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Contesting- ARRL DX Phone 2012

Every once in a long while one is presented with an opportunity to do something very special. Recently, because of our organizing a small and local contest club, an opportunity presented itself to play radio at a very special place. Last weekend, we journeyed to the southern reaches of our State of Texas to play some radio at what I will call euphemistically “Radio Disneyland”. Nothing I have ever done with Ham Radio comes close to this experience. However, along with opportunity comes responsibility so work was involved and indeed happened. It took me two solid days of operating to get my sense of hearing back in gear. With antennas like these one can hear a pin in Belarus drop on a soft carpet. A four yagi stack and a two yagi stack for each high band position. A high yagi non stack for each high band operating position. The description and photos are not and cannot possibly do justice to this accumulation of hardware. You can enjoy it from its own web pages by visiting here.

Along the way I managed to snap a few photos that also do not do justice. It was a hoot. It was fun. It was intimidating. All I can say is wow!

The station belongs to non other than George NR5M and I would like to make a public “Thanks” to George for the opportunity to play some radio at this station. Also there are a lot of supporting staff that play a large role in anything like this and so a “Hats Off” to Kenny and others who helped make a comfortable weekend for us all.

 

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Radio, Radio Contesting

 

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

 

Children and Radio Enrichment

Yesterday at noontime, I didn’t do my normal CW practice for an hour. Instead, I worked the children of Winn Brook Elementary via 18 Mhz SSB and through the good offices of W1HIS. Chuck has been volunteering his services as a science teacher for nine years now and throughout the nine years has used Ham Radio to facilitate that instruction. He solicited his club (YCCC) to donate some equipment and uses an IC_746 Pro and an Icom Amp with wire antennas to introduce Ham Radio, Geography and also Morse Code. The class has enough touch keyers to let each child have one and by the end of class in June Chuck has the students sending and receiving the Morse Code at 18 words per minute.

Chucks class room teacher partner is a lady named Donna who herself has a call ( I forgot it) and has fostered this enrichment for her classroom and permitted Chuck to come into the class setting and worked her curriculum around the Science Enrichment. Aside from normal local SSB contacts, Chuck works some DX which serves nicely to help with Geography and also opens lots of doors for the youth to experience other cultures. It is a lot for young minds to gather in but they seem very enthusiastic.

W1HIS with students at Winn Brook Elementary

We spent about 1.3 hours on 18 Mhz SSB with the children on Friday and worked through each of the three “neighborhoods” that the class is divided into. This was my second attempt at having a QSO with the kids and this one lasted a bit longer than the first and seemed to go very well. There were a number of stations reading our “mail” and some stopped by to compliment the intro to Ham radio to the class. Among those stopping by were KU9RK and KI4EFP. Thanks fellas!

W1HIS with Winn Brook student

All in all a wonderful way to spend some quality time with nice kids. I really enjoyed the whole of that QSO!

Neighborhood 1

Nathanial, Jacob, Eleanor, Symantha, Stella, Calder, Amaleah.

Neighborhood 2

Theo I, Theo G, Rebecca, Kavya, Anya, Ryann.

Neighborhood 3

Brian, Brennan, Isabella, Julia, Juliette, Angelina, and Theo M.

Thanks kids!

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Radio, Uncategorized

 

Gramps Got Some MOJO Back!

Ive been searching for mojo for some time now. I suppose that happens when you get old enough to put all of your well worn excuses into play. Lord knows I’ve developed a _lot_ of excuses over the years. I lamented here some months back that I could not get up energy to do simple things like I used to do like run a couple of hours in a contest. Well I am pleased to report my contesting mojo has been found.

Saturday I found it again and actually enjoyed myself in a CW Contest. This one is the latest derivation of the old ARRL CD Parties now reborn as NAQP or North American QSO Party. It was a hoot. I actually managed a smallish run on 15 M early on and was quite surprised to see how many states I could work on 80 M. I had zero expectations for 80 M and so was happy with the results. NAQP is limited to 100 w and so my low and short dipole was handicapped on the lower bands.

