Monday, July 25, 2011

Baby, I Got the Blues

I didn't have much chance to play on the radio, or least on amateur radio this weekend.

I did have a nice QSO with WX5J, Nick in Helena, Arkansas, right near the Mississippi River in a geographical region known as the Delta. I heard Nick talking to some other OM and when he cleared I jumped in to talk to Nick. You see, I've been to Helena, AR a couple of times. Helena is famous for the Blues, and I truly love Blues music. Black people, escaping the harsh repression of Mississippi, would cross the river into Arkansas to have a good time, and that meant Blues music. In 1941 KFFA became the first radio station to play what was then known as "Race Music" everyday on King Biscuit Time. They have have had the same DJ since 1950, Sunshine Sonny Payne. I've met Mr. Payne and was even on the King Biscuit Time radio program as a guest, as you could be too, if you drop by the Delta Culture Visitor Center. Look up all the info at and even listen to the King Biscuit Time show!

Helena has a world famouse Blues Festival every fall, which I've never been to, but want to badly. Nick is a musician and a Blues afficianado as well. So, it was a very fine QSO and one of the reasons I enjoy Ham Radio, you get to meet people like Nick.

Saturday, I got up late and was too busy to get on the radio, and Sunday I had a gig starting at 5am. I'm a Private Investigator by trade, and sometimes I get called in to do property protection, which is what I did from 5am til 5pm on Sunday. It was pretty rough, even though I was just a glorified security guard. I had to sit in my car the whole time and it got up to 106 degrees Faranheit (41 C) while I was there. That's hot!

I had the back entrance while my friend had the front entrance. He's not a ham, and the agency didn't give us any radios, so I took some FRS radios I've had for several years that I bought on sale and have only used once. I took all four radios and two chargers, but my inverter I use in my car only had one plug in (I remembered, incorrectly, that it had two) and the batteries didn't hold a charge for very long. I think the batteries are weak from not being used. Still, I was able to keep the radios going with just one charger. It really helped having the radios. Neither of us had gotten any sleep the night before and sitting around in a hot car watching an empty parking lot and gate makes you want to snooze! Having the radios allowed us to shoot the breeze and keep ourselves awake. I was really wishing I had a mobile HF station while I was out there to help pass the time. Twelve hours is a long time to do nothing, really. I'm just thankful for I those little FRS radios, which worked surprisingly well, all things considered.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Whew, Glad it wasn't serious

Last night I tried to tune my rig, but the CW key stopped working. I tried another key, it didn't work, so then I resoldered the cable (at the orginal wire to plug contact points) thinking a wire had broken near the plug, I shortned the wire and then checked with my multi-tester to make sure it was conducting, but it still didn't work. Today I went to Radio Shack and bought a new 1/4" mono cable plug with two tabs to solder the wires to the plug. When I compared the old and the new, I realized the person who had soldered the original plug used a stereo plug with three contact tabs. Apparently, one wire on the original plug had been soldered to the wrong tab and the correct tab was bent over to short it out against the incorrectly soldered tab, which was a quick, but poor fix, and by me moving the key around I broke the connection. I have never paid attention to plugs before, and I really didn't know how they worked, other than they made an elelctrical connection. Now I know, since I had to troubleshoot the problem. A tiny bit more added to my understanding of the hobby. The new mono plug works just fine and it turned out to be a $4.00 fix. I am very glad because I can't afford a big repair bill right now and my repair skills are extremely limited.

I listened for the Special Event Station commemerating the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run, but I didn't hear it, but my brother came by and I couldn't work at it too long. Hope to hear them tomorrow. My brother and I reenacted the battle on my dining room table. It's an old game I've had for years called "Across 5 Aprils" and the battle of Bull Run is one of the five battles you can play in the game. The other battles the game has is Pea Ridge, Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Bentonville. It is a great way to learn about the battles! I want to play out each of those battles on the 150th anniversary date of each battle.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I finally broke through the pile-up on 20 meters to work Z4S Special Event station for the last launch of a Space Shuttle! I've been hunting that darn station for nine days. I could never break through the pile-up until just a few minutes ago. Heh! I'm Stoked.

Yesterday, some Mexican Hams, who apparently use the 14.280 frequency for a regular net and they consider it their frequency. So they told K4S to leave the frequency and when they didn't blasted right over them with powerful amplifiers. According to international law, no one owns a frequency and deliberately interferring with a lawful station's transmission is against the rules. Not that anybody will do anything about it. I can only say that my opinion of those hams is very, very low.

