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Category Archives: Morse

Nature’s Voice

It has been a very busy week. One hail and wind storm followed by a mad scramble by yours truly up on to the roof to tape some trash bags over now fully opened sky lights, all whilst dodging what seemed to me to be bolts of lightning.  Casually falling, partially at least, off the top rung of my good friend the “Ladder”! Have I said that I am entirely too old for this sort of thing? If not, then let me say so here and now. Insurance adjusters have come and gone, landscapers have worked their magic once again removing old shredded shrubbery and newly minted weeds so that once again “Casa Cuesta Mucho” looks fresh. The tally for the week is one new roof, new guttering, pool decking repaired (or will be at some point) and one totaled automobile. It seems insurance companies do not repair hail damaged 11 year old cars, no matter how nice their condition and low the miles on the odometer. For a very brief moment on Tuesday afternoon I found myself hearing Nature’s Voice. Nature spoke to me for what seemed an eternity while the canary, the dog and I huddled in our front bathroom with me leaning on the inside wall which was vibrating significantly for the first time in my memory. The noise was horrendous, not from the dreaded “Train” one is supposed to hear if a tornado is present, but rather from the sound of softball (yes softball) sized hail stones breaching our sky lights and tearing shingles from the roof. 2:12 PM to 2:21 PM was a very long nine minutes for us “hiders in bathrooms”. So much for bravery in the face of disaster.

I have not been able to get to the gym at all since Tuesday afternoon. Just way too many things happening and so next week we will begin anew. A fresh start to a lifelong journey to lose more weight and tone up a bit. The trip to the roof on Tuesday told me I was not doing enough as the old body was sore for two days after that trip up the ladder twice with the roof scramble mixed in. Old age is a sneaky critter. It doesn’t tell you outright that your not in good shape, it slithers up on you through good books and television and sitting in front of computers and radio sets like a perverted dose of junk food for the mind. I am not entirely sure what destroys your body and ages you most; a book or a Twinkie. Probably both are guilty.

Speaking of books, I completed QTC ( I have a message for you) this morning. I had purchased it some months ago and when I got distracted it was put up on a shelf and so, while waiting insurance people/calls etc this week, I got a bit restless and found it again where my wife had placed it. This is another find at the ABE Used on line book store. It turns out used words read just as well as new words and are much cheaper. QTC was written anonymously by a ships RO (radio officer) about his life on board merchant ships while being employed as a wireless operator. I enjoyed it a lot and anyone with a Maritime background or just a dose of curiosity should read it. It has a chapter at the end detailing and diagnosing the Titanic tragedy. A lot of ink has been devoted to this subject but this is, I believe, a unique view. The book inspired me to make this post and to, as I almost always do, switch on my radio and listen to quite another version of Nature’s Voice-that of HF. HF Radio is spectacular in its’ own right and my life is wed to it. At my earliest stages of life, I cannot say why or how,  my DNA became part of the aether, or at least developed and affinity for paying it a lot of attention. First as a Ham, then as a shipboard maintainer of comms gear and now once again as a Ham. A Radio Ham throughout my Navy days, I had little opportunity to actually get on the radio as it was wartime. Sporadically there were opportunities but they were infrequent ones at most. We are now in the part of the year where I celebrate my radio anniversary: this year is 53 years of almost continuous involvement with radio in one way or another. Although the early years were filled with wonder, via learning and world wide travel, I must say that these later years are much more rewarding. I now have the time, have some knowledgeable friends, and can take the time necessary to let things gently simmer along until the component parts are fully ripened and (I will not say fully understood) at least partially recognized as valuable and ordered and stack ranked into their proper places in nature.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Maritime, Morse, Radio

 

New Area Contest Group

Lately I have been attending the stirrings of a new Amateur Contest Group here in North Texas. Beginning late last spring, a few erstwhile fellows began meeting in the Far North Dallas area with the intention of activating, or at least testing the waters, to see if sufficient interest levels exist to support forming a contesting group here. The local group seems to never meet, and has no web presence so we are building one.

