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

Saturday, February 28, 2015 8:07 PM - Tom WB3FAE and I had a great visit here today. We shared a lot of info on contesting while comparing our results in the recent ARRL DX Contest. Although our operations were separate, I find it interesting to note that we made a total of around 800 QSOs using QRP/CW/ and simple antennas. Our locations are about 19 miles apart as the crow (or RF) flies. We found a lot of similarity in our efforts, but some notable differences also. He worked some countries I didn't, and vice versa. We both had trouble working Brazilian and Cuban stations.

After that, we went to my shack and compared our KX3s. I was having an issue with RIT, and wasn't sure if it was the KX3 or the PX3. Since Tom's KX3 did the same thing hooked to my PX3, I'm sure the issue is with the PX3. Nothing major, just a minor annoyance. After we did that, we did some listening mainly to the UBA contest. I heard a couple European contesting friends, and gave them a QSO, but no big effort.

Next we upgraded the firmware in Tom's KX3. Then played with the Pileup Runner program for a while before he had to head home for some grandkid sitting this evening.

I started off my 3rd year of the DX streak this evening with LU7YS and YU7GMN, both easy 30 meters QSOs. That also gave me a bunch of letters for both NAQCC March challenges. For only the second time I failed to master the European Chapter challenge in February. So I'm going to work doubly hard to get back on track in March. February was tough (it was suggested by someone with the call of K3WWP), and so far in looking at the results, only one person mastered it so far. -30-

Friday, February 27, 2015 8:51 PM - 2 YEARS in the books. I worked CO8LY for the 730th straight day of working at least one DX station. Something to be happy about along with tomorrow being the last day of winter. Really! Looks like there will be a warm-up here starting Sunday after a final journey below zero overnight tonight. It's 8 above right now.

I updated my DX streak page in the QRP section, and I'll let that serve as the rest of my diary entry this evening. -30-

Thursday, February 26, 2015 7:55 PM - I got one of my quickest ever streak QSOs this evening. At just a couple seconds after 0000Z, I called and worked V31AT on 20M. That leaves just one day remaining to make the DX streak 730 days or 2 solid years. With that day being a Saturday, that should help assure a QSO, I hope.

A relatively "warm" day today (comparatively speaking) with a high around 32 degrees. I saw some drops coming off my awning, so it really was above freezing since the awning wasn't in the sun at the time. In fact it was cloudy with light snow at the time.

Mike was a little late coming from the meeting last night, but we had a good time eating our pizza. Then we did some planning for what accessories we'll need for our Lil Squall transceivers when we make them fully operational the next visit. We also did some chatting about the weather and the extreme cold, etc. -30-

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 2:07 PM - We didn't quite make it yesterday. The outside thermometer showed a low of -16 which just tied the record set a few days ago. It also marked the only month of the 669 months going back to when I started keeping records when there were three days having a low of -13 or lower. More records - we have 8 days with lows of zero or below. The record is 9 and we have two more shots at zero or lower Friday and Saturday morning to break the record. A quick figuring of the average low this month shows 7.8 degrees which I believe would make it the second lowest after January 1977 with 6.0. Of course if the predictions for the next 3 days come true, we could approach that, but I don't think even so, we'd quite make it. This is by far the latest in the season for the following temperatures not including previous days this month:
Temp Feb 24, 2015...Previous latest date
     -16............Jan 24, 1963
     -15............Jan 24, 1963
     -14............Jan 29, 1963/2014
     -13............Jan 29, 1963/2014
     -12............Feb 2, 1961
     -11............Feb 16, 1963
Here's what I saw when I came downstairs early on the 24th to look at my remote reading unit:

pix_diary_20150225_001 (63K)

Actually now it looks like we may have a sharp transition from winter to spring right on March 1 as following a below zero Saturday morning the outlook is for it to be in the upper 30s Sunday followed by the 40s the first part of next week. I certainly hope that is true.

Mike is stopping by this evening after a meeting here in town. We'll be having a pizza and seeing what else we can squeeze into a short visit. -30-

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 9:39 AM - I don't know what the outside thermometer read, but my remote reader shows a low of -15 this morning so we could well have broken our all-time February low temperature record for the third time this month. The last time, the remote showed -14 and the outside -16, so it might have been -17 this morning. I won't know till later. I'm not curious enough to venture out there now when it's still only in the single digits even with the sun shining brightly.

