Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Ode to Henry Wadsworth Longwire

I Shot An Arrow In The Air
It Fell To Earth I Know Not Where...

well, not exactly an arrow... more like a glob of cookie dough, wrapped around 200ft of fishing line...

and i didn't exactly shoot it, either... more like slingshotted (slingshat?) it using a HyperDog Ball Launcher (ask for it by name!)

and after a few failed attempts (ok, not exactly a failure since i did manager to launch cookie dough into random yards around my neighborhood), we arrived at this:

and this

which resulted in QSO's w/KH6RC, Randy, from the southern end of the 'Big Island" and KL6LF, Joe, in Fairbanks, where i spent 4 nights in February of 2002...

and now we know why i don't have a "significant other"

The End

de Robin (W6RDG)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CQ WW DX 2009 (it ain't baseball, but...)

sonovista, my friends! (yah, i'll explain it sometime)... well, i'm lifting my head after almost 14 days of non-stop work-type-stuff... but over the weekend i -did- manage to flip on the radios a couple of times to dip my toes into the international waters of the 2009 CQ WW DX contest... this was my first, and i was amazed to hear stations on bands i though my rigs and antenna couldn't receive! (wink). friday night i snuck off to try and find a new hilltopping location in the los gatos mountains and wasn't able to discover much elevation, but did run across (not literally) a coyote skulking across the backwoods road, apparently without regret (i love you joni mitchell... peace out!) i had brought along a new (used) Icom IC-7000 and a new (used) LDG AT-7000 tuner and worked a whole mess of Japanese stations, one Canadian station, and a fellow in Wasilla Alaska! (you betcha!)... i also worked KH6/OH7, which doesn't seem to be a valid call, but does appear to be the part number for the left rear taillight on a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle (US model, right rear in the UK)... so i don't know what i got there! (UPDATE: thanks to Jim, K6VAR, we've identified the mystery callsign as OH7WV operating in Hawaii as KH6/OH7WV - thanks Jim!) then nothing on saturday, but sunday afternoon i turned on the K3 in my kitchen and worked a whole mess more Pacific stations, including a bunch in Japan, Auckland New Zealand, and Queensland Australia,and two NEW countries: P43A in Santa Cruz, Aruba and FY5KE in Tallories, French Guiana. so 21 stations in all... two new countries... and japanese stations are becoming so 'easy' to get i'm starting to get bored (no, not really... but how quickly we forget!)

anyway here's the list... next year in Jerusalem (huh?)
more stuff soon
de Robin (W6RDG)

NK7U, Baker City, Oregon
JA3YBK, Kobe, Japan
N5DX, Harrison, Arizona
JI2ZEY, Shizuoka, Japan
W0AIH, Fall Creek, Wisconsin
K5MR, Gunter, Texas
JA7YRR, Aomori, Japan
VK4KW, Toogoolawah Queensland, Australia
ZL3A, Auckland, New Zealand
N2IC, Hanover, New Mexico
K1TTT, Peru, Maine
K3LR, West Middlesex, Pennsylvania
KL7RA, Kenai, Alaska
P43A, Santa Cruz, Aruba
FY5KE, Talloires, French Guiana
VE7SV, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
K7RL, Camano Island, Washington
AL9A, Wasilla, Alaska
JQ1BVI, Tokyo, Japan
JA8RWU, Chitose, Japan
KH6/OH7WV, Hawaii

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Farts (yes, that means me!) Have Lunch

quick update... yesterday i decided to try and cash in on that free slice of pie that comes with membership in the Quarter Century Wireless Association and went to the local/Northern California Chapter 11 meeting over at Harry's Hofbrau Hause (i made that last part up) in Redwood City... now since i've been living in northern i've belonged to 3 or 4 clubs and associations and they -all- have met, at one time or another, at a Harry's Hofbrau... in fact next month the NCDXC meeting is at another Harry's... very interesting...

in any event, not much to say except it was an exceptionally nice experience... i had contacted Al Montoya, WB6IMX, the president, to say i was now a member of QCWA and would like to attend a local meeting... he invited me to join them at Harrys for an 11am ice-breaker, followed by the 11:30 lunch/meeting... so i got there a bit after 11 and asked where the 'radio guys' were? i was pointed to the bar, and sure enough, there they were... at the bar... at 11, some drinking soft drinks, and some other beverages of choice.

these are my people!

hard to chat in the din (the regular meeting room was booked, so we were in the general population) but just a nice bunch of warm, welcoming men and women, many of whom were getting ready for the annual QCWA cruise that took off today (i believe)

anyway i'm not saying that i was the youngest person there (not out loud, anyway) but a couple of the fellows were getting ready to celebrate over 70 years in ham radio.