Simply stated, the core principle at work here is fostering any level of interest in contesting that we find and trying to help it flourish. Licensed? Not Licensed but interested in learning? Come on down! We are a collection of mostly mid-sized stations, with a mixture of seasoned and some with only light experience, some with nothing more than curiosity and enthusiasm. Thanks to N5UI (George) we have a web presence ( http://www.dfwcontest.com/index.html ) and a reflector at Yahoo Groups. So far interest is growing and many of the participants enjoy meeting up once per month on the first Wednesday at a local watering hole as noted on the web site. Structure is loose and we are trying to keep performance expectations such that this can remain a hobby vs being treated as “work”. Those that can play in a contest will play, and those that choose, can avoid playing in contests that do not interest them much. Joining is as simple as signing up at the web site. Needless to say, many war stories ruminate within the confines of the Bier Garten on First Wednesdays!

Like myself, many of the guys have residential restrictions and so have to maintain a lower profile. Is there a place for small pistols or mid-sized stations in a world of giant “mega stations” that grab all the column inches in Ham Radio Journals? We think so. In fact we are predominantly smaller suburban challenged stations with small footprints. QRP? Fine. Just submit a score. Activity is key. Even if only marginal activity. At some point the confluence of face to face meets combined with a free weekend and pretty soon something magical begins to flourish; slowly at first and then into something very rewarding. Improving skills, your hardware, learning or just plain socialization; contesting is a fruitful and entertaining way to spend a few hours relearning old skills or making new ones. The thrill of discovering a new opening, or having an unsuspecting new friend teach you a new twist on an old familiar technical issue or just doing a multi-single with like minded fellows sharing a family recipe for “Rolling Thunder Contest Chili” or “Chili Ding” (Hormel in a microwave ) or sharing a special new blend of coffee while wondering who will be the latest chap to try to steal the run frequency? It isn’t for everyone I realize, but for those that experience a weekend of contest fun and weed though the QRM, there isn’t anything like it.  Admittedly, the best of all my Ham Radio memories are contest memories. Those memories all stem from the mixture of wonderful people, fresh challenges and idiosyncratic episodes that defy description and later impart a joy that really has to be experienced to fully appreciated.

Wonderful things begin to happen when a garden is even minimally tilled. Our monthly meeting and the ever present contest opportunity provide the garden. Participation is the cultivator. Come join us for an enjoyable evening over a meal or perhaps a session in front of your rig, where technology can meet new faces and fun almost always breaks out.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Morse, QRP, Radio, Radio Contesting

 

Its been a while

I seem to be lost in space these days. Under the heading of “True Confession” I have to admit I just could not bring myself to do ARRL CW this weekend past. For some reason, be it the heavy drenching we got on the weekend or just a lack of desire I know not which but it left me reading some books and exercising at the gym.

I grudgingly meandered up to the blog login on this site and then thought better of it. I checked the blog roll links on my pages first and discovered that G4ILO was down and immediately I began racing about to see if there was a change in health status. No news so far which is good but still, what happened to the G4ILO web presence. I feel I have misplaced an old friend as indeed I think I have. Anyone? Comments?

Im completing the complete works of Conan Doyle for the umpteenth time. This in the form of a reprint of original Strand Magazine articles published sometime around the turn of the last century. Just prior to that read I went on a journey into factory food land via “Omnivore’s Dilemma”, by a chap named Pollan, Michael. It is a wonderful read and takes you on a behind the scenes tour of four meals. You can search for its review if you decide that it is your cup o joe. I highly recommend it as one should take a peek behind the wall of obscurity that clothes our modern food production and distribution system.

We have substituted a gym (YMCA) for walking. My normal ritual is now to walk for thirty ish minutes (power walking) on the track followed by reps on the Life Cycle machines. Not all of those available mind you, just the gut shrinking types of machines. I’m trying to isolate my girth and man boobs into submission. Hopefully this will continue until spring asserts itself and I cannot drive but cycle to the “Y”. That should take an hour and forty five minutes portal to portal each day. The thirty minutes of walking gives ample time to play ARRL W1AW Code Practice tapes at some ridiculous speeds that I can almost comprehend and then find myself hopelessly lost in space aurally again. Practice makes perfect? Maybe. There are two things that are very hard for old dogs to change or learn- One is to develop a new skill at an advanced age, the other is to lose weight and get into shape at an equally advanced age.