Our local contest group (DFW Contest Group) is kind of a low key organization and is also freshly minted in as much as it has been in existence for about a year now. Since its beginning the guys have encouraged participation in lots of low key events such as QSO Parties and State QSO Parties like CAL QSO or NEQP. These are operating events that one can do without committing a whole dedicated weekend to the radio-something that a lot of us have a hard time scheduling. A link to the website is here:

At long last I finally managed to get the Function keys properly set up in N1MM Logger and so things went swimmingly throughout the test. The interface worked properly, the radio and antenna functioned just fine and the operator began to understand the vagaries of CW Contesting. I have done SSB testing before but the challenge for me always has been to do it in Morse. Well, now that I have done a modest effort it may be time to step it up a notch and try for a higher team. Our group fielded four squads and I was on Team #3. Perhaps I can climb the ladder a bit next time. Results were very modest but Matt was here on his last day before Spring Semester so time was of some concern. Still…..I was happy with the result. 51K and 385 Q’s in around 8 hours.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Radio

 

3300 Steps and other stuff

Ive been using my new Christmas gift regularly. Daily in fact. This iPod Nano Gen 6 is quite the toy. I like the pedometer feature almost as much as I enjoy the wonderful FM Radio built into it. Today I tried to download my walking statistics so I could capture a screen shot. The iTunes Site warps you over to a Nike Site and I tried to “Register” there but no joy. The site never responded. Ill try again later. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, Ive learned that my morning walk is 1.6 miles, generally, and approximately 3350 steps. The reward for this effort is 180 calories burned. I need to walk farther I guess. Habitually, I do my walking before the crack of dawn so Ill probably have to change habits to include more miles per week.

Last week I came across a wonderful short video on youtube that I may not have shared here yet. It is done by a physician and is quite cleverly done in stop action cartoon style but the message is succinct and appropriate to today’s society. This short attempts (successfully IMHO) to answer the Question: What is the single most beneficial thing we can do to improve our health? You can find this video here.

I like to listen to Bill Bennett on the early morning radio (Why do iPod and walkman makers never include an AM radio in the features of these wonderful toys?) as he is a non strident radio host, yet manages to explore today’s important themes. He is also a Classically Trained Philosopher with a strong background in ethics. Last week or perhaps before, he had some discussion going that involved subjects as disparate as death and appreciation of life. Some references were made about a book called the New England Primer. I just caught a small bit of the discussion but involved a statement like, “one cannot fully appreciate life without knowing death”. I had not ever calibrated this concept (most of you know I am not a deep thinker) but it sounded intriguing. So, hat in hand off I went to discover what messages were contained in this New England Primer. Low, I never found the bits I was looking for, but did come across a short prayer that I had been made to memorize as a small child. It began, “Now I lay me down to sleep”….I never understood the derivation of that poem/prayer but found it this AM in the New England Primer. My Grand Mother was an old school Quaker so I suppose she would have brought this to our young minds. The prayer may in fact be a lot older but it was contained in a version of this book printed around 1744. Who knows, it may have come from old England.

Now that I have that discovery committed to the blog-o-sphere, I suppose I should go find out about life and death as written by a preacher named Cotton something or other….News after of course.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in Family, Readinf and History, Stuff

 

Catching up after the holidays

Just a short note to celebrate finally arm-twisting my son to go to a Ham Meeting with me. Since getting his new handie talkie for Xmas he has had some ups and downs with radio, not the least of which was me when he lost his mind and failed to ID properly this morning. 🙂 On the way home from class today he was mobile and someone in the local fire department was  attempting to activate the local school emergency net and needed a volunteer to go to a local school house-just as luck would have it Matt was passing by. He arrived home all a twitter. Some good things are happening under no direction from me. If this is going to take off it will be with his energy; not mine. But first tonight we get to to the local contest group evening dinner which happens once per month. A second evil grin placed here please.

I think I will do NAQP CW this month. If I can get N1MM Function Keys set up correctly to run as well as S&P I should be in bidness. CT was a lot easier for the casual contester. NAQP is a nice QSO Party along the lines of the old State QSO Parties save this is a National Contest. I need an excuse to get my git up n go back in motion. Somewhere along the line over the last several years my code practice has warped my brain into enjoying rag chews more than Contests, so I need to test my mettle again and see how it goes. Who knows perhaps my mojo will come back.

I am just sitting here with the radio burning up some BTU’s and was listening to 10M FM at the behest of another local in zip 75019. No joy today Jerry. I heard the repeater ID but that is all. Otherwise 10M was open nicely to the northwest USA. Later I was on 18 Mhz and heard a D2 station working a pileup not bothering to ID very much so I didnt either. I do not believe I have ever worked Angola. Hmmm…..maybe I should have called.

I had better get ready to go with the boy to dinner. Pardon my drivel here. I didnt have a lot but wanted to record a week of firsts for the kiddo. Inasmuch as this is as much a family document as anything else it really needs put onto some medium, if for no other reason than kidding him at some later date. 🙂

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Family, Radio