My Most Recent QSO's

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A QSL Card from Oman

Oman has been one of my most "memorial" contacts; so I was happy to find this card in my electronic mail box last night. I'm sure Chis (A45XR) has made hundreds of contacts into the USA with his "double element" Delta Loop antenna. He has the best 5,000 mile signal I've ever heard from that part of the world. I worked him in February of 2013 with 3 watts of power into my indoor random wire antenna. As usual, with most DX stations, my signal was 599 (if you know what I mean). Surprisingly, his signal really was 599! Go figure....

This month has been terribly busy for me. I've been in Iowa for a 50th Wedding Anniversary, and also to New York where we visited with a new grand daughter. When we were in Iowa, on the bad side, we ended up being way too close to a tornado. On the good side, I bought a Ukulele, due to the inspiration of the relatives, and am quickly learning to play it. (it's great for traveling) Also on the very good side, the grand daughter was beautiful and we enjoyed the visit very much.

There is nothing like New York City in the entire world!

My time is very limited now and my posts are more scarce; but I still have my love of Morse Code and QRP radio. My father, being 94 years old, and still living by himself, demands more of my daily time. Sometimes there's just NOT enough hours in the day. I'll post when I'm able to do so. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Native Americans

Wikipedia Image of Miniconjou Lakota Chief Lame Deer 

Several weeks ago, I worked KF7YRL in the state of Montana. One of the great things about ham radio is learning about the people and places they live in the world. I love this aspect of the hobby. It's absolutely amazing to me that folks, over a thousand miles away, can communicate in "real time" with simple "dots and dashes". Often times I wonder what life was like before the modern conveniences we've learned to take for granted in the complex world of today.

While talking to Steve, it became apparent that, like myself, he was a guitar player. Much of the conversation revolved around acoustic music. He uses an "Aspen" guitar. I use an Italian made "EKO" guitar which I bought in Naples Italy in 1970.

Guitars are "special" things which "fit" the hands of different people in unusual ways. Over the years, I've discovered there isn't a "right" guitar for every musician. Every guitar has a different "neck" and this part of the instrument is "critical" to every player and every guitar plays differently. We're both happy with our choice of guitars. That's part of the joy of music....the universal language.

Steve lives on a ranch in Montana (Sonntag Ranch and Wildlife Preserve) and is an "emergency physician" on a "Cheyenne Indian Reservation" in that state. He lives in a town which is named after the Miniconjou Lakota Chief "Lame Deer" who was killed  by the United States Army in 1877, by the way, under a flag of truce just South of this town.

Not too long ago, I had the privilege of seeing the "northern" part of Montana and experiencing the rolling prairies which seem to extend forever, rolling along endlessly in a sea of golden grass. It's breathtakingly beautiful in the summer months but brutally harsh in the winter time.

Wikipedia Image 

The Native Americans have always inspired me due to their relationship and respect for nature. Being active in the Boy Scouts during the days when I worked on heavy equipment in the coal fields here in West Virginia, the American Indians (slang) were looked upon with great respect for their skills in outdoor living. I also hold that value and respect for "true" Native Americans.

Lets face it folks, the American Indians were here long before us, and they used the land a lot more wisely than we do now. It's becoming more and more difficult each day to find a "quite" place where the relationship with the earth, it's wildlife, and it's people are viewed as harmonious and not a commodity.

I chuckle every time I hear complaints about immigration in America these days-- all those complaining about being invaded by foreigners, free-loading, and being just plain "Un - American". Yes.... it is laughable and probable to use much harsher words.

I think living independently and "off the grid" is an admirable characteristic. Although I'm too old now for traveling long distances by foot, horseback, or even bicycle; in past years I've actually "lived' out of a backpack, or the panniers carried on a bicycle, and I loved every minute of it.

Society at large should experience this humbling experience. It makes a person realize the really important things in life; like food, shelter, and clothing. The rest of life is what you make it and I've found that keeping life as simple as possible is a good way to live life.

QRP radio, in many ways, has these qualities. A simple radio, with a simple battery, with a simple wire in the trees for an antenna, sitting under the stars, around a campfire, with a set of earphones, so as not to disturb the neighbors.

I look forward to more conversations with Steve (KF7YRL) in the future. He provides an extremely valuable service to this part of Montana. I can visualize this part of the country easily and I like what I see.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Big Mac

Photo by Evan-Amos- Wikipedia 

I like 30 meters very much, and have always made some nice contacts on this band. There are many times I find DX here, and I work them when I can, but I'm finding some long slow QSO's here too. During the early evening hours, I easily work stations in the mid-western states on this band.

I've worked WB5QYG in McAlester, Oklahoma a couple of times lately, and did a quick search of his home town. Mc Alester is in what's known as "Tornado Alley" where severe storms are always a certainty in the summer months. It's also the home of the  Oklahoma State Penitentiary . --The local people call it "Big Mac"-- That's the reason for the first picture in this entry.

Photo by Charles Duggar- Wikipedia 

We have an enormous prison population in this country- more than any other country in the world. Just say'in....those are the facts, and an inordinate number of those are for non-violent crimes. I hope this situation changes because it costs a LOT of money to maintain these places. This is true in all 50 states. West Virginia is no exception, we have more than 7,000 incarcerated in our state.

I wonder how many of these inmates might be interested in radio?  Perhaps a good hobby would have required a better use of idle time and therefore a more productive life, and the decreased need for nationwide prison facilities? If not ham radio, short-wave listening is a good pastime. I know that's just wishful thinking; but I'm an optimist.....

