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Duh: Learning Curve #4 Oops I did it again!
Sep 16th, 2010 by kmack

Ever see one of those tie bars or pins that say, “IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG”  My dad had one back in the days when men wore ties. The thing used to bug me cause he didn’t tell us what it meant right away. We tried guessing for a few days before he got tired of 7 kids all ganging up on him.

It is the famous If You Keep Doing What You’ve Been Doing, You’ll Keep Getting What You’ve Been Getting!” Not sure who gets the credit for that one, but it sure stuck with me all these years. Of course, I’ve heard my bosses recite it a few times along the way too.

Hole in the Head?

It only hurts when I laugh, or think, or move, or...use a new antenna in a contest!

That’s what this series of posts is about. Not repeating mistakes I’ve made. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes and save a bit of time. Or maybe you’ll just get a laugh and some relief from knowing someone else made the same mistake you’ve made. HA!

Well, last night, I did not follow my own advice. I put together a new antenna a few hours before the NAQCC Sprint and set it up. LESSON: As previously mentioned, don’t try to use a brand new antenna in a contest.

Ooops I did it again. Strike TWO! It was a disappointing night and too late to try to get another antenna up before the 2 hour sprint was over. So no contacts for me, I’m still scratching  my head. Was it the antenna, me, or the band conditions? BUT… I don’t think I’ll pull that one again. Unless I have a hole in my head…

72,

Kelly K4UPG

p.s. Don’t forget to take the poll on my blog for the best ham radio QTH in the USA! It is on the left side column.

QRP Community
Aug 2nd, 2010 by kmack

What is it about low power operators that binds us together? I’ve been reflecting on that a bit lately.

As a student of anthropology and culture, I see a bit of a tribal influence among the amateur radio ops of the world. We tend to cluster into tribes based upon our modes of operation and other specialized pursuits like contesting, fox hunting, award seekers, etc. Each tribe has its own special characteristics, culture, jargon and social structure.

What I enjoy most about the QRP tribe is that the Elmer spirit is still very much alive and well. Although we all are a bit competitive and like to think we have a line on the best way to do QRP, there is a healthy amount of sharing of information, expertise and even hardware. Groups like Adventure Radio Society, NAQCC, Flying Pigs, Polar Bears, AZ Scorpions, NE QRP, North Georgia, 4 States, etc breed healthy competition and provide us with sources of information and expert assistance when needed. I sure am enjoying getting to know, both on air and in person, some of the people that make these groups work.

My recent connection with Diz W8DIZ while operating the FOBB, prompted me to go back and read the history of the Flying Pigs and to read through the archives of the Bacon Bits Newsletter. There is real gold and a wealth of interesting info that’s been recorded and made available freely. Other clubs have the same heritage. I say a BIG THANK YOU to all the QRP groups for sharing their experience and stories. It makes me feel proud to be part of the tribe!

What about you? What do you enjoy about QRP? Leave a comment and share your thoughts and story.

Polar Bear Summer Picnic Event Jun 2010
Jun 19th, 2010 by kmack

My favorite QRP group is the Polar Bear QRP gang! We have a good time and enjoy outdoors activities and trying to connect with one another at least once a month with some kind of activity. To escape some of the heat, I got an early start on the day. I wanted to try out a new mini-bac antenna configuration and knew it would take some time to get it up into the trees. BOY WAS THAT AN UNDERSTATEMENT! It was 110 ft doublet with a 40 ft feedline that was setup as a ladder line. Not an easy one to get up single-handed. Thanks to some tall trees, was able to get it up about 40-45 feet in the pine trees. It loaded great on 40m, but was disappointing on 20m so I ended up setting up my W3EDP in an L from my 20 ft Jackite pole to a nearby cedar tree at about 35 feet.  The sun chased me into the treeline where I settled in to chase bears.

Abandoned mini-back doublet feedline hangs in foreground

My xyl Connie took a picture that shows the mini-back feedline hanging in the breeze after I shifted positions and setup the W3EDP in the shade. Grrrrr!

Osprey perched right above my head...cell phone picture

Was able to work a couple of the Polar Bears, Mike W3MC in MD and Guy N7UN up in the mountains on a trail(?) in NJ. I heard VA2SG but he was at ESP level briefly then faded away. I did hear a few others working him though. WA8REI was working Guy but I could not hear him at all and ended up tail ending their QSO to connect with N7UN.

Got to work a few others through the QSB and poor signal strength on 20m including Pastor Les, K4NK in SC, KE5SBZ, Ed in TX, N1FJ in MA, and Phil W3HZZ in Atlanta so it was a nice way to spend a few hours outdoors in the heat.

Connie brought me a picnic lunch and we enjoyed the osprey and bald eagle show as they fished Lake Fredrica.

Had to drink extra coffee to copy speedy W3MC's signal

This is the life... outdoors and ham radio...making QSO's...PTL!

Nite Ops QRP Portable Style
Nov 25th, 2009 by kmack

Having fun playing radio in the backyard at my in-laws! Extra fun since I cannot keep an antenna up full time so being able to get on the air when I can is a treat.

Entered my first SKCC SKS Sprint and the rain drove me to cover but managed to make a decent first showing for a QRP guy with rusty CW.