Right On
Right On
Right On

so i'll be back next month... not sure i'll be able to do mid-day meetings all the time, but nice to kick around some stories with folks who remember tubes and crystals and are still operating... you gotta honor the "Eminence Grise" of the hobby... they were the ones who fought for all the privileges we have today!

(and, as my first 'unofficial' act as a new member, i took the current membership application form, which looks like it might have been printed on an Epson MX-80 and has been copied and recopied to within an inch of its life, and redid it as both a Word document and a fill-in PDF form, either of which can easily be emailed and returned.)

and that's all i got for now.
more later
film at 11

de Robin (W6RDG)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nice Way to End the Weekend - My First RTTY QSO!

just completed my first-every RTTY QSO and it was on 30m with ZL30MDG, Christ Church, New Zealand. wow! the Elecraft K3/100 has a built-in RTTY/PSK31/CW decoder and Elecraft provides a free utility program that has a very simple 'terminal' to let you transmit RTTY/PSK31/CW using a computer keyboard and no audio card. i've been mucking about with this for the last couple of days (with the help of the Elecraft reflector and Iain MacDonnell - N6ML - who provided the key advice about setting the proper data mode on the K3) but haven't been successful. one problem is that i'm using the HPS-1a power supply, which is basically a low-duty-cycle supply with some major capacitors on the output... this works great as a SSB supply (the thing is tiny!) but using it in a data mode, it can easily cause the K3 to crash as the voltage drops below 9 volts with the 100% duty cycle transmission... so i've been reducing the output power and trying again and again and just about 15 minutes ago, with the power set at about 34watts, i was able to snag a 599 with ZL30MDG. i'm sure i was operating like a LID and i'll have to get better software, etc., but what a thrill! and a nice bit of DX to boot!

now i can sleep like a (rather clever) baby!
nite all
de Robin (W6RDG)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Old Fart Update

well, it's official... i just received my membership certificate (#34927) certifying that i now a member of the Quarter Century Wireless Association

i believe this means a free slice of pie, though i may have misread the bylaws...

now i just need to shave my head, grow a white beard, take up smoking a pipe and figure out where to buy those lightning bolt things, and i'll be finally ready to work CW.

(by the way... quarter century still means 25 years, right? not 125 years? i mean, jeebus... if you get your first license at 15, 25 years puts you at 40... and if you don't get your first license until you're 25, 25 years puts you at 50... if you're 50 and you look like the 'old guy' in the association logo, i think you may be sitting too close to the antenna!

anyway, another honor i didn't have to do anything to earn except not die. (woo hoo!)
de Robin (W6RDG)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

California QSO Party (Phase II)

okay... so when last we left our intrepid explorer, she had just decended from her 1700ft perch where she racked up just about 50 QSO's and 25 states in 2 1/2 hours... not bad for a 'newbie' with a gel cell, a superantenna and a dream...

cut to sunday, and i figure i'll try my luck, this time, back on Mt. Umunhum (about 1000ft higher, with a clear shot looking east), and so i load my rig and kit back into the BMW of DEATH and head back to the Santa Cruz mountains... the flies were not biting and i found a nice cut out on the side of the road just below the last gate (SA-08), and so within about 10 minutes i had everything set up, lit up and powered on and spun through 20m where i heard most of the same voices i had heard the day before, this time with QSO counts in the 1000's...


i also heard Alex, YO9HP in romania, and with his beam and patience, was able to score a not-so-quick 5-5 with my first romania contact! (for some reason, DX stations are not able to understand the "D" in RDG and we often go through every other letter in the alphabet... i've stopped saying "Delta" which seems to be a word that's hard to recognize, and often say Denmark or Denver or Dentist or Dog, but this is heard as Renmark or Nenver or Bentist or Log... i dunno...)