Too many people today find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many times it's due to being born in unfortunate places where there's little opportunity for a decent job, or little opportunity for getting a decent education. Sometimes social obstacles are much too difficult to overcome. The really unfortunate thing about these "casualties of life" is many of them have the intelligence to be productive members of society. To waste a good mind is a terrible thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It was Like Speaking to a Ghost.

The last time I saw the USS New Jersey was in 1968. This battleship was in the Tonkin Gulf, along with us, during the Tet Offensive. We used "red lights" to preserve our "night vision" on the signal bridge, and on a clear moonless night, after an hour or so in the dark, I could see like a hungry cat searching for an elusive mouse. If you're looking closely, you can see a slight curvature of the earth on the horizon at around 10 miles and the protruding masthead light from another ship. The white "bow" and "stern" lights of this large ship were easily visible as soon as they appeared just above the horizon.

It was important to know "who" was in the area at that time, and we had a method of identifying every new "light" on the dark sea. I focused my search light and sent the Morse Code pro-sign equivalent to "halt, identify yourself, or be fired upon" and after a brief pause, they replied "This is the USS New Jersey -- fire at will". I turned to my shipmate and said "wow....I just told the New Jersey to identify herself or I was going to blow her out of the water". I never forgot that "challenge" even tho it was 46 years ago.

I have many memories from that period of time, some of them not so good, but when I heard the New Jersey (NJ2BB) last weekend, and was finally able to work her again, (in civilian life) it was like speaking to a ghost for me.

Photo by Greg Hume-Wikipedia 

This weekend, I was also able to work several more ships. The most memorial to me was LST-325. I have a personal history with this ship; it was in our home town of Charleston WV last year. The previous year, I found this ship in Marietta Ohio and was able to use their ships radio to work a Coast Guard Museum radio station near Los Angeles California. A few weeks ago I worked one of the LST 325's crew members (W8AU/M) who was driving along the interstate near Columbus Ohio. It was a long and enjoyable QSO.

Wikipedia Public Domain Image 

The Nuclear Ship Savanna is the first ship of it's type I've worked. I had no idea some cargo ships were nuclear powered? This was a big surprise to me.

I also worked this Canadian warship on the Great Lakes.  

Photo by Rick Cordeiro- Wikipedia 

This was the warship Haida located near Ontario Canada. (a fantastic signal by the way).

I've changed my "radio" focus since getting both my DXCC and WAS awards. (QRP at five watts or less of power and indoor stealth wire antennas). I work an occasional DX station with my "new straight key" but get my most joy from  long conversations at a slow 15 wpm speed.

There are several hams that I enjoy talking with very much. I like the "Special Event Stations", and will continue to work them, but I will be writing about friends and interesting places in the United States for awhile.

My "free time" has become very limited with my father approaching his 93rd birthday, and my five grand kids growing like billy goats. There's just not enough hours in the day......

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cuban Five Letter Stations

Are there new changes in ham radio from Cuba now? I was under the impression their operators were limited to 10 watts of power and a simple wire antenna. To my surprise when I worked CO8RRM on 40 meters a few evenings ago, he said his power was 50 watts. He sounded great all along the east coast with his vertical dipole antenna.

Perhaps the extra letter in the call-sign is a designation for higher power and extra privileges? This is my first contact with a Cuban station with five letters......

License requirements in Cuba today resemble the challenges of early ham radio in the United States. My congratulations to Rafael from Baracoa, GITMO for his accomplishment and the great signal into West Virginia. Keep up the great work and I'll be listening for more of those five letter call-signs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dayton Hamvention 2014

As difficult as it might seem, this year was my "first" trip to the Dayton Hamvention. No excuses....just sayin; but during my working life at the paint store, I seldom had a weekend "off", and it's a six hour (minimum) round tip from Charleston.

Our club member Eric (AC8LJ) needed to make the trip on Friday (up and back) due to work obligations, and asked me to ride along with him. It was a long day, but a very rewarding one.

What caught my eyes while there? ---Being a "Morse Code" buff, the popular attractions for me were, of course, QRP radios and "keys". My mission at the event was to see "first hand" everything to do with this part of the hobby. Needless to say, the vendors I liked were Elecraft, TenTec, and Hendricks. On the "key" side, were Vibroplex, Begali, and Kent.

Before the return trip to Charleston, I had a new "Vibroplex Straight Key" in my knapsack. 

My focus in radio is very narrow, but personally, I found the QRP and CW vendors to be the busiest people at the hamvention and, Morse Code keys are cherished items for us. There's nothing like the opportunity to actually get the "feel" of a great "quality" key "in your hand". 


Although I didn't get the opportunity to chat with a few of the legends in the  Ham Radio hobby, it was wonderful to see them at this event. In this day of the internet, I enjoy watching (and listening) to several ham radio shows on the web. 

Ted Randall (WB8PUM) with "QSO Radio" was broadcasting "live" from the Hamvention, as well as Bob Heil (K9EIDfrom "Ham Nation". Gordon West (WB6NOA) was also there with all of the great material he's known for all over the world.

The ARRL was out in full force here with an assortment of information, testing, and forums. I particularly enjoyed talking to the "Boy Scout" group. West Virginia is home of the upcoming "World Jamboree". Although I couldn't work them, (after returning home) their "Special Event Station" was a popular attraction.

The Hamvention trip was a success for me. I saw what was interesting to me, although only a small segment of the hobby. A QRP CW operator can never have "too many keys". My new Vibroplex Straight Key is my "fourth" from this company. One can never have too many keys......

Monday, April 14, 2014

Switzerland on 40 Meters

I've worked Switzerland several times previously (10) but usually on the upper bands. I was surprised to hear and work HB9FIR on 40 meters last night. This was my one and only Swiss station on this band. I was happy to work him!