I put together a W3EDP antenna of 84 feet and a parallel 17 foot countepoise that sloped up to about 35 foot high branch. I used #24 teflon wire and some 1/4 in plastic tubing cut into 7 in pieces which I taped to the wires as spacer. Lightweight and nearly invisible in the air makes it a good candidate for QRP portable ops. It’s long, but seems to hear well and worked even after I bent it into an L when I had to get under cover from the rain! Hope to do more testing  with this one.

Earning my Polar Bear wings by being out in the COLD. This Florida Bear ain’t used to below 40 degree wx. Brrrr and Grrrrrr!

Nite Ops from the backyard

Nite Ops from the backyard

Nite Ops from the Deck

Nite Ops from the Deck

Flight of the Bumblebees 2009
Jul 27th, 2009 by kmack

I have been like a kid on Christmas Eve thinking about this event. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and I chose to stay closer to home than originally planned. In this low power (QRP) ham radio event, the Bumblebees were to hike, bike, or travel via water to the spot they would operate. As bee #86, I donned my backpack (overly packed by the way) and headed to the lakeside park in our housing development which is about 3/4 mile from my home. It was about 90+ degrees Farenheit at 11 am when I set out to my site.

The sky looked good, except the clouds were building to the Southwest… So I setup camp and decided to use the shelter rather than be out in the open in case rain came. Good choice!

So I setup my Buddistick for 20m using my MFJ 207 Analyzer. I soon had the SWR down to 1.3/1 and after hoisting the antenna into the air on my semi-official BEE colored painter’s pole it went down to less than 1.2 to 1! Good enough for this ham! Signals were a bit down and there was a good bit of QRN which would get worse. Since it was early, I ate lunch and watched the herons work the shallows of the lake while I waited for the 1 PM starting time.

Bumblebee 86 on the way out~ note the BEE colored hat

Bumblebee 86 on the way out~ note the BEE colored hat

Buddistick up and away

Buddistick up and away

She's up and ready to rock n roll

She's up and ready to rock n roll

From the bottom looking up!

From the bottom looking up!

My Rig setup. Nice view, eh?

My Rig setup. Nice view, eh?

Unfortunately, the weather decided to roll in and 15 minutes  after the start I made my first qso. Then the lightning sirens went off and I pulled down the antenna and played it safe. After two hours of watching the rain and lightning show and a few herons on the hunt for food, I got a window of good weather and put the station back on the air.  Two more qso’s in the next 20 minutes and then the rain and lightning moved back in on me.

Here comes the lightning and rain again!

Here comes the lightning and rain again!

So with only 39 minutes to go, I decided to roll up the coax and trek home. I had lots of fun despite the challenges. I’ll be there next year, the Lord willing!

My first contest AWARD!
May 17th, 2009 by kmack

As a new member of the Straight Key Century Club, I have tried my hand at the Weekend Sprints they sponsor. Most of the time, due to church activities and antenna restrictions, I’m not able to operate with the exception of the last few hours of the event. May’s theme was the “new antenna” and we were encouraged to try a new antenna and got extra points. I had a 154 foot long wire I wanted to try as a random longwire antenna. It was a special bronze/copper braided wire like we used in the military at times. When I took it out to the site and started unwinding it, it sprang into a tangled mess and it took me 90 minutes to untangle. Then my slingshot antenna launcher failed to work properly so I went to plan B… using my 20 foot Jackite pole to elevate the longwire antenna. But the weight of the antenna was too much for the fiberglass pole to handle so I lost more time repacking my station and returning home to get another antenna to use. YIKES! Time’s a wastin’.

With a 40 meter dipole fed with twinlead hastily thrown together, I tried again and managed 2 whole qso’s with my humble station. The event manager and his team had mercy on me and sent me this nice award for my efforts! I love it when a plan comes together!

My first ham radio award as K4UPG

My first ham radio award as K4UPG

Central Florida QRP Group Outing and more…
Apr 12th, 2009 by kmack

Our central Florida weather has been favorable, but the bands have not been nearly as good unfortunately. Despite difficult band conditions the newly formed Central Florida QRP group had a successful first outing. After an early breakfast we setup our gear in a pavilion at Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford, FL. We did some antenna tweaking, tested a couple new rigs and an Elecraft antenna tuner and had a good time.

I got to put my newly built SST for 30meters on the air for the first time. K4AHO brought his OHR WM-2 and I was able to peak it up. Thanks Jim, for helping Matt tweak his antenna and for letting me borrow the WM-2 for the tuneup! We are all looking forward to our next opportunity to get out. We’ll be meeting for breakfast and time in the park on the 2nd Saturday each month. We’d love for you to join us if you are in Orlando for vacation or live in  the area.

I also had a couple hours of fun participating in my first Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) Weekend Sprint event. I only connected with one qso but had some great cw practice and read the mail of several good ops in qso’s. I’ll be better prepared next time!

Stay tuned for more news and enjoy the photos.

A New Thing? Central Florida QRP Group is Forming!
Mar 14th, 2009 by kmack

This morning  14 March 2009, five Central Florida qrp ham radio operators met at a Perkins restaurant in Altamonte Springs at 0730 EDT. We were dreaming and scheming about getting a group together for portable ops, homebrew building sessions, elmer, and on-air cw practice and other activities. Some pretty sweet qrp rigs were on display too.

No officers, no members, no dues, just come and participate… any takers? Let us know and we’ll be glad to help you get hooked up. Contact K4AHO or K4UPG via the qrz.com info.

More details to come soon.

72,

Kelly K4UPG

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