but, at heart, i'm more of a DX hound than a contester and the romanian station was like chum, getting my blood all-a-boilin'... so i headed over to 17m, where there was no contest, and found the band with some fine openings and camped out to call CQ and was delighted to have my first-ever DX station return MY call! JE1FQV, Tak, in New Tokyo Japan was getting ready to go to work (monday in tokyo) and heard my call on 17m and was happy to chat with a hilltopping station (i know a bit of japanese and have tried, now, twice to use it in my conversations with japanese stations, but i get the audio equivalent of a stare each time)... i then, in quick succession, worked N5THS, JB, in Arkansas, K6DI, Dan, traveling eastbound on US 80, driving his daughter to her new home in Chicago, VE7FE, Yugin, in British Columbia, W5SAN, Joe, in Salina Texas operating on solar power, N6HI, Norm, in Hawaii (the big island), N6DDD, Arlen, in Missouri, KO5G, Dave, in San Antonio, KE5GVH, Eddy, in Houston, KE5PTU, Harold, in Longview, Texas, W5VOX, Jim, in Oklahoma, AD5XQ, Will, in Iriving, Texas, KL2GT, Joe, in Point Baker, Alaska, KE5QNP, James in Mena, Arkansas, KA2FND/6, John, in Morgan Hill, CA (just on the other side of the mountain), W4DAT, Perry in Roopville, Georgia, K5PUB, Bill, in Athens, Texas and the third and final honest DX contact of the afternoon, F1UJS, Lio, in the Bordeaux region of France!

and then the gel cell decided to call it quits!

so all-in-all an OUTSTANDING weekend of hammin' it up in the heart of the silicon valley... i enjoyed my first taste of real contesting (and now know better what i need to do next time), added two more countries to my DX count (not sure of the exact number, but i'll figure it out and fill it in here, later), and generally just enjoyed sitting outside, on two brisk, northern california autumn days,

so Japan, Romania and France plus about 75 domestic/canadian QSO's in one weekend and about 6 hours using an AGM battery, K3/100 running barefoot and a simple SuperAntenna MP1 with a partly-busted MFJ 10ft whip, all mounted on a video tripod (and using only 4 radial wires) and no sunspots... its tuesday as i type this, and i'm still smiling!

anyway, no anticipated hamming for the next few days... i have a wedding i'm going to attend this weekend and work promises to be all consuming, but the lingering taste of Bordeaux will certainly keep me happy for days to come.

thanks to those who read my blog, and those whose callsigns grace my log...
(there was a young man from Nantucket...)

de Robin (W6RDG)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

California QSO Party (Part Uno)

sonovista, my friends... OK... since i may never actually submit any logs, i figure i should probably post an update here on my blog... i just completed the first leg of my first contest, the California QSO Contest... i' ve been looking forward to this for a while and was determined not to let this stupid cold/flu/thing that my friends insisted on giving me, dissuade me from doing a little hilltopping with my K3 and SuperAntenna... so this morning i threw the K3 (in its wonderful new REI bag) along with some paper log sheets i printed out (no, i'm not automated) into the back of my car along with the 28AH AGM cell (fully charged), the MP1 SuperAntenna with the MFJ 10ft mast, all mounted on a video tripod, and headed up to about 1600ft, just off Rt. 17, past the summit, on the Santa Cruz side of the Santa Cruz Mountains... to be honest, i figured i'd do better up on Mt. Umunhum, but that's technically still in Santa Clara County, and there are a ton of hams around here, so i wanted to maybe help some out of state folks with an additional multiplier (a term i don't know i honestly understood even 3 hours ago, and probably don't really understand now)

my thought was that i'd set up (along with my new REI portable folding camp table and portable folding camp chair, both extremely light!) and start clearing out the pileups...


by the time i powered up the K3 at 1652UTC (9:52am california time), 52 minutes into the contest, 20 meters was already jammed up with nary (nary?) a free slot... so rather than add to the QRM, i started answering some calls and immediately mucked up my log (LOL!), putting info in the wrong columns, skipping lines (and thereby giving the wrong contact number info), and generally futzing things up... right out of the gate!

oh well... nobody's perfect, and some of us aren't even moderately competent!

but i've learned that giving up is like letting life give you the big FU, and i'd rather give a big FU right back to life, so i took a deep breath, spun to a new frequency...

and immediately noticed that i had set up camp on top of an ant hill and the ants were causing much pain to my feet!

on the FU scoreboard - life 2, me 0

so i moved the rig, chair and table (the antenna was fine), dug in, powered up, and started again

and during the next hour and 45 minutes i worked 46 stations (i think) including Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin - so 24 states in under 2 hours, plus 3 Canadian Provinces (Alberta, Ontario and Saskatoon), and 6 California counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Siskiyou)

now i'm gonna take a break and then get ready for a birthday dinner tonight with some old friends, and i hope to pick it up again tomorrow, maybe from Mt. Umunhum... but even with no chance of winning any kind of award, i am SO BLOODY HAPPY and had so much fun sitting there off the side of a mountain road, with all my gear and kit, bright sunshine, floppy hat and the ether at my fingertips.

a morning spent immersed in the domain of -wonder-.

as Ferris Bueller said, "if you have the means, i highly recommend it!"

de Robin (W6RDG)