But the beat goes on……

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Family, Morse, Primal Eating, Stuff

 

Just a kid and his radio playing in some fields

First of all Happy New Year! I trust that you all enjoyed the Holidays and find yourselves safely ensconced in 2012. Good Job!

I spent yesterday afternoon reading a wonderful Ham Radio Tale as told by Dave, W6AQ that can be found here.I found this on Larry’s fine blog over at http://w2lj.blogspot.com/. I don’t know how long it has been posted there or how I could have missed it before but I thoroughly enjoyed the “all too brief” read. I certainly can identify with a lot of his early radio experiences, especially those involving FCC inspectors and early testing. Thanks for posting that link Larry! And a very big “Thanks” to Dave Bell W6AQ for writing this delightful account of his early experiences.

New Years eve found me in the shack wanting to do SKN again and yet for another year I failed to get on. This time stymied by a lack of proper adapters to hook the old J-38 to my rig and a decided lack of enthusiasm. I get up early (like 5 AM) so by the time I work up the fortitude to turn off the tube I am already looking forward to counting sheep. So it went again this year- no SKN. The prospect of firing up my soldering station at 9 PM was daunting for some reason. My Git up N Go left me. Look at it this way, I always have something to look forward to next December 31st.

My son received his handie talkie and is learning its strange programming techniques. He received a Woxoun UV6DP for Christmas and I have to admit its programming is strange enough to confound a seasoned veteran ham…..however, when I ordered this radio I had heard about programming so also ordered the programming cable. The computer programming makes this chore a snap. It is a nice little radio and seems to work well. Just how durable it is will reveal itself over time of course. His first ever attempt at trying it out was less than a positive experience though. I let him go solo and he asked for a radio check on a local repeater and some guy started lecturing him on proper procedure. Something like “you don’t ask for radio checks on a repeater” sort of thing. It was all I could do to keep my hands off the handie. So much for being friendly and helpful to new hams. The repeater in question belongs to MARS (that is the Metrocrest club here in N. TX). So later I called a local I know and he was kind enough to meet us on the local repeater so Matt could wet his feet in a friendlier environment. That experience went much better. We will work on more things during the week so by the time he gets ready to go back to school he will have steady radio “sea legs”.

We were fortunate enough to have some additional hours to play radio this week. I managed my usual practice and got down on 40M both early and late in the day to find and renew old acquaintances. The magic is still there for me after all these years; since 1959 in fact. Reading Dave Bell’s experiences with his testing for Morse under the watchful eye of the FCC Inspector brought back some equally terrifying memories. I hope that I never tire of playing with E&M Fields. I admit that like Latin, I don’t speak the language of field theory, but I very much enjoy the end result. Reaching out and touching someone, however far, with simple kit and a battery never ceases to delight.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2012 in Family, Morse, Radio

 

CW Clubs

I was saddened to see an original charter CW Ops member drop out this week. It becomes easier to understand when one looks at the focus of Club Activities through the year. It seems the Ops group has morphed into a contest club for the most part and that simply does not appeal to a lot of folks. Having added pressures to promote activity that you  are not fond of is adding pressure to a hobby that normally should be reserved for a working environment, not a pastime environment. I sometimes feel we hobbyists project working world drive into our hobby life and then wonder why we burn out.

Lately though, CW Ops has begun a QTX rag chewing activity award. Inasmuch as my practice buddy and I get on each day for an hour, we have divided our hour into three twenty minute QSO’s on different bands and plan to enter that award with a QSO we would have been doing anyway. I suppose that it a breach of some semblance of rule making but until someone tells me to stop Ill submit my hours of activity.