Besides working Z4S, I also copied some code practice from W1AW. I started to struggle during the 13wpm, especially when the QSB took out the signal. Still, I got my practice in for today. May do some more this evening, not sure what the wife has planned for me to do tonight.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Go Figure

I tried for better part of an hour I tried to make Contact with Z4S, but I couldn't break the pile up. Just a bit ago, I broke through to Belgium and contacted ON7USB. I did it on the first try! Wow, this radio stuff is crazy.

Belgium is not a new DX for me, I've worked it once before. I counted up all my DX and I've got a total of 27 countries and the South Pole. I don't plan on applying for the DXCC award, but I do want to make the 100 contacts. I don't QSL, so I don't have the paperwork to complete a DXCC application anyway. Somebody once told me that if I don't have the paperwork it doesn't count. Well, it counts to me and I have no interest in trying to impress others. The people who know me know that I don't lie.

Now, I don't begrudge anyone who does collect such awards. Everyone has their thing, and I'm not one to put it down, whatever it might be.

I also had a nice QSO with KV4BG for about twenty minutes on 40 Minutes before the band dropped out and all I could hear was the mud. I hate that. I really enjoy a good ragchew and Ira seemed a nice person to talk to, really. I hope I work him again.


July 16th

I just spent 45 minutes trying to break the pile-up on 14.280 for the K4S Special Event Station commemerating the final launch in the Space Shuttle program. i was unsuccessful. With my antenna being substandard and my puny hundred watts, I'm not going to beat the guys with beam antennas and 1000 watt amplifies. I will try again later, maybe tomorrow.

I've been working on my CW mostly. I made two QSOs in the last couple of days. W9ZN, Bill in Chicago, Il and W9OAW, Gabe in Ashland, WI. I shouldn't say it, but my code reading abilities, being what they are, thought Gabe was sending Assland, WI. My Bad :oP

After Mass tonight, I hope to get over and get some of my poles stored behind my brother's garage. I'm going to try and get a better/taller mast up and hook up my Alpha Delta LB Plus dipole. Maybe that will improve my signal. Based on the reports I'm hearing, my current set up is costing me at least 2 Db on recieve and maybe more on transmit. This must be rectified!

73 All

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Best Laid Plans

I didn’t get on the air tonight due to a confluence of events. My wife’s serpentine belt broke and what I thought would take ten minutes now involves me removing a motor mount to put it on. It makes me want to slap and an engineer. Grrrr! While I was working on that company showed up and a friend called me to tell me that he’s leaving town. My company didn’t leave until after the weekly QRP Foxhunt. Thus, I am not on the air tonight. I’ll try tomorrow

I did a bit of CW last night. My copying skills are pretty rough. I worked W9ZN, Bill out of Chicago. I only followed about a quarter of what was sent, to be honest, just enough for me to fake it through the QSO. I thought it would be a good policy to do a QSO every night just for the practice of it. Well, it didn’t happen tonight, darn it. So much for my best laid plans.

Z4S is apparently still broadcasting. They are special event station in Florida near Kennedy Space Center commemorating the last launch of the shuttle program. I remember the first shuttle launch very well. I played sick so I could stay home from school to watch it launch. As some one on twitter remarked about the shuttle program, it isn’t that I’m sad about it being the end of an era, I’m sad because there is no era to replace it. I worked its sister station Z5S in White Sands, New Mexico last week easily, but Z4S couldn’t hear me in the few times he wasn’t working a pile up. I would really like to work Z4S and match the pair and collect the wallpaper. I’ve never been much for collecting wallpaper, but I think I will start a file of historical events celebrated on amateur radio. The Olde Virginia Hams will be activating the Bull Run battlefield as a special event for the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run. On the July 4th Weekend, I worked 8 of the thirteen original colonies during the Thirteen Original Colonies Special Event. There isn’t much this weekend. Something about Laura Ingalls Wilder Festival Special Event and something about the world’s largest Holstein cow, believe it or not.

Coming Back After All These Years

My name is Sam, and my amateur radio callsign is KC0KSV. I've technically been a ham for 10 years now, I just renewed my license last month. I am an amateur extra class license holder, which doesn't mean as much as it use to, but it does allow me access to all of the frequency spectrum alotted to hams.

I started in ham radio because I wanted to be a weather spotter for Sedgwick County Emergency Management. To be a weather spotter meant I had to be a ham. I got my Technician license and bought a used Yaesu dual-bander to put in my truck in May of 2001. The following August I upgraded to General and in November of 2001, I upgraded to Extra class. I found all of the tests ridiculously easy, except for the 5wpm code test, that was a bear. My Extra test took me 10 minutes to complete and I missed two questions.

