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2015-03-01 01:00:00 GMT-04:00 TILL SPRING ARRIVES

Thursday, January 29, 2015 6:51 PM - I came a couple steps closer to completing the NAQCC European Chapter challenge today. I got the single 8 I needed from LY8O on 15 meters. Then I chased SN90IARU unsuccessfully for the zero for quite a while on 12 meters, but he was very weak and not hearing me at all. I finally decided to give up on him and go back to 15 meters to see if I could find a zero there. Lo and behold - there was SN90IARU quite strong and it took but a single call to get him on that band. So I'm down to needing 3 more zeroes or two calls with a zero in them or one call with two zeroes since a zero in a call can be used twice for the challenge. With the SF up to 165, the next two days may be good for working Europe, and if I can find the zeroes, I may master the challenge after all.

Right now it's 2355Z so about time to head for the shack to get my streak QSO(s). Hey, with the SF that high there might even be some European sigs on 20 to work. If so, I'll add to the entry here. Otherwise this is it. -30-

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 7:33 PM - Long time diary followers will know what this is. If you don't, I'll explain a little later in the entry.

pix_diary_20150128_001 (74K)

700 down and ??? to go. Yes, day #700 of the DX streak is in the books quickly and solidly thanks to a QSO with HK1MK on 30 meters at 0003Z. I guess the next goal is to make it to 730 days on February 28 which would mean two solid years of daily DX. I just love setting goals and trying to master them. It's sad to think of folks who have no goals in life except to live long enough to see the next reality show on TV. I couldn't imagine living like that. Each day I try to have some goal in mind whether it be working some DX, getting a little further along on the NAQCC challenges, walking for so many miles, catching a carp (not in this weather though. HI), or a myriad of other little things. I didn't have any luck with getting those remaining numbers for the European Chapter challenge today and time is running out now with just a little over 3 days left (or is that just under 3 days left? I'm not sure what the time frame is exactly for the challenges). Conditions are decent to Europe in the morning or early afternoon, but finding stations with the right numbers is the hard part. Oh well, at least I made one of the "words" in the challenge and will get my participation point. That's only the second time though that I didn't complete one of the European challenges. The other one was in a January also.

Continuing about goals now. One goal today was achieved as shown in the picture above. That is getting my Siberian tomato seeds planted. I also got my pepper seeds started. The aqua basin contains the peppers with two seeds in each yogurt cup. The same with the tomato seeds in the other basin. Once again this year I didn't get them started as early as I should have, and I probably won't have any ripe tomatoes in May as I've done a few times in the past. However if all goes according to plan and we have a better growing year than last year, I should be enjoying garden tomatoes by mid-June at the latest. Not bad for PA without a greenhouse to help things along.

It looked great outside today if you kept your glance up to the sky and not on the ground. Clear blue skies all day but still rather cold if you weren't directly in the sun and sheltered from the wind. Actually there was a bit of s#$w melt from the sunshine today, and that was pleasant to see.

Finally this from Geo N1EAV who was close to the brunt of the storm up in New England, "Hey John, I was one of those people in that coastal storm. We got about 25 inches from late Monday night into Tuesday night. Snowed over 24 hours. Started at work on Monday at 4:30 am and just got out today at about lunch time. Lots of snow to move around. There were a lot of towns that got over 30 inches...It was very windy at my location about 25 miles nw of Boston , but the coast took the brunt of it as far as wind goes. Another 1-2 inches expected here Friday, and something seems to be cooking for Sunday night/Monday time frame that is more substantial....uuugghhhh Thought we might get away with an easy winter this year, but the pattern has changed bringing the storms up from the gulf. Hope I get to watch the Superbowl instead of spending the time in my tractor plowing snow...Go Pats geo n1eav".

The top total I saw was an even 3 feet - 36 inches at some town in MA whose name I forget now. I know Worcester set an all-time record for a storm. It was just awesome watching storm footage on the Weather channel when I was over at Nancy's. -30-

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 7:18 PM - At last, an easy evening DX QSO thanks to 6Y5JH on 30 meters. I beat a small pile to get him. Earlier in the day I worked S51WO and YL3CW, and now it's just one more day for the DX streak to hit 700 days. Whew! I was wondering if I'd get that close to 700 on some days in January when it wasn't too easy to get a DX QSO.

Other than that, not a lot to talk about. Winter has set in pretty good here, but I did get a chance to walk to the store and stock up on a few things this afternoon. The next bout of nasty weather is due Thursday with Wednesday to be pretty good although cold. -30-

Monday, January 26, 2015 7:33 PM - Same old story of late this evening. No DX, but I did work N2BZD to keep the big streak going. The bands were good throughout the day today as I checked periodically looking for stations needed to finish the NAQCC European Chapter challenge. I did hear a German special event station with a zero in the call, but much too weak to work. Just to check how my signals were getting into Europe, I did work RA2FF in Kaliningrad easily on 15 meters. I could have worked others too, but I didn't. Later in the day I worked a station on 17 meters who was not giving his ID. I found out later by checking the spots it must have been J6/SP7TF as the time and frequency matched and the signal strength and steadiness seemed right for St. Lucia.

It was a depressing day weatherwise with about 4 inches of the ugly white stuff falling. At least we missed the fury of the coastal blizzard. I really feel sorry for those in the brunt of that storm. I remember the blizzard of March 1993. There was one good thing about that one though. It came in March and the 2 feet of s#$w here was all gone in several days. It should take a lot longer for the coast to get rid of the stuff this year coming in late January as it is. -30-

Sunday, January 25, 2015 4:33 PM - Sometimes (many times?) our impressions of things turn out to be very wrong. As I mentioned when talking about the NAQCC European Chapter challenge this month, I thought that the number zero was somewhat rarer than the other numbers in European call letters. Well, I analyzed my 2,505 NON-contest European QSOs today. Very easy to do with Microsoft Access and Excel. I found the numbers in those calls are distributed as follows:
8	162
6	201
7	222
4	273
9	285
0	305
2	398
5	398
3	447
1	451
So zero is right about in the middle of the distribution. Now I counted the zero as being anywhere in the call, but I didn't count how many zeroes there may have been (nor how many 1, 2, 3....) in a single call. I suspect the reason for the higher number of zeroes than I thought is that they show up in a lot of special calls like oh, DL400XYZ, LZ1003YGD, for example, and show up more than once. I'm going back and consider numbers that only show up in the second or third position in a call like G4BUE, OK1DO, for example. A little trickier, but doable with Excel.

I'm back after a few minutes with these figures for the distribution of numbers in the first 3 positions in a call. That knocks zero down quite a bit to more like my impression.
8	142
6	181
0	186
7	193
4	240
9	268
5	354
2	376
1	386
3	408
Using that criteria, zero is the third rarest number. It would be interesting to continue the analysis further considering maybe the distribution of letters as well as calls. However I'm not going to do that now. I'll rest my brain for the cross-checking of our NAQCC Sprint logs sometime after 0000Z this evening.

Oh, I got my DX for today a little later last evening on 40 meters when I worked FM5WD in the REF contest. I checked the bands earlier today looking for the abovementioned European calls with a zero in them, but didn't hear hardly any European signals at all except for a few in the REF contest, and contest QSOs don't count toward NAQCC challenges. That would make it not much of a challenge at all. An hour or less in a busy contest could easily provide all the needed letters and numbers. -30-

Saturday, January 24, 2015 7:32 PM - It's been a while since I didn't get my regular streak QSO in the evening, but that happpened (or didn't happen?) last evening. Conditions weren't all that good, plus Mike and I were involved in various things as he wrote in yesterday's diary entry.

Not to fear though. The REF contest provided my regular and DX streaks QSO as soon as I turned on the rig this morning and worked F5CWU on 15 meters. I didn't hang around after working him except for a brief tour of 17 and 12 looking for European stations with a zero in their calls. I didn't find any and it's looking more and more like I won't finish this month's NAQCC European Chapter challenge.

This evening, conditions again seemed rather poor. Nothing on 20 and higher. Only a couple stations on 30. A RTTY contest on 40. So I went to 80 and after a few CQs, got an answer from K2GTC in NYC. The DX will have to wait till the morning unless I check 40 again later for an REF QSO. -30-

Friday, January 23, 2015 10:08 PM - Tonight John has a guest diary writer. You can have three guesses as to who it is and the first two do not count.

The day started when I arrived at John's QTH around 15:00Z. We finished up on the O scale model railroad project we started on Monday. I will have to take my trolley in for a checkup. It would not reverse direction like it is designed to.

After the model railroad project we took off to Subway for lunch. Upon our return we started what we thought would be a straight forward project building our QRPME Lil Squall 40M transceiver's. Key word here is 'thought'. There are five step's to building the Lil Squall. We are only half way through step three. The instructions were not laid out very well. With the experience that John and I have assembling radio kits, this should have been a leisurely afternoon project. It has turned out to be anything but. It will require another visit to finish out the kit which took up at least eight hours of our day. We did break for dinner at Ponderosa for their Friday fish buffet. During one of the testing phases of working on the kit we checked the bands to see if we could find some DX. All we heard CO8LY in Cuba. John and I have worked him many times over so we passed him by.

After we called it a night with the kit building we took on one of our favorite activities. A hidden object game which we continued from the previous two visits. When we finished our game we found a 'extra' game that gives us the perspective from another character in the game we just completed. We will continue with it the next time I visit.

As I type this out, John is walking laps on the first floor of his house. He obviously did not get enough walking in today. Neither did I. I will have to make up for it tomorrow morning on my indoor cycling trainer which is my Lemond Nevada City road bike connected to a magnetic resistance unit. I will pedal along as I watch a recording of today's stage of the Tour Down Under. It is the first event on the bicycle racing calendar.

All in all it was another very enjoyable day hanging out with John. I will have to figure out when my next visit will be. I plan on visiting at least one more time before our annual President's Day get get together.

Until then 73 de Mike KC2EGL -30-

Thursday, January 22, 2015 10:49 AM - Let's do a bit of cleaning up with a mish-mash of things here today.

First some diary feedback starting with this from Brion VE3FUJ, "HI John: I had a conference with my Wife who was an Ace typist till CTS got the better of her and she had to retire in 95. She tells me that all you have to do to make the written word a bit sarcastic, is to put "Thanks " in between Quotation marks. 72 Brion"

Thanks Brion, that's good to know. Now from Dave W4DUK about trains, "John, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your love of trains, and your and Mike's servicing and running of his model trains. I, too, love trains, both prototype and model. As a kid, we would visit my great grandma in rural Burnside, PA for a week every summer. A track ran along the edge of her property - New York Central, nearly all coal trains. When I'd hear one approaching, I'd run out by the track and wave to the engineer, who would always wave back. I also remember my O-gauge steam set, and later my HO diesel sets. No model trains now, but I still get a thrill when I'm in town and get stopped at a crossing by Norfolk Southern running coal hoppers, mixed freight, or double stack containers. With your descriptions and photos, thanks for taking me back in my own memories for a moment. 73, Dave W4DUK, Bedford VA"

Ah yes, the good old NS railroad still going (strongly I believe). I sure miss seeing the trains come by here. There is an active railroad around here on the other side of the river. I can still watch trains when I'm fishing. Used to be the Pittsburgh and Shawmut railroad. Now it is the Buffalo and Pittsburgh railroad, I believe.

Conditions were good for the sprint last night or as I put it in my soapbox, "less terrible". My noise was still there at s6-7 on 40 and s9 on 80, but signals frequently popped out of the noise long enough to work so I fairly easily made my quota of 20 QSOs some 30 minutes before the sprint ended. Might have hit 30, but of late, I quit when I reach 20 as the noise gets to be too hard on my old ears. I used my bug for the sprint, and plan to do that from now on for a while.

Conditions continued good this morning and except for the periodic furnace noise, the noise was down quite low for a change. I managed four European QSOs to help out with the January NAQCC European Chapter challenge. I finally completed one of the four 'words' when I worked 3Z90IARU to get two zeroes. It took a while to work him, but I stuck in there as I wanted to at least complete one 'word' to get a participation point. Now I'm left with 5 zeroes and one eight to finish the whole challenge. Yesterday I heard a SN400... something call, but very weak and unworkable. I was hoping he'd be back today stronger, but no such luck. Still 9 days to go, so with conditions like today and some luck, maybe I will finish. We'll see. -30-

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 10:34 AM - That ugly white stuff is falling as I type. Boy, I hate to see that. I just hope there won't be much of it.

I just got my DX QSO a few minutes ago when I worked Mika OH6NVC and had a nice chat. He has 40 cm of the stuff there in Finland. I think that's around 16 inches. Whew! Europe was pretty good on 15 meters today. I heard a few stations from there, but none that had any help with the European Chapter challenge, so I only worked Mika for the streak.

Tonight is our monthly NAQCC sprint. Depending on my local noise, I might just get my goal of 20 QSOs and quit - that is if the noise even permits that many. Or maybe I'll go the full 2 hours if the noise is down and signals are up. -30-

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 7:32 PM - Another fairly good mid-January day today. A bit of s#$w, but nothing really bothersome. Temperatures in the mid-30s. All in all that's not bad here for this time of year. I had a chance to do some shopping and get stocked up a bit in case it does get bad.

I checked the bands at a few various times today to try to find a time and band when European signals are good so I can finish the NAQCC European Chapter challenge. Signals were not all that good at any of the times I checked, so it may be rough to finish the challenge. It may even be rough to continue my DX streak although there were some good DX signals from SA and AF now and then. I don't need it to be EU for the streak.

The big main streak goes on and on easily though. Tonight NW0Q answered my 40 meters CQ. -30-

Monday, January 19, 2015 10:08 PM - Let's get right to the heart of the matter today - model railroading. Were I not into so many other things, I would love to have one of those big model railroad setups like you see at various model railroading exhibits and museums around the country. I have always loved trains - probably one reason being the Pennsylvania Railroad lines ran just about a half block from my house and the passenger station was less than a block away. In addition to the main line there were siding lines that ran even closer to the house on their way to a railroad warehouse behind the passenger station and a brickyard up the line from that. I can remember from a very early age the American Flyer train my dad and I used to play with. That was followed by a Lionel steam engine set and then later a Lionel diesel set. Ah those were the days. Unfortunately I didn't really go further into the hobby once my dad died when I was 18 and then other interests including work took over my life.

That was why I was really excited when Mike said he was going to bring down a couple of his train sets that needed some work after not being used for several years. We spent some 4-5 hours or so cleaning the track and wheels and fixing other little minor things. When we got things running good, we both just sat on the floor like kids enjoying just watching the models going around in circles. Life doesn't get any better. Here are a couple pictures of our experience. First Mike cleaning his portion of the tracks. I was doing the same thing, but we never did get a picture of me at work. Then Mike enjoying watching the HO gauge Alaskan Railways train going that circular route. Again we didn't get me in a picture, but I was just as rapt as Mike watching the train. Finally a picture of the magnificent Lionel steam engine. I think like CW is REAL ham radio, Steam is REAL railroading.

pix_diary_20150119_002 (98K)
pix_diary_20150119_003 (61K)
pix_diary_20150119_001 (47K)

Altogether we spent about 12+ hours together and did some of our other usual things like checking the bands. Conditions weren't all that great when we were on together. Mike worked HK4CZE and that was about it for both of us.

Of course we had our usual meals. Lunch at Wendy's and a Vocelli pizza for supper. For the first time, my frosty at Wendy's was too thick to enjoy through a straw and I had to use a spoon. Our pizza was a 5 topping for the price of a 1 topping. We had pepperoni, meatballs, avocado, mushrooms, and tomato toppings.

Another usual thing is playing a hidden object game on the computer. We're both pretty much addicted to them. When it became 0000Z, I told Mike I'd go to the shack and see if I could get my DX QSO before he finished that particular HOS. Well, everything clicked and it took me less than a minute to find and work XE2I on 20 meters, and another 30 seconds to log him. Mike still needed to find 4 more hidden objects when I got back downstairs. I think that's the quickest I've gotten my DX streak QSO in ages.

All too soon Mike had to leave, but we're shooting for getting together again this Friday to build our Lil Squeal QRP transceiver kits and do a couple minor finishing touches on one of the train sets. -30-

Sunday, January 18, 2015 7:32 PM - Conditions were pretty good this morning, but I couldn't find any letters/numbers for the NAQCC European Chapter challenge nor any new band entities, prefixes, etc., so I just listened and didn't work anyone.

It was a good wx day again with temperatures in the mid-upper 40s although with some (rain) showers. They were spotty though, and I got a chance to get in a couple walks and a bit of shopping.

This evening I'm doing my laundry as I type this in case Mike will be visiting tomorrow. I haven't heard from him for a while. He was supposed to take a vacation week this week, but I don't know if that came off or not. He will have tomorrow off though.

After I finish this entry and update a couple other pages I'm going to close out our NAQCC 160M sprint results.

I got a quick DX QSO this evening so that's another thing to free up more time tomorrow. I worked EA8DBM on 40 meters with a couple calls. That's day 690 in the DX streak now. Looking forward to 700 and then 730 for the two year mark. Hope I can make it that far, then I'll decide where to go from there if I make it. As I've said, it has been a bit of a stress and time consuming some days of late. However with the sun setting quite a bit later by March 1, conditions in the evening should start improving and I may be able to get those quick DX QSOs I got for much of the streak. -30-

Saturday, January 17, 2015 8:10 PM - It's been about 30 hours since my last entry here since I did yesterday's entry early in the day. Again last night, there was no DX to be had so I worked KE0HG in Iowa for my main streak QSO. Then this morning it was a super quick DX QSO in the Hungarian Contest when I worked HG0R. Too bad it was a contest QSO - I could have used that zero for the NAQCC European Chapter challenge. I did work DL1DGS in a non-contest QSO after that to get the 1 and the L for the challenge. So I'm down to 10 letters/numbers to finish. Actually 9 numbers and one letter (L) to be exact. That includes those 7 zeroes which may be my downfall.

Then this evening another pretty quick DX QSO from the HA contest. I got IK4ZGO with one call and a repeat on 40 meters. He was just booming in here at a solid true S9.

I haven't shared any feedback for a while and I have a couple emails here.

Don W2JEK commenting on my local QRN in the 160M sprint, "Hi John, I read your diary comment about the noise problem. Before building a loop antenna try some of your other antennas for receiving and transmit on the long wire. my shack has an antenna switch next to my key so I can quickly change antennas. My problem here is a plasma tv in our family room that emits S9+ hash. My wife usually watches tv in the evenings. Hope this might help your problem. 73 Don Younger W2JEK."

I thought it was kind of Don to take time to share that info. As I replied to him, "Hi Don, As the saying goes, "Been there, done that". I've been switching antennas on receive for many years now, and in a lot of cases, it makes a world of difference. I think in my situation, it works best on 40 and 30 with diminishing results up and down from there. It's remarkable how a 339 signal on my random wire becomes a 569 signal when received on my 15M vertical, 20M dipole, or one of my other antennas. It seems to be a combination of S/N ratio and polarization that brings the signals up out of the mud. Sometimes my left hand on the antenna switch gets almost as much exercise as my right hand on the key.
However there are times when the method fails completely, and last night [in the 160M sprint] was one of them. No matter what antenna I used to rcv, the S/N ratio never changed. The noise would go down a few S units, but so would the signals along with it.
When I did a lot of AM BC DXing and LW Beacon DXing, I used loops with great effectiveness. Not only could I null out the noise, but also undesired AM stations. In fact at my apartment in Pittsburgh many years ago, I could null out KDKA deep enough to hear WPEO in Peoria, Ill on 1020. The particular loop I'm talking about not only rotated but tilted (an alt-azimuth loop) to get some really deep nulls, particularly on ground wave signals.
I think my current local noise comes from various sources in various directions, so a loop might not be all that effective, but nevertheless I might just give it a try."

John N8ZYA emailed, "Hello John, I'm having a terrible time with the European challenge also. Can't get enough of the zero's..... I'm going to be out of town next week so don't look to complete it. This was the first month I've tried the European challenge. I've got all the words so maybe next month will be better? Good luck on the "zeros" Finished the NA with a bunch of DX stations this month."

And from Brion VE3FUJ, "Reply to your Sat Jan 3rd entry. I'll look it up, if I find one I'll let you know. Happy New Year John. 72 Brion 3011"

If you don't feel like scrolling down to the Jan 3rd entry, he's referring to this statement I made, "Temperature is supposed to climb to 50 or so by morning, then do a turn around and not stop till it is near zero by mid week. Thanks Canada! (is there a symbol for a sarcastic exclamation mark? I need one there for sure)" -30-

Friday, January 16, 2015 1:37 PM - As I suspected, last night's NAQCC 160M sprint would be a virtual washout for me with my ever worsening local QRN. Wonder if building a receiving loop would help? I'll have to think on that. Maybe a project when Mike and I get together next time.

Anyway here'a a picture of what the noise looked like on 160 during the sprint. Doesn't even look like a sprint or contest is going on, but it was there buried under the noise. Even a 100 watt station up the band a bit with a big 160M antenna barely poked above the noise.

pix_diary_20150116_001 (56K)

As you see, it's a solid S7 to S9 all across the +/- 20 kHz centered on 1810 kHz. I did make one QSO, and he just barely poked out of the noise long enough to make the QSO. The excellent NR and NB in the KX3 really made that possible. But even that couldn't work enough magic to make any other contacts so I quit after that one. I probably could have made more by waiting on QSB to pop more signals out of the noise, but that's not my idea of fun contesting. Give me a big DX contest where there's always an abundance of stations above my noise, if not on one band, then on another.

Before the sprint, I got my DX QSO from TF3JB. That wasn't all that easy either. Usually Jonas copies me easily, but it took a few repeats to get through that time. -30-

Thursday, January 15, 2015 11:50 AM - We had a very good computer club meeting last night. A lot of times the members just sit around and talk about everything except computing. However last night another member and I taught the members a lot about backups, updates, and file structuring. It was quite rewarding for we two teachers.

This morning I hit the bands around 1445 and within 45 minutes or so I had my DX streak QSO and also finished our NAQCC "USA" challenge. A big help with the challenge was EA6UN - I got 7 letters from his call. Then I got the final Os from HA3OK on 15 meters after waiting and waiting for SM5COP to finish a very long rag chew on 10 meters. Never did work (nor need) him for the challenge. Now the next goal is to finish the European Chapter challenge which may be difficult because of the large number of 0s (zeroes) to get (seven of them). Zero seems not as abundant in European calls as the other nine numbers. Just think of some countries that have virtually no regular calls with a zero in them. Offhand I can think of these countries from which I only have a couple or no prefixes with a zero - CT F EA. There are more also. -30-

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 9:41 AM - Since there is a computer club meeting this evening, I thought I'd write the diary entry for today now. I just worked Gunnar SM4DDE on 15 meters for my DX QSO. He was about the only DX signal I was hearing. He got stronger as the QSO went on and increased my RST from an initial 339 to 559. He was running 800 watts to a 3 element yagi. I thought his call sounded familiar and when I transferred the QSO to my computer log just now, I saw I worked him back in 1981. September 19, 1981 to be exact. That was during a period of 4 days when I had a real ball working DX on 40 meters. I think that was a time when I first truly realized that under the right circumstances, working DX could be very easy. I was using an even poorer version of my attic random wire then and honestly thought I was lucky to be getting QSOs at all, let alone DX. Up until then, I had only logged 150 DX stations even with non-QRP power levels up to 75 watts INPUT power which probably yielded OUTPUT power of 50 watts at most considering the efficiency of vacuum tubes which I used then. Of course my main concern at that time was county hunting as I thought that was something I could succeed at since it only involved working USA stations.

That changed somewhat on September 16, 1981 although I still wasn't much into chasing DX. From the 16th through the 19th I worked the following:

16th - DL9ID DL1GBZ YU3DKS (Yugoslavia) G4GLL
18th - Y22JD (East Germany)
19th - ON5UK F0AHY/FC (Corsica) SM4DDE

All were on 40 meters. My log shows a power of 30 watts INPUT for the QSOs. A T means the station tail-ended me after the previous QSO. The QSOs were in the 04,05, and 06Z hours. I wish I had gotten a QSL from the Y2 station, but I didn't. No chance now for an East Germany QSO/QSL. Also it would have been nice to get a /FC QSL. Of course Corsica is now using the TK prefix.

Still even with that DX burst, I didn't immediately turn into a DXer. That was in the middle of a period from June 1981 (when I returned to the air after being off since December 1973) through September 1983 (when I left the air again until February 1993). The breaks were due for the most part to my work schedule at WPIT. After the DX burst, I still only made 10 DX QSOs through June 1993. I was again off the air from June 1993 through January 1994 due to health problems. At the start of 1994, I still had only 176 DX QSOs.

Although it waxed and waned somewhat, my interest in DX increased steadily from that point on to where I now have (including those 176) 20,385 DX QSOs - all but 174 with QRP power of 5 watts or less. Yes, I learned that using CW and QRP with simple wire antennas, you CAN work DX, and a LOT of it.

To close this entry, I want to update my Japanese Prefectures info. I counted and I've worked 33 of the 47 Prefectures so far. There are about 20 JA QSOs for which I don't have a specific QTH and don't know the Prefecture. Some of them are portable in JA, and others are no longer listed in QRZ. -30-

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 8:43 PM - There wasn't a lot to choose from this morning in the way of DX in the 1500Z hour, but I did manage to keep the DX streak alive by working SP9KR on 12 meters. Took several repeats for Andy to get my call right, but he stuck with me till he did get it.

Then this evening there was no DX to be had so it will be another morning chasing DX tomorrow. I did work Wayne NM3B for the big streak, so that's secure.

While continuing to work on my 1000 MPW QSOs, I got to wondering tonight how many of the 47 Japanese Prefectures I've worked. So I'm starting to work on that also. I'm pretty sure I must have at least half of them worked, probably more, but that's just a guess based on having 228 JA QSOs with quite a few different JA stations.

Almost time now to go out and tread on the ice to get my weather readings. We're in a thaw/freeze mode right now and probably will be that way all week, but at least no new precipitation is in sight through all that time. And look at the countdown. Tomorrow night we reach the halfway point through winter! -30-

Monday, January 12, 2015 8:11 PM - Once again we're back to no DX in the evening. I only heard a couple very weak DX signals, so as with other similar nights, I secured the main streak with a QSO with KK4BMB on 40 meters. The DX will probably have to wait till morning once again.

I was curious today as to just how my DX QSO's were distributed hour-wise in the 683 current days in the streak, so with the help of Microsoft Access and Excel, I found out. First I culled out all the DX QSOs since March 1, 2013 from my Access Log. Then I copied them to Excel, and culled out the FIRST DX QSO of each day. With that to work with, I simply counted the QSOs for each minute. I'm not going to break it down by minutes here other than to say the top 5 minutes were:

0004Z - 47
0003Z - 40
0002Z - 33
0000Z - 31
0001Z - 25

Yes, the first 5 minutes of a day provided 176 of the 683 QSOs which is 25.8%. I think that little stat speaks volumes about the effectiveness of CW/QRP/simple wire antennas.

Now let's look at the hourly totals:

Hour - QSOs - Pct - Cumulative QSOs - Cumulative Pct
0000Z - 540 - 79.1% - 540 - 79.1%
0100Z - 25 - 3.7% - 565 - 82.7%
0200Z - 7 - 1.0% - 572 - 83.7%
0300Z - 1 - 0.1% - 573 - 83.9%
0400Z - 7 - 1.0% - 580 - 84.9%
1300Z - 5 - 0.7% - 585 - 85.7%
1400Z - 32 - 4.7% - 617 - 90.3%
1500Z - 36 - 5.3% - 653 - 95.6%
1600Z - 11 - 1.6% - 664 - 97.2%
17-23Z - 19 - 2.8% - 683 - 100.0%

At a glance that shows that 580 of the 683 (84.9%) came in the evening, and on only 103 days (15.1%) did I have to wait till morning to get my DX. The latest QSO came at 2304Z.

A little more analysis, then I'll hang it up.

By geographic location:

Continent - Number of countries - Number of CQ zones - Number of QSOs:
AF - 10 - 3 - 27
AN - 1 - 2 - 2
AS - 5 - 7 - 22
EU - 41 - 5 - 314
NA - 38 - 6 - 228
OC - 3 - 2 - 8
SA - 16 - 5 - 82
Total - 113 - 29 - 683

The bottom line is I guess DX is there if it is your desire to work it, and you can do it most any time of day on some band or other. I am going to further analyze the data and post it in my DX streak page in the QRP section of the web site. I think I can further emphasize my bottom line if I include all my DX QSOs and the hour in which they were worked. Also an analysis by band perhaps. I don't know when I'll get to that, but I'll mention it here in the diary when it is ready. -30-

Sunday, January 11, 2015 8:16 PM - An easy DX QSO this evening, in contrast to the past several evenings. First I called CQ on 40 and got WB3AVF for my main streak QSO. Then a bit of looking around and I found FM5WD calling CQ on 30 and worked him with a couple repeats. I was alone in working him. There was a big pileup further down the band, and I guess everyone else was busy there. I didn't hear who they were chasing, and as you know, I don't use spotting to find out who is where. So whoever it was will remain a mystery to me.

I'm in pretty good shape for our NAQCC challenges. WB3AVF gave me a couple letters so I only need 17 now, and they are pretty evenly distributed. I mean it's not like I need 10 Rs or anything like that. Four is the most I need of any individual letter, and the ones I need are fairly common letters. Now I might have to do a little more work for the European Chapter challenge. That translates to finding a good time of day when I can get on the air and when there is good propagation to Europe. -30-

Saturday, January 10, 2015 7:20 PM - This winter weather is really getting me down. It seems to affect me more and more each year. I didn't even feel like getting in the NAQP today, and that's one of my favorites. I did use it to get my DX streak QSO from NP4Z, but nothing beyond that at all.

I spent most of my time today doing computer work (or computer play) including helping my neighbor solve some of his computer problems. A lot of the work was continuing to compile my 1000 MPW QSOs. I have all of the countries split by the 5,000 mile radius checked now with the exception of Asiatic Russia and I think I'll see if I can finish that after I finish this diary entry. Let's see.... I'm up to 1,905 such QSOs now among my 65,304 QRP QSOs. -30-

Friday, January 09, 2015 9:12 PM - I had this entry all pieced out in my mind and was going to write it about an hour ago, but I got distracted by a couple other things, then it became 9PM and I had to get my weather readings. In that time, things changed and now I have to re-think what I was going to say. So as to not waste my earlier thoughts, I'll tell you I was going to say this was the first evening in many a moon that not only did I not get a DX QSO, but I didn't get a regular QSO either. I wasn't really all that worried because the NAQP tomorrow will provide an easy QSO or many of them if I so choose.

However after I got the weather readings I thought, "I think I'll just go up to the shack and see if I can get a QSO now then I won't have to worry in the morning or afternoon." Well I did so and worked PV8ADI for both streaks, and the 10th is secured now.

Earlier today in the 1400Z hour I worked I5QNJ and F6CYP for my DX QSOs for the 9th. They plus PV8ADI this evening improved my NAQCC challenges totals to where I need 19 letters for the 'American' challenge and 19 letters and numbers for the European Chapter challenge. So with 21 days left this month, a letter or two a day will do it. -30-

Thursday, January 08, 2015 7:44 PM - This DX streak is getting to be a lot of work lately. I'm trying to remember if last January was as rough as this one has been so far. Once again this evening I couldn't work any DX. I tried XE2I with no success. He was a solid S9 here too. I've worked him in the past and it seems I either get him with a single call or it's a struggle, and I often fail. Perhaps he has a noisy QTH like mine here with the noise worse at times. Anyway it will have to be tomorrow morning for the DX if the streak is to continue.

The regular streak is alive and well. I worked WA2PJF easily on 40 meters. Oh that reminds me, I also tried HK4CZE on 40, but after I called him one time, he vanished.

I spent a lot of the day today working on my 1000 MPW QSO records. There are a handful of countries right on the 5,000 mile radius from my QTH with which I have 200-400 QSOs and unlike countries that are entirely more than 5,000 miles distant where all my QRP QSOs are 1000+ MPW, all those split by the 5,000 mile radius need to have each QSO checked individually.

There are several ways of checking QSOs which I'll list here.

1. Most obvious as I said above all QSOs with all countries entirely more than 5,000 miles distant that I made with 5 watts or less automatically qualify.

2. It's the same way with countries more than 1,000 miles distant worked with 1 watt or less, and so on with various power levels, and with states and provinces as well as countries.

3. For the QSOs not obvious as in steps 1 and 2, they must be checked in QRZ.com or other ways. I do it like this.

    a. If the Geo Source is listed as User Supplied, I take the associated distance figure as accurate.

    b. If the Geo Source is listed as Grid Square (XX##xx), I take the associated distance as accurate if it is some ways above that required for a 1,000 MPW QSO to allow for the size of a grid square and in what part of that square he resides.

    c. If the Geo Source is listed as DXCC or Unknown, that distance is not reliable at all. DXCC merely lists the distance to the center of a DXCC entity and for large countries that could be off by hundreds of miles.

4. If step 3 fails, I try the co-ordinates or grid square (XX##xx) from HamCall or WM7D which I feed into the N9SSA distance calculator.

5. If 1-4 fail, I check the distance from Kittanning to the city or town of the contact from the "Distance Between Cities" web site. As with the Grid Square above, I don't count those that are too close to exactly 1,000 MPW to allow for the size of the cities.

Those five steps allow me to check most all of my QSOs with the exception of portable or mobile operations that don't fall into step 1 or 2 above. Also some other QSOs for which I am not sure of the town or city for one reason or other. Also you have to be careful of countries that have more than one town with the same name to be sure you are using the right one in step 5.

Right now I'm just over 1,800 different 1,000 MPW QSOs with some of the 5,000 mile radius countries not yet completed. I don't think I'll make it to 2,000 with my current QSOs though. I'll have to get some more to reach that number. Anyway with my love of math and statistics, all the above is right up my alley. -30-

Wednesday, January 07, 2015 7:34 PM - When I turned on the rig around 1430Z today I thought my DX streak was going to come to an end. I heard no DX at all - in fact just about no stations at all from 20 through 10 meters. Even when my furnace took its breaks, there was nothing there. However finally I found CO8ZZ on 10 meters and after he worked someone else, I got him to keep the streak going.

Then this evening it was about the same thing. Of course 17 through 10 were dead, but there was also nothing on 20 and only a couple USA stations on 30 meters. Once again a Cuban to the rescue though. I was just thinking earlier today when I was on the air I hadn't heard CO8LY for some time now. Well this evening there he was on 40 meters, and like this morning with ZZ, he worked one other station and then I got him. That was my 39th QSO with him, but the very first on 40 meters.

We lucked out again with the s#$w today. Bands of lake effect stuff to our NE and SW, but we were in the vacant alley in between them. Our shields are working good so far. Hope they hold up all winter.

I'll close now. I'm going to try to catch Sirius rising. Mirzam came up a few minutes ago so Sirius should follow soon. Nice to be able to watch some stars although the clear skies should make for a cold night. It's already down to 8 degrees right now. -30-

Tuesday, January 06, 2015 10:28 AM - Since I just got my DX QSO(s) for the day, I thought I'd write the diary entry now. I had a nice rag chew with Jan SM7NDX on 15, then a little shorter QSO with Josip 9A5AX. That's the first time I ever worked either of them. Conditions were good on 15 and 17, but I didn't hear anything on 10 or 12.

Both QSOs had to be done through my furnace QRN. I've often talked about the QRN, and today I took a picture of what it looks like on the PX3 panadapter on three different bands. As you see below, it is worst on 15, then 17, then 12. The peaks and valleys are very prominent on 15, less on 17, and just about a level 1 or 2 S units above the ambient noise on 12.

pix_diary_20150106_001 (66K)pix_diary_20150106_002 (67K)
pix_diary_20150106_003 (62K)

Fortunately, the SM7 QSO came in one of the valleys in the 15M noise, and with the KX3 NB and NR set as they are, the noise is reduced quite a bit. On the other hand, the 9A5AX QSO was close to one of the noise peaks and copy was much harder. Actually with the gain reduced uniformly by the noise, signals are also included in the reduction so they have to be quite strong to make it out of the noise and show up on the panadapter. You'll note no signals are showing up on the pictures although there were a smattering of signals (without the noise) on both 17 and 15. Just part of ham life living in town with the proliferation of electronic and computer noise increasing more and more every year.

We got perhaps an inch of s#$w overnight. Fortunately I don't have to go out today as I thought, so I can hibernate for a few days till things hopefully get better this weekend. -30-

Monday, January 05, 2015 7:39 PM - It's 45 degrees colder than it was just 36 hours ago, standing right around 15 degrees, but at least still no s%^w on the ground which makes the cold much easier to take. They've also backed off a bit on the s%^wfall prediction over the next few days, so that's another plus.

I didn't even hear a DX station tonight, so I secured the big streak with a QSO with K9IS on 40 meters, and will go for the DX in the morning. It will have to be morning, because I have a computer club project in the afternoon. So I hope for some good DX conditions before noon or so tomorrow. I haven't gotten the WWV predictions yet, so I don't know what to expect.

Not a lot out of the normal routines to talk about today. I did do some more housecleaning which should be included in normal routines, but often isn't. HI -30-

Sunday, January 04, 2015 7:57 PM - It doesn't get any quicker than this since I don't log seconds in my QSO times. I worked HI3LFE on 30 meters at 0000Z for my DX streak QSO this evening. 30 was pretty good, but I heard virtually on any bands higher than 30 this evening. I see there were some geomagnetic storms and radio blackouts today so that's probably part of the explanation.

I spent a good bit of time today working on compiling my 1000 MPW QSOs for the NAQCC KMPW Honor Roll listing. I've come up with 1,375 such QSOs in my logs. There are probably some more there, but I got tired looking and will go with that figure till I update again.

We experienced spring-like weather early this morning when the temperature hit 60 degrees, but it has dropped slowly since then down to 41 degrees as I write now. That's only a start too, with zero predicted by mid-week or so. No major s$%w predicted though, so that's good. Cold without that white stuff is bearable. -30-

Saturday, January 03, 2015 7:11 PM - Quick and easy tonight. HK1MW on 30 meters at 0006Z. Didn't get any NAQCC challenge letters from his call, but the streak is in the books for another day.

We dodged the first ice bullet of the year today. Freezing rain predicted for this morning, but the temperature climbed above freezing before the rain got here. It's now 40 with a break in the rain during which I need to make a quick trip to the store so I'll keep this short. Temperature is supposed to climb to 50 or so by morning, then do a turn around and not stop till it is near zero by mid week. Thanks Canada! (is there a symbol for a sarcastic exclamation mark? I need one there for sure). OK, I'm off now. -30-

Friday, January 02, 2015 8:16 PM - Reguar diary readers will know to what I am referring, others can refer back to the entry for December 15. Here's a picture I took this morning of my sun-tracker:

pix_diary_20150102_001 (33K)

The sunlight spot had moved to the right a bit when the picture was taken. I had already marked the center of the spot when the left edge of the chart made a tangent to the circle. You can see that there are marks there for 12/29 through 1/2. Yes we actually had 5 straight sunny mornings here. On the line down the right side of the chart are the predicted locations of the center of the spot at 5 day intervals. If you look at Dec 31, you'll see the predicted and actual line up nearly perfectly. From now on the spot will accelerate its downward motion as the sun moves higher and higher in the sky each day. It's great to see it moving that way instead of moving up the chart until Dec 21 (note the mark for Dec 7 on the way up when we had a clear morning). Anything to be encouraged about the approach of the end of winter even though there is a long way to go, but we're going in the right direction.

The SF jumped up a bit today, and the bands seemed to respond. There were some signals this evening up through 12 meters although none very strong. I did manage to get my DX QSO instead of having to wait till the morning or afternoon as I've had to do the past couple days now. Even though he was only S6 and almost in my noise level, I worked XE1XR on 17 meters. I had to repeat my call several times, but he got it OK in the end. So that's 674 days now after working SP3GXH and YT5Z this morning for day 673. -30-

Thursday, January 01, 2015 11:04 AM - Are you enjoying the new year? I hope so. Beautiful but cold weather here around 30 degrees. Not a flake of s$%w to be seen. All still green or with a brownish tint. Hopefully my analog forecast of January s$%w or the lack thereof proves correct.

I mentioned going to Chili's with Mike yesterday. I don't believe I've posted a picture of this sign that Mike and I get a kick out of every time we visit there, but Mike took a good picture of it yesterday to post here in the diary so here it is:

pix_diary_20150101_001 (70K)

I got my DX this morning to start off another year of DX. 15 was THE band today as both I and Tom WB3FAE observed. Not much on 12 or 10 and one big pileup on 17 chasing someone too weak to ID here. I worked OH6NVC, DF5WBA, and OH2PM to get a quick start on the January NAQCC challenges and to add another day to the DX streak. I've been involved in some end-of-month/year first-of-month/year projects and haven't had much time for SKN beyond the one QSO last night. Anyway, I have SKN every day of every year anyway so I don't get too excited about one night. Actually it's more like CWN since I don't use a straight key all the time, but mostly a keyer but it's still good old Morse Code sent via the fingers and copied via the brain.

OK, now back to work. Think I'll compile my yearly weather report next. I did December last night and was surprised to find the month averaged 5.0 degrees above normal. I didn't think it was quite that much, but we did have several days in the 50s and one in the 60s. Let's hope January follows suit temperature-wise as well as sn%W-wise from my analog prediction. -30-

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 7:59 PM - Happy New Year everyone. It already is the new year in much of the world as I type this, but there are still 4 hours left in 2014 here at this moment.

I did not start out the DX streak very well in the new year, but hopefully I'll get some DX in the morning or afternoon. I only heard a couple weak DX stations who didn't hear my call at all. I did get a SKN QSO for the big streak however when I worked Jim WT2W on 80 meters at 0023Z. So that streak is at 7,455 days now.

I suppose this would be a good time to do a wrapup of 2014, but there's really not a lot to say about the year out of the ordinary. Of course one thing is working some DX every day in 2014. I'm happy with that to be sure, and maybe I'll try to do it again this year, but it does involve some stress at times, and I can do without that. Maybe I'll take it to March 1st so I'll have 730 days or two full years of DX, then think about hanging it up. I really don't know.

Of course another highlight of the year was retiring as NAQCC Vice President in mid-October. That got rid of a lot of stress in addition to giving me much more free time to pursue other things.

It was an off-year for fishing with only a couple dozen fish caught in a like number of trips. Hopefully 2015 will provide numbers more like normal when I average over 100 fish. Of those I hope a lot will be carp.

Another interest, gardening took an off-year as well. It wasn't just me, but a lot of gardens around here didn't produce all that well. Perhaps the very long hard 2013-2014 winter had something to do with that. Also a very wet early summer followed by a dry late summer and early fall probably contributed. I did get enough tomatoes, beans, peas, and peppers to keep me going fairly well, but they ran out much earlier in the fall than usual.

It was a good year for walking, and I continued my overall average rate of around 7+ miles per day. I didn't go for any super long walks in 2014, but did maintain that average.

It was another enjoyable year with my neighbor's dog Roscoe. He is a real joy, and I take him for his last walk of just about every single day.

I guess that pretty much sums up the year, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some really good times with my fellow hams in this area - Don K3RLL, Tom WB3FAE, and Mike KC2EGL. In fact Mike closed out the year with about a 7 hour visit today as we went to the Pittsburgh Mills where we had lunch at Chili's, did a bit of shopping, came home and just visited for a while and played some computer hidden object games.

During the year, the four of us had good times at hamfests, the Skyview Swap Shop, an operation from the sub Requin, and of course our various parkpeditions. I look forward to more of those activities in 2015. In fact the first get together with Mike will come in just about 3 weeks or so when we get together during his 10 day or so vacation. Who knows what we will get into then? HI -30-

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 7:25 PM - I went up to the shack this evening at 0000Z with the intention of staying there until I got a DX QSO to complete 365 days of DX in 2014. No matter how long it took, I was going to stay there until the bitter end. If it was a bitter end this evening, then I'd fire up the rig as soon as I woke up in the morning and continue the chase. More about that in a moment, but I really got a brief scare this afternoon.

When I was preparing my application for the NAQCC FULL YEAR QSO-A-Day award, sorting out my Access log with the help of Excel, I found only 362 days with a DX QSO. Of course one day was Dec 31st which hadn't happened yet, but what of the other two. I carefully counted each month, and found no entry for July 16. There was only one QSO that day and it was with a USA station. Hmmmm, off to the shack and my paper log. Shuffling through the pages nervously, I found July 16 with two QSOs, the USA one and ZY14RR. I had not transferred the ZY QSO to my computer log. That sometimes happens if I don't get my DX QSO in the evening. I log the USA QSO from the evening, then when I get the DX QSO in the morning or afternoon, I neglect to put it in the computer. Usually I catch it pretty quickly, but not this time. That takes care of July 16, but what about the other day. I continued counting each month and found nothing for October 20th. Again a search of my paper logs showed ZD8X worked on the 20th. However, I had mistakenly entered the QSO as being on the 21st. Blame it on old age, I guess. OK, so the mysteries are cleared up and I'm breathing again.

Back to this evening. As you can tell from the time stamp of this entry, I didn't have to wait in the shack the whole evening, nor even very long at all. After trying CN8KD a couple times with no luck, I found EA8/IK1PMR and tried him. No luck there either, but then his signal came up, and after he worked a Croatian station I called again and got him with a single call that time. Whew! Sigh of relief!

That was at 0013Z. I immediately came downstairs and got off my award application to our NAQCC Awards Manager John KK1X, then wrote this diary entry which I am going to end now wishing all of you a Happy New Year in 2015. Don't forget to set some kind of challenge for yourself next year and work at mastering it. -30-

Monday, December 29, 2014 7:31 PM - I've talked about my Hawaii pipeline, but I haven't said much about another pipeline I seem to have. It's the Scandinavian pipeline whereby I can pretty much easily work Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and particuarly Finland no matter how weak and/or fluttery sigs may be from that part of the world. Of the bands, 20 meters seems to be the best for this pipeline. Tonight after unsuccessfully chasing S01WS for a few minutes I went looking for some other DX and found a weak OF9X, gave a call and after a couple repeats, I had my DX QSO. That's 364 days down, and one to go to complete a sweep of 2014 with DX QSOs.

Getting a DX QSO every day this year has been a challenge, and I absolutely love challenges of any kind at all. I think challenges are very important in improving oneself, no matter if it's a physical or mental challenge. When I'm walking and I see someone ahead of me walking at a good pace, I challenge myself to catch up to them. Fishing is another good challenge. I try to catch a slightly bigger carp than I've caught before, and other such challenges as that when I'm at the river. The list of challenges is endless, and that's good because a life without challenges would be a very dull one indeed. Fortunately ham radio has many challenges such as working all states, working 100 countries, etc. And when you master those challenges, you can challenge yourself to do it again with lower power or try to work smaller divisions such as counties, oblasts, and the like. One of my favorite activities are our monthly NAQCC challenges. I think they are really interesting and sometimes tricky to master. I could go on talking about challenges forever, but I want to switch tracks now.

This has been a December virtually free of that white stuff sn%w, with only 0.1 inch measured at Pittsburgh. I thought I'd try an analog forecast for January something like this:

In doing a little analog weather predicting, it looks pretty good for January. Analog forecasting boils down to considering the results for one period of time, say a month, and then seeing how closely the weather for the following month is related.

For example I'm considering the amount of sn%w that falls in December, and how it relates to the amount in January.

We had very little sn%w in December this year - only about 0.1 inches. If we look at other Decembers that had 2 inches or less, and see how January related to them, we have the following:

The Pittsburgh records over the past 130 years or so show 19 Decembers with 2 inches or less. Of those 19, the following January had less than 8 inches of sn%w (a not too bad total around here) 13 times or 68.4 percent. So based on that analog forecast, there's a 68 percent chance of a decent January this year.

Of course it could also be like 1965-66 when December had only 1.8 inches, but January had 24.6 inches. So only time will tell. -30-

Sunday, December 28, 2014 8:01 PM - Today was de-decorating day. I took down all the Christmas trim and stowed it away till next December. Now the next big event is making it through the two worst months of the year till spring comes along and brings everything back to life again. I can't wait.

Coincidentally the arrival of spring also will be within one day of my DX streak reaching 730 days or two solid years if I make it. It was rough this evening and I was close to giving up and waiting till morning for my DX. Then I found NP4G on 20 meters for a pretty easy QSO to extend the streak. -30-

Saturday, December 27, 2014 7:33 PM - The DX streak made it past the dreaded 666 days mark today. #667 was ES1TU on 17 meters at 1438Z. I didn't even have to rely on the RAC contest. It's a good thing because I didn't hear a whole lot of activity in the contest compared to usual. Some of the big contest stations were giving out some very low numbers in their exchange too. So except for W0DLE last evening, I didn't make any QSOs in the contest.

This evening #668 came about in a slightly strange way. I tried calling KP4VP on 30 with no success, and he was the only strong DX signal I heard till I came across PX2A calling the IH contest on 20 meters. What the heck is that, I wondered. Something I could enter or not? I came downstairs to the computer here and looked it up. I found it was something called the Iron Ham contest and all could enter. So I went back to the shack, called PX2A, got a WWP?, sent my call again and we exchanged info (CQ Zone) for the QSO and another day in the DX streak. Dare I say it? Only 3 days now and I'll have worked some DX every day in 2014. Then two more months and the streak will be at two years or 730 days. Wonder if I'll make it with the sunspots on the decline overall now, although they have been good the past couple months now.

Otherwise a beautiful day today with mostly sunny skies and a high of let's see...58. So I took in a couple nice walks, and may do another short one now as it's still 47 degrees now. -30-

Friday, December 26, 2014 8:57 PM - Not a whole lot to say the day after Christmas. It was a beautiful weather day though with sunshine (I had to stop and think of the word it's been so long) and a high right around 50. Not a trace of the ugly white stuff to be seen anywhere, and none predicted at least for the next several days. Let's hope that outlook doesn't change.

No DX this evening, but with the RAC contest in full swing through tomorrow evening, surely I'll be able to work some DX in the morning or afternoon. I'd hate to have the DX streak end at 666 days, that's for sure. I did hear V5/DL3DXX workable again this evening, but I wasn't going to work him yet again. Too bad he was on the same band (30). -30-

Thursday, December 25, 2014 7:39 PM - Yes, December 25. I hope your Christmas was as good as mine or even better if possible. I'll talk a bit about it after I document my DX QSO for day #666, yes 666 (chills). I thought maybe that number would be a jinx for me, but it wasn't. Actually I got one of my quickest DX QSOs in a while, just a couple minutes after I turned the rig on. I heard an unID station calling CQ in DX style and saw a station working him up one according to the peak on the PX3. I set up for split, set the transmit frequency on the spot where the worked station was, answered the DX QSO, got a WP?, sent my call again and got the QSO. Now all I needed to know was who I worked. Ooops, it was V5/DL3DXX again. Had I known, I wouldn't have tried since I worked him on the same band (30) the evening before last. I never work stations that close together, but hey, he didn't ID, and I didn't want to miss out on something I might have needed. Anyway #666 is in the books now, and I can move on.

As for the earlier part of my Christmas day, it started out quiet. I was just waiting for 12:30 or 1:00 to come for dinner over at Nancy's. However, about 11:00 Denny (Bowser) my neighbor on the other side came over to ask me to dinner. I said I had another dinner to go to shortly, but I'd come over at least to visit for a while. I had presents for the four grandkids, so I distributed them right away. Then I got talked into (didn't take much) having some food. I took a small plateful, and said that was more like an appetizer for my next meal. After I finished and visited a while, I said it was time now to go fill the other half of my stomach. I left and went over to Nancy's for a second good meal within a couple hours or less. Her sons Bruce and Jeff were there, and of course Roscoe. We all visited for a while, and then I came back home and watched the 1951 version of Scrooge with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. That and the 1938 Reginald Owen version are my two favorites of the very many versions made either under the name of Scrooge or A Christmas Carol. As that movie was drawing to an end, Mike KC2EGL showed up for our annual Christmas Day visit. We think that's the fifth year in a row of that tradition now. I said I'd check in my diary archives to be sure, and I'm going to do that right now (pause). Well the first mention of a Christmas visit was in the 2009 diary, so this is the sixth year of our tradition now. Time sure does fly.

Anyway to keep it brief, I'll just say that we had a good visit getting into various topics of discussion like who was the cast of the original Seven in The Magnificent Seven to name but one topic. After that we got in his car for our annual tour of Kittanning and surroundings checking out the various Christmas lights. We generally pick out a couple as our favorites. This year we agree we probably saw more lights, but maybe fewer houses were decorated (or only with minimal decorations). That means that the houses that were decorated had more numbers of lights. Also they seemed to be in bunches more so than usual this year. We'd drive for a couple blocks and see nothing, then maybe a block or so where virtually all the houses were lit up. After we got home, Mike had to leave to head North and get ready for another work day tomorrow. -30-

Wednesday, December 24, 2014 7:21 PM -

pix_diary_20131223_001 (74K)
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 7:27 PM - My string continues of getting DX for the DX streak in the evening. It's been a while now since I failed to get my DX in the evening. Let's see....well, not that long. On Dec 16 I had to wait till morning to get PJ2/WI9WI. Anyway back to this evening. When I worked my DX, that brought the DX streak to 664 days. I hope day 666 isn't a jinx on Friday. Back on track. Tonight it was V5/DL3DXX. I had heard him earlier on 30, but my furnace and its attendant noise came on, and I had trouble copying him, so I figured I better not call him as I'd have trouble knowing if he came back to me and if he got my call right. OK, so I'll try later. I went searching for a W1AW station to at least keep the big streak going. I found W1AW/0 in IA on 40 meters and had to wait through a couple other stations before I got him. Oh, there's the furnace shutting off. Back to 30. Now V5/DL3DXX is in the clear above my now reduced noise. I call and get WW?, send K3WWP and the QSO is in the books. I don't have all that many Namibia contacts. Let's see....this is # 6, of which 3 are on 30, so no new band country tonight. Two on 20 and one on 15 round out my meager count of Namibia contacts. All in Swakopmund which I believe is the capital. Nope, I should have known that Windhoek is the capital. I did know that at one time, but age is catching up on me and my memory. Swakopmund is right on the Atlantic coast which helps to explain why all my contacts are from there, even though Windhoek has about 7 times the population of Swakopmund.

Hey, look at this list of my DX streak QSOs the past 6 days

12/19 - W1AW/KH6 (OC)
12/20 - XE2I (NA)
12/21 - 9A7V (EU)
12/22 - LU1FAM (SA)
12/23 - 8J2VE (AS)
12/24 - V5/DL3DXX (AF)

A Worked All Continents, and to boot I also worked Antarctica (RI1ANR) on the 22nd for the seventh continent. I didn't realize that till I was putting tonight's QSO in my streak table on the main web page.

However, overall the bands didn't seem as good as the past couple evenings. I did hear RA0TU on 20, but he didn't hear me. Only a few weak signals on 15 through 10, not even worth waiting to identify. -30-

Monday, December 22, 2014 7:45 PM - Good bands again this evening. Only a couple weak unID sigs on 12 and 10, but 20-15 had a lot of JA stations, mostly working other stations like P4/DL6RAI who was reeling off one JA after another. There weren't any JAs calling CQ themselves save for one whom I worked - 8J2VE on 17 meters. It wasn't easy, but he seemed determined to get me, and I appreciate that. I bet I had to send my call 20 times before he got it OK. That came at 0011Z so with time left, I toured the bands, but didn't find anything else interesting to work nor did I get any answers to my CQs on 40 and 80. Then I did run into K0EU calling CQ USA FOR WAS on 17 meters, so I gave him PA. I'm not sure what kind of WAS it was for - regular, 17M, something special? Anyway I hope PA helped.

Finally the sun was out this morning and I got another marking on my sun wall chart mentioned yesterday and described several days ago in the diary (Dec 15). That was the first reading possible in 15 days, and the error was still about 0.7 inches as mentioned in the original info. I find if I factor in that 0.7 inch error, the readings and predictions average out to an error of 0.0 inches. So I'll adjust the wall chart accordingly and see how it tracks till late February when the spot no longer strikes the chart, but the floor in front of the chart and I rejoice because winter is just about over then. -30-

Sunday, December 21, 2014 9:47 PM - Hey, when I went out to get my weather readings at 9PM, guess what? I actually saw, what are they called now, oh yes, stars. It's been a while. There was Sirius, Procyon, Rigel, Betelguese, Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka, and so on. For the last ten days now, save one, my brief weather description in my weather log has been 'overcast'. The one other day? Light showers. So it's very nice to have some clear skies. Hopefully it will be clear in the morning so I can finally get another spot on the sun chart I described a few entries ago. It's supposed to be in the mid-upper 50s down the road a couple days, although with rain, but that's better than you know what this time of year.

I'm still doing some fine tuning work on the web site. Today among other things, I made some of the non-table charts that use the 'pre' tag for formatting have a little larger bold font which I think makes them not only look better, but stand out more - kind of like this:
this is the old look
this is the new look
The bands were still quite hot this evening with openings all the way up through 10 meters. As usual not a lot of activity though. I did manage to (with a struggle) work RI1ANR on 17 meters. He had my call so many different ways, I lost count. I think the final version he had was the correct one, although I wasn't copying him much better than he was copying me. Just in case though I got another more solid DX QSO with LU1FAM on 15 meters. -30-

Saturday, December 20, 2014 8:01 PM - It didn't take long to get my DX QSO this evening. I worked 9A7V in the Croatian contest on 40M. It took a couple repeats, but I got him. That's day # 661 in the DX streak now. Then I worked W1AW/4 in GA on 20M with a single call just because he was there and was booming in.

Not a lot going on today. I did some more work on my web site, especially working on the non-ham links in my Links section.

Tomorrow is an important day. That's the day when the Sun has reached its lowest point in the sky and starts 'moving' north again a little each day until June 21. -30-

Friday, December 19, 2014 8:20 PM - I was sitting at the key during a QSO this evening reflecting on just how wonderful it is to be able to actually see what is going on across the band at one moment. I wonder just how many more QSOs I could have in my log had this wonderful panadapter technology been availabe my whole ham career. Also how many more countries (entities) I could have worked. I know there have been very many times when I would ignore the higher bands because it was too much of a task to laboriously scan across them listening for a signal. Doing that, you can easily miss signals as you tune across them in between a dot and a dash or in between words. The band sounds dead when it really isn't. With a panadapter, all that's needed is a flip of the band switch and a quick glance at the display to know if there is any activity on a band.

Speaking of activity, there wasn't a lot of it on the higher bands this evening despite the SF being 216 which should keep the bands open well after dark. The lack of activity is just that - no one takes advantage of these good openings because they don't know enough about propagation or don't even check to see what the figures are. All it takes is a glance at my (or any) propagation page to see what the SF and A indices are. If the SF number is high and the A index low, expect the high bands to be open accordingly and get on to take advantage of the situation. We are probably past the activity peak of cycle 24 now and things will only get worse over the next few years. In fact if the pundits are correct, we may not even see another activity peak for a good long while. I don't put a lot of faith in those outlooks, but who knows?

As we continue to segue from topic to topic, speaking of propagation, I remodeled my propagation page a bit today to make it look (in my opinion) a little bit better. It's nice to be able to have time to do these web site tweaks now that I don't have to always be conscious of doing this or that for the NAQCC. Not that I minded doing the NAQCC work, but it did rob me of a lot of times for other things in my life which I am now slowly getting back to. I was just telling a friend today that I hope to get in a lot more fishing next year than I've done lately.

Segue # 3, speaking of friends, it was nice to get a phone call today from Tom WY3H down in Georgia whom as you know I'm sure, is also retired from the NAQCC. He is doing good down there, and I'm sure I'll envy him this January and February as we suffer from cold and s$#w up here. They get some nasty weather down there, but by no means whatsoever as much of it as we do up here in PA.

Let's see, can't come up with a segue this time, so I'll just go back to talking about this evening on the bands. As always, my first objective when I hit the airwaves is to get my main streak QSO, and if it happens to be DX then I've also added to the DX streak. If not, then my second objective is to get the DX QSO. This evening N8MR helped me achieve objective #1, then it took a while till I found XE2I on 20 meters and achieved objective #2. Once #2 is complete, and done quickly enough, it's time to either look for some special station (W1AW/#, etc.) or some new DX, prefix, maybe band state, and the like. If I don't find any of that and haven't wasted too much time doing so, then I'll head for 40 or 80 meters to just call CQ to see who answers me. -30-

Thursday, December 18, 2014 8:00 PM - Version 1 of my DX QSO: My KH6 pipeline is working good tonight. I worked W1AW/KH6 easily on 15M. I called once and he got WWP, then I repeated my call and we had our QSO. Nothing out of the ordinary as I regularly easily work KH6 on the high bands with no effort.

Version 2 of my DX QSO: After the QSO I went to 40M to call CQ for a rag chew since I got the DX out of the way so quickly. Wait a minute, what's this? The power indicator on the KX3 is barely moving. Oh, I'm still running 900 mW from the NAQCC mW sprint. The power is not a per-band setting so I must have worked KH6 with 900 mW. I checked to be sure and now I guess a newer and bigger pipeline must have been installed between here and KH6. Wow! I've done it before, but never quite that easy.

Version 3 of my DX QSO: After making a couple more QSOs and getting on the computer to write this entry and update my propagation page, I see the SF today was 213 and the A index 5. OK so I shouldn't be quite so excited about getting KH6 with 900 mW in that case. Had I realized what was going on, I probably could have worked him with much less power under those circumstances.

The high SF kept short skip on 20M well after dark, and I heard K3WW in eastern PA giving out ARRL Centennial event QSOs. I thought about calling him, but didn't. So back to calling CQ on 40 when someone sends K3WW. Must be someone who started sending my call, but didn't finish. So I sent a question mark. K3WW again, and I realize it's Chas answering my CQ. Must have finished on 20 meters. Although I've worked Chas many times in contests or other events, I think this may have been our first 'rag chew' style QSO. We chatted for a while about my QRP, the Centennial event, etc. After we finished, I got a tail end call from Ted W8UE, and after we chatted for 13 minutes, I thought just for fun, I'd look for W1AW/3 in MD on 80. I found him, and after listening a bit to see if he was split or simplex, I called him simplex and got him on the first try.

Many times over the years, I've looked at the navigation panel at the left side of my web pages and wasn't really happy with it. However with all my NAQCC work, I just never got around to doing anything about it. However now that I'm retired, today I did something about it. I think I simplified it and hopefully made it easier to deal with and easier to navigate around my site. It took a few hours since I had to deal with a lot of pages and figured it would take just as long to automate the process, so I did it mostly manually with a system that developed as time went by accelerating the process. So I think all the many pages have now been changed over to the new system.

Something else that took time today was dealing with results from last night's mW sprint. It seems that Ki VA3PEN who takes care of the results page wasn't getting all the logs like I was. So we had to work together to make sure everyone got counted. Hopefully the problem is fixed now. We'll see when he sends me the next page update later this evening. -30-

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 7:38 PM - Conditions sounded pretty good again this evening, with strong signals although not a lot of them, particularly DX ones. I did hear E90WF on 40, but no response from him. Also W1AW/KH6 on 20 with a huge pileup. I could have easily gotten him in the clear if my Hawaiian pipeline was working but not through (literally as everyone I heard him work was west of here between me and him) that pileup. Also a strong DX stn on 15 but calling CQ JA so I didn't even stay to see who it was. Maybe P40CX again? 6Y5WJ was strong on 30, but I've worked him so many times..... Finally though I did snag LU7YS on 30 meters to keep the DX streak going. Later this evening it's our NAQCC mW sprint. I think I'll get one QSO (if I can) and then quit rather than try to dig mW signals out of my local noise. At least that way I'll have participated and keep my record of never having missed one of our sprints intact. -30-

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 8:41 PM - I thought the bands sounded above average this evening, and after getting my DX quickly in the form of 6Y6N on 30M, then working W1AW/3 in MD on 40M and listening around some more, I checked the propagation numbers for my propagation page and found the SF had jumped all the way to 185 today without any significant ionospheric disturbances.

Speaking of W1AW/3, I was listening on 80M and calling with no sucess. The point being I was listening, and suddenly W1AW started calling for DX only, so I stopped calling immediately. However several other W/VE stations kept right on blindly calling. It almost made me ashamed to be a member of the ham radio fraternity. But I guess that is to be expected with the extreme easing of the requirements to become a ham these days.

I actually heard all three W1AW states quickly this evening, but only managed the one 40M QSO with MD. I couldn't get GA, and KH6 was too weak with too big a pileup to even try. It doesn't really matter though because as you know, I got all 50 states the first time around. This time I'm just working them for fun if I can, to pass some time.

Earlier today in the 1400Z hour I easily worked Jim WI9WI in Curacao for my DX QSO, and as he often does, he took a moment to ask if I was QRP. He gave me a 539, but as I was listening to him a bit after I worked him on 12M and again this evening on 30, he was giving out quite a few 539 reports, so I was not in a tiny minority. HI. -30-