T77C LZ138LO EA5AR PZ5W TK4LS 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Museum of Radio and Technology

On February the 20th, 2016-  three of our WV Chapter members drove to Huntington West Virginia for our annual Special Event at the Huntington Museum of Radio and Technology. The Museum is about an hours drive from Charleston. We used the club call sign N3AQC. We did our best to make as many contacts with NAQCC members as possible.

Dave Higley WV8DH

Rodney Dillon WB8PMD 

We had a great time despite some very challenging band conditions. The solar flux was only ninety eight, the A index was fifteen and the K index was one. To the club members I was able to hear and work, I salute you for the contact of a lifetime. You should play the lottery as soon as possible! 

I started on the 40 meter band but was soon overwhelmed by the hundreds of participants in the ARRL DX Contest. In about an hour, it became obvious that it was going to take more than five watts to make many contacts. I switched to the 20 meter band. We soon decided the best choice for contacts was "search and pounce". We had trouble with the beam today. It took Dave and Rodney working together to physically run outside and verbally describe direction that the antenna was pointing. There was apparently a short in the wire to the indicator in the shack.

I'm not a bad DX operator but all the pro's were out today. The majority of the CW operators were sending in the 30+ wpm range. As the three of us concentrated intensely, and wrote down what we heard, we managed to work fourteen stations.

The best were FY5KE in French Guiana, CR3W on Madeira Island. and T48RR in Cuba. I was very surprised to work the T48 station in Cuba. I've worked a bunch of Cuban stations but never one with this prefix. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

NAQCC Florida Special Event Station

This morning I watched the QRP  cluster to see if anyone had spotted our Florida Chapter Special Event station. I saw them spotted on both 40 meters (WB4MM) and 20 meters (WB4MNK) . I could hear the 20 meter station but it was too weak to work. Situations like this demand just one thing; it's called patience. 

I've always considered QRP radio to be much like fishing. Sure enough about an hour later another of the Florida stations jumped into the water. Steve (WB4OMM) shifted from 40 meters to 20 meters. He was transmitting down 1 KC to avoid interference. I caught him on my first attempt. He gave me a 599 report. 

I remember Steve from a previous Florida chapter event. He has a well designed QSL card. I will look forward to receiving it in the mail.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

NAQCC Club Promotion Video

Jock Irvine N1JI  has done an excellent job with this promotional video for our club. Watching this production makes me proud to be a member of such an "all volunteer organization" whose focus is on QRP CW operations and simple wire antennas.

This project took many long hours to tweak the audio and gather the pictures necessary for the proper display, in the correct order, to make it pleasing to the eye and the ear. He has done an excellent job splicing it together as a finished product.

I played only a small part in the video by providing the background music. Several months ago, Jock contacted me because he knew I played several instruments. Like himself, we both see music as an art form much like Morse code.

I consider the Ukulele to be the small QRP model of the guitar and thought it would work well as background music without distracting from the voice narrative. Much like QRP radio, the Ukulele is easily transported, very versatile, modestly priced, and easy to use in the field. Whether used at a campsite or sitting at a picnic table they're both great tools for relaxation. I've used both while sitting around a campfire.

I've had several hams ask me how I produced the background music in the video. The sound you hear in the video is actually two "mono" tracks recorded individually and mixed together to form a "master track". I was able to transfer the end result to my desktop and save it as a WAV file. I'm a long way from having it mastered but am looking forward to learning more and recording more as the weeks pass.

I used a Tascam DP-006 multi-track digital recorder. There's a learning curve to using this device. This was my first recording and I was lucky, after several attempts, to arrive with a finished product.

The video seems to be going very well for the club. I think the production explains our philosophy and operating modes very well.

Lifetime membership is Free -- so why haven't you signed up?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

An Unexpected QRP MM Surprise

I received an unexpected surprise in the mail this morning. I worked Oleg (UR5FA/MM) back in May of 2011. It's unusual to work a QRP station at around 5,000 miles, especially from a ship off the coast of Brazil. We actually worked each other "twice" on two different days from two different grid squares. (GK57 and GK91). Oleg was running a "long wire" stretched between the masts of the ship. He was the communications officer of the ship and running 5 watts of power. 

Another unexpected surprise was to find him on the NAQCC membership list! (#4528) 

I immediately sent my return card to him. I'm really proud of this (paper) card. Oleg included a SASE which is now in the mail.

Here is is a picture of the ship.  

It's been three years since the original contact on the slow freighter. I've been listening for him again, ever since the original contact. Perhaps I will work him again on the next long voyage from the Ukraine?