I dropped $200 on a used Kenwood TS820s that I'm still using and another $150 on an Alpha Delta LB Plus multiband Dipole. With those, I was on the air. I staid with RACES for a couple of years before I decided to leave the group, if their leadership changes I would like to go back. Without the impetus of doing EMCOMM, my interest in radio waned and when an ice storm took down my antenna in January of '05 I hadn't used my HF rig in six months, so I just threw the antenna in the garage and forgot about it.
When I replaced my old pick-up with a newer vehicle, I never bothered to put the 2meter rig in, and I let my local club membership drop and I left ham radio behind.

Fast forward five years and I'm now newly married and newly laid-off from my job at Cessna. I injured my lower back so bad I was unable to walk for three months without a handful of painkillers and assistance. With no insurance, no one would help me much. The ER sure treated me different. There was, and is still, nothing to do but try to heal over time. I followed some emergency preparedness forums on my BlackBerry while I was recuperating. Ham radio came up and I followed those discussions. Bored, I looked around on the net and discovered Larry W2LJ's blog about his QRP operation and how much he loves ham radio. I went to the beginning of Larry's posts and read them straight through. I still look forward to Larry's post. Larry impressed me not only as ham, but as a person as well. We also have a lot in common. We are both devout Catholics, politically conservative, Revolutionary War afficianados, CERT members, and ham radio license holders (although I was a ham in name only). If you ever work me on the bands, you can blame W2LJ, he was the one that inspired me to get back into to the hobby.

Between 2010-2011 I mostly just read blogs and things about ham radio. I did, however, start looking for my ham gear that had been packed away when I moved in with my wife. I couldn't find my antenna, and with my personal econmics being what they are, I couldn't really replace it. I have two stepdaughters now, and there is actually a law that says you have to feed children everyday, three times a day. Who knew?

I tried to make a windom antenna with the coax set up as air wound choke balun. It worked like crap. I let the rig sit some more, but Larry and some other ham bloggers had stirred my dusty little ham soul. I made a commitment to get on the air for Field Day 2011. I went to the local candy store and bought a 4:1 Balun and converted my crappy windom into a dipole cut for 40 meters. It worked. I could work 15,20,40, meters. A week after Filed Day I found my Alpha Delta plus antenna in my brother's garage. Now where is that darn 2 meter whip??? I'm still using my homebrew 40 because I'm finding it difficult finding a place to string up that Alpha Delta dipole, it is so long.

My wife's family has a communal cabin on Fall River Lake, about 90 miles east of Wichita. I decided I would operate FD there as a 1 Alpha station, using two of those emergency jumpstart batteries and an inverter. Alas, my wife's car developed problems. I'm not much of a mechanic, but I have good friends who are, so I tore open the engine to replace the bad gaskets and intake manifold and my friend Greg helped me put it all back togther. He saved me at least $400 in labor and parts, and very probably more. I am grateful to my friend, and I am grateful for my friend. I have no complaints about the money I did spend to fix the car, but it meant I was going to be operating as a 1 Delta station from my basement on Field Day.

So June 25th arrives, and I'm down in the basement ready to go. My goal is to work at least 100 stations during FD. 1pm hits and the bands come alive. I start hitting everyone I hear calling CQ. My antenna is not optimally placed, and band conditions were short, and I have a hard time hitting either coast. Larry and his gang of merry brass pounders operate QRP, or 5 watts or less. I was operating 100 watts and still had trouble working stations. I also operated phone the whole time and left my old straight key alone. My CW skills are lamentable. I hope to improve them to at least 20wpm, but for now I will stick with the microphone.

All in all, I had a blast on Field Day! I can't wait for next year to do it all over again. I hope to be more prepared to operate at least as a 1 Echo station next year. Ideally, I will be brass pounding from my wife's uncle's nice aluminum dock. In my crafty little brain, I can see myself under a pop-up canopy (complete with mosquito netting) operating my rig on folding table with a couple of those jump start batteries and a cooler full of diet coke and sandwhiches. I'm thinking about a floating antenna. I could mount a vertical antenna on the lid of a plastic 5 gallon bucket with rocks, or something, to act as a ballast to keep it upright. I could thread the radials through the center of those foam noodles the kids play with, using pvc pipe to connect the noodles together. I wonder how much of a boost I'd get from a fresh water lake? I know salt water is an excellent ground to bounce signals from. This is probably not going to happen, but it would be cool if it worked out.

I think this post is long enough. I got some more stuff to talk about, but I will wait to post it.

73 y'all!