Most of the remaining CW enthusiasts from my era began life in a solitary way, finding our skills by ourselves, learning solo, making friends on the air rather than via the internet and until the coming of phone trees, DX repeaters and DX Clusters ruined everything (for me at least), radio was a singularly solo sport and achievement came at the cost of time and sacrifice with sweat. Clubs rarely organized around a Morse Code event or for that matter ever recognized Morse Operators very much. It was all Repeaters, VHF, UHF, Field Days or other activities which lend themselves to groups. Perhaps that is a fundamental difference between general Ham Activity and those of us that became CW aficionados earlier in life. Perhaps I am recalling wrongly. Maybe I am sentimental and full of BS. Given that the aforementioned is true, I will still miss my friend, but I know where to find him. Another beacon from Asia with an excellent fist and a bit of warm conversation for anyone that comes along. I will be spending more time around the low end of 40 meters this winter on the off chance I can once again renew an acquaintance. And that is the way of Morse and Radio. It is best accomplished live and on the air.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in DX, Morse, Radio, Stuff

 

QTX & Miscellaneous “stuff”

We contributed 25, 20 minutes “QSO’s” toward the QTX rag chewing award last month beginning at the end of the year put on by the CW OPS group.. Even though it hasn’t officially begun we are sending in log entries to get in the habit. A valid QSO is 20 minutes so we break up our hour long schedule into 3 segments and QSY through three bands along the way. We normally QSO on mostly dead frequencies so as to minimize our having to move around a lot daily. Normally we will begin on 18081.5 then to 21054.5 and onward up to 24925.0. So far those frequencies have worked pretty well for our daily skeds. About the only time there is an issue it generally occurs on 18 Mhz frequency and its because someone is working split form a transmit frequency below and listening up. Its an easy hop above 18090 to find another clear spot. I would suggest that anyone join but we are scheduled so tight that if we took on a third we would not get in enough sending time to make a difference. As it is my sending isn’t improving a lot, even with two participants and an hour of practice time. Sigh, nothing is easy is it?

I spent the weekend listening on the high bands. I spent most of my time on WARC bands as CW Sweepstakes was going and that contest exchange is murder IMHO. I have never been involved in Sweepstakes so I should give it a try some year just to say I did it ….once. Maybe I will save that for when I get good at Morse! 🙂

I happened across a website that showed up a new release of firmware for the IC-7800 that I had somehow missed back in January 2011. We try to keep current but I suppose I missed it somehow and so I downloaded it and tried to install it on the radio. I must have bent a pin in the Flash card reader/writer so I made a trip up to Fry’s and found a cheap all purpose one for ten bucks and then all was well with the world. One does this upgrade so infrequently that I just take out the manual and do them by the numbers “Heathkit” style. There are loads of warnings and one can mess it up very easily so I just take a deep breath and move through the instructions paragraph by paragraph. I didn’t need any rig improvements but somehow it seems the right thing to do by staying current. That sense will all change the first time I mess it up and the radio requires a trip to Seattle for a repair. More of life’s little complications. It’s a little like attempting to keep Microsloth current.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Morse, Radio, Stuff

 

Just like a poor carpenter…..

I am not blaming my tools but hope for improvement springs eternal. 🙂 Okay so dont let my better half know but I found an old key. I could not resist. Ive always wanted a W8FYO and could never find an original. I still have not but a close approximation found its way home. This one is a Hamco FYO circa 1976 ‘ish. It is a lot “tighter” than any Bencher I have played with and the base is heavy-very heavy like 2.X pounds heavy. I just broke it in on TX7M, HR9/AI5P, HC2SL and was gonna plug away at 3D2T but the pile was too large for my puny dipole launched 100 watts. Or perhaps I just didn’t have the patience. Anyway here is the new addition. I will use it exclusivly next week for practice and see how she plays on a longer (1 hour) QSO.

Hamco FYO Iambic

Have a wonderful weekend and if you are playing in the CQ WW SSB DX contest this weekend please enjoy yourselves. I have family commitments so the test is a no go for me. I may get an opportunity to cherry pick a couple but that will be the extent of my activity this weekend. Luck to all!

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in DX, Morse, Radio