Since I'm writing this early and not much to talk about, I need to get caught up on some diary comments so I'll do that after I report the DX streak is alive and well - now just 4 days shy of 2 complete years of daily DX QSOs. I just worked LZ2PT on 15 meters, even with the furnace noise full blast, and other than a PJ2 who was working only Europe as far as I could tell, LZ2PT was the only DX station I heard. I was worried for a bit there, but I needn't have.

OK, let's see what is in the emailbag now. Not specific diary comments, but Daniel HJ4DEI wrote to say he constructed the zero beat indicator in my CW section of the web site. He sent some nice pictures and a short video of it in action. I hope to add that info to the zero beat page soon. Thanks Daniel.

Also not specific diary comments, but Juergen DL4KE sent some comments on my CW Stories page along with a (very) short story which I will probably post.

Here's one from Geo N1EAV that has been sitting here a couple weeks. I can only hope the situation there is better now. Geo emailed, "Hi John Can't take it anymore. Taking a break in my office from moving the nasty white frozen stuff.....AGAIN !!!! Been here at work since yesterday morning. Probably sleep here again tonight when I finish cleaning up the lots.....One more final clean in the morning. We've had about 65 inches in the last sixteen days in this part of Massachusetts. Boston has had more than us so far. They are getting the bulk of this storm. Probably going to be close to another 2 feet or so. I've had about a foot here. Snow is piled so high there is no place to put it. Definitely had enough of this winter. Looking at the weather models, I see two more threats for snow this week, plus some of the coldest weather we have seen in 10 or 11 years , due into the weekend. Hopefully the jet stream will change it's pattern soon and we can see a little of the warmer temperatures that the rest of the country is getting. Until then, we trudge on. I keep a close eye on your spring countdown and know there is light at the end of the tunnel....hihi. Hope your winter is better than mine. 73, geo n1eav"

The s#$wfall up there is as awesome as our bitter cold down here. I must say I'll take the bitter cold any day over that white stuff. We haven't done too badly with s#$w this winter. Not much, but unfortunately with the cold, it refuses to melt and go away.

Garth KF7ATL, new NAQCC member emails to thank me for the CW procedures info in my CW section. Glad it is helpful to you.

And that gets me caught up on emails and closes this entry for today. I'll let you know tomorrow about the temperature record being another new one or not. Maybe at least a tie. Certainly a daily record and a record for so cold so late in the season if not an overall record. -30-

Monday, February 23, 2015 8:30 PM - ENOUGH, ALREADY!! We may just wind up again breaking the February low temperature record tomorrow morning. One source (NWS) is predicting a low of -13 and right now we have crystal clear skies with almost calm winds which leads to rapid radiational cooling. The current temperature on both my remote units is now +2 so there is not all that far to go to make it to -13 and perhaps beyond. It's plain ridiculous. Tomorrow will mark the 15th day in February the low has been 8 degrees or lower and the average low from my AcuRite remote unit so far this month if the predictions for tomorrow are true would be 8.1 degrees. Again, ENOUGH, ALREADY!!

I think spring will arrive in name only this coming Sunday, not weatherwise, although actually it is supposed to be around 40 next Monday. We'll see.

And that's it for the diary entry. If you want more, check out my ARRL DX contest story in the Contesting-Stories area of the web site. -30-

Sunday, February 22, 2015 8:41 PM - I'm pretty beat after the big effort in the contest, so this will be short. I'll have a story about the contest ready in a couple days, so I'll just say now that I wound up 449 QSOs and a lot of fun getting them. -30-

Saturday, February 21, 2015 7:28 PM - Is there anything better in ham radio than the fast paced action of a big DX contest? If so, I don't know of it. I just wish I had more stamina now as I did when I was younger. I get mentally tired and physically tired after sitting at the key for about 4-5 hours at most and need a break of at least a half hour before getting back to the action. Also with the cold weather, it gets chilly sitting still for so long.

Anyway I'm up to 257 QSOs as of this break. I've now set a goal of 400 for the contest. That should be possible if conditions tomorrow are as good as or better than today. Also it may be a bit warmer which should lengthen my furnace "off" cycles. The noise peaks all across 15 meters and really plays havoc with working stations on that band. A lot of signals do override the noise, but I've worked most of the top level signals already and I have to wait to dig out the lower level signals when the furnace is off. I can go to either 10 or 20 when the furnace is on, as the QRN isn't as bad on those bands.

My Hawaii pipeline is definitely open wide for this contest. I must have a dozen KH6 QSOs already. Also it's nice to work Japan a few times. Here's a brief excerpt from my GenLog working file that I got a kick out of as I scanned back over it:

15m   CW  02/21/15  2252  JA7NVF       599  PA     599   JA     38-15m  3  KW  
15m   CW  02/21/15  2255  KH7XX        599  PA     599   KH6            3  KW  
10m   CW  02/21/15  2257  JH7XGN       599  PA     599   JA     31-10m  3  KW  
10m   CW  02/21/15  2259  WH7M         599  PA     599   KH6    32-10m  3  KW  
10m   CW  02/21/15  2330  JA1BPA       599  PA     599   JA             3  KW  
10m   CW  02/21/15  2333  KH6RS        599  PA     599   KH6            3  KW  
10m   CW  02/21/15  2336  KH6LC        599  PA     599   KH6            3  KW  
15m   CW  02/21/15  2345  WH7M         599  PA     599   KH6            3  KW  
15m   CW  02/21/15  2346  RT0C         599  PA     599   UA9    39-15m  3  KW
Nothing but Asia and Oceania for about an hour with one of my half-hour breaks in the middle.

That's about all I have to say about the contest as I plan to write one of my contest stories about it in which I'll go into more detail. -30-

Friday, February 20, 2015 8:53 PM - Wow! 20 meters was as hot for the first couple hours of the ARRL DX test as the weather was cold today. Let's talk about the weather first.

It looks like we broke that short-standing record low for February of -13 set a few days ago. My remote readings both show a low of -14 today, but the official outside thermometer has yet to be checked. I'll do that in a few minutes when it gets to be 9 PM, and have more on that later. Now let's switch to DX.

I wasn't really too interested in the contest. I thought I'd just get a streak QSO, and that would be about it. However when I turned on the rig and saw wall to wall stations on the panadapter on both 40 and 20 meters, I thought I'd give it a bit of a try. I started off with 4O/E77W and S51YI on 40, then thought I better hit 20 before it closes for the night.

Well, so far it hasn't even come close to closing. It's open world-wide. I've already got my contest WAC in the books. I could go up and down 20 working most stations I was hearing pretty easily despite the very crowded conditions. Kind of like on 10 and 15 during the daytime when they are wide open. I wonder how they will be tomorrow. I did get a couple QSOs on 15 this evening already.

OK, time out to get the temperature. Be back in a few minutes.

Actually that was several minutes. I got the chills going out to get the temperature. It is 4 degrees right now and that really chilled me down even though I was only outside a couple minutes. Most of the time waiting for the maximum and minimum indexes to reset in the thermometer. They are reset by gravity, and when the liquid gets this cold, they move down very slowly. Anyway, the February low temperature record during the 57 years of my records is no longer -12 in 1961, nor even -13 four days ago, but is now -16, yes -16. That's not all that far from our January low record of -21 back on January 19, 1994, and it's LATE in February now. In looking at the daily records, I see -18 Jan 17, 1982, the -21, -20 on Jan 21, 1985, and -16 on Jan 24, 1963 as the only days with a record equal to or colder than today. It will be interesting to see how this outbreak compares with that of 1899 I talked about in yesterday's entry. I haven't really checked to see if this is a widespread outbreak like that one, or more of a local one in a smaller area including here.

Now back to DX for a bit before I close. Right now after the first hour and 48 minutes of activity, I have 42 QSOs from at least 31 countries for what may be the fastest start I've ever had in a big DX contest. That's also something I'll have to check. It was interesting to work MM3T on 20 at 0121Z. That's very late for the northern part of Europe on 20 this time of year. I did work Portugal, Spain, and the Balearic Is. in southeast Europe. I also worked OH0X in northern Europe and heard Sweden, European Russia, and Latvia, but couldn't work them.

Finally a brief astronomy note. I braved the cold earlier this evening to go out and check the close conjunction of Venus, Mars, and the Moon. Very lovely. -30-

Thursday, February 19, 2015 7:31 PM - As long-time diary readers know, one of my interests besides Ham Radio is meteorology. I've kept weather records here since 1959 (wow, that's closing in on 60 years - I must be getting old). A couple of days ago, I recorded the all-time February low of -13 in that time span breaking the old record of -12 set way back in 1961. Well, it looks like this new record is not going to stand anywhere near that long if the forecasters are correct. They are predicting tonight's low to be -14, and it's well on the way there at +1 degrees already. That would also be the second coldest February temperature for nearby Pittsburgh. The coldest? A bone-chilling numbing -20 back on February 11, 1899. For those who don't follow the weather as closely as I do, that reading was part of perhaps the coldest widespread outbreak of Arctic air on record. Up until isolated incidents in several places since 1990, that day (or the day before and after actually) was the coldest ever in many states, not only for February, but for all months included. The invasion actually made it all the way through Florida and into Cuba. It hit 29 degrees in Miami and Cuba had a hard frost that damaged many crops. There's a lot of good info about that outbreak on the Internet. Just do a Bing search for February 1899 weather or something like that.

Another easy DX QSO this evening when I worked CT8/OH2PM on 20 meters at 0002Z. I guess getting ready for the ARRL DX test. Speaking of that, I think I'm assured of a DX QSO on Saturday and Sunday which would then leave 6 more days to hit 730 days or two full years of DX QSOs on February 28 barring a major disaster. As I've said before, I don't know if I'll keep going after that or not. Knowing me, I probably will. HI. -30-

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 7:25 PM - It's now 14 degrees, and that's as warm as it will be now until Saturday. The only saving grace to this weather is there is very little s#$w associated with it. Also the cold temperatures preclude any freezing rain. We will have some rain on Sunday followed by another cold snap so the rain will freeze, but only on the surfaces, not on power lines, etc.

An easy DX QSO this evening just 7 minutes into the 0000Z hour. It was 6Y2T down in Jamaica getting ready for the ARRL DX contest this weekend activating Jamaica on the WARC bands. I worked him on 17 with but a single call.

I haven't been on in the mornings for 3 days now, so I don't know how conditions have been then. Hopefully I haven't been missing good European openings for the NAQCC European Chapter challenge. Maybe the next couple days I can get on although with the cold weather, there won't be a lot of off time for my furnace and its noise. -30-

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 2:52 PM - This has been a good day so far. I'll get this entry written early in case things change later in the day. HI.

Although it got down to zero this morning, with bright sunshine the temperature rose into the mid 20s, and felt even less cold in the sun. It was also interesting to see a pretty good s@#w melt off my roof in the sunshine even though the temperature was just in the low single digits at the time. Yes the sun is definitely getting higher in the sky with an associated increase in its heating power. Ain't it great!!. I even took a couple walks outside today.

I also got to printing my QSLs on the card stock I got yesterday, and as a result, got caught up on quite a backlog of cards. One of the walks I mentioned was to the post office to mail, among others, my cards to K1N and S01WS.

Then just a little while ago, in the mail was a certificate for a winning entry in the 2014 ARRL DX Contest for First Place Western Pennsylvania Section Single Operator, QRP - also a Division and Call Area Winner. You can see a scan of it in my Contesting section via the menu link above. That's kind of an incentive to get in the 2015 ARRL DX contest this coming weekend which I would be doing anyway. That's one of my favorite contests. I love the high speed, fast paced action. I once made 633 QSOs in an ARRL DX test in the early 2000s for my best contest ever.

Well, let's see what the rest of the day brings now after I get a bite to eat. -30-

Monday, February 16, 2015 7:58 PM - Mike is just departing for Brookville. With some possible snow on the way, he wanted to get home before that plus he has to get up early tomorrow for work. So he didn't have time to write a diary entry which means I'll have to do it myself.

As usual, we had a good time all day. He arrived around 10:30 or so, and we chatted for a while and watched a couple old TV shows on the Internet. Remember Ernie Kovacks? We watched a couple of his skits as Percy Dovetonsils and another with the Nairobi Trio. Hilarious stuff from the 1950s.

After that it was off to Ponderosa for a lunch buffet. Next up a shopping trip to WalMart where Mike got his fishing license so hopefully we can do some fishing later this year. I picked up a couple things - new shoes, some card stock for printing QSL cards, and I stocked up on my favorite snack meat, Turkey Spam.

Back home again and on to our prime project for the day - finishing our little QRP "Lil Squall" transceivers. It continued to be a bit of a struggle with the somewhat poorly written instruction manual even with our kit building experience. However after a couple hours we did finish them. Here they are:

pix_diary_20150217_001 (46K)

After finishing the build, we took them up to my shack and hooked them up and lo and behold, they actually worked. We heard a lot of signals on 40 meters, and measured the RF output at something around 600 milliwatts. We didn't work anyone though because the bandwidth is very wide and we couldn't figure out exactly where we would be transmitting in relation to the stations we were hearing. Figuring that out will be a project for the next visit.

It was around 0000Z when we put the kits away, so I looked around for my DX QSO and found and worked C6AKQ with a single try on 17 meters. After I worked him, either the band changed or C6AKQ changed beam headings, because he started working a run of JAs before Mike had a chance to get him. At least it wasn't something like Navassa Island, so Mike didn't feel all that bad about it.

That pretty much sums up the day. Now I've got to get that picture of the rigs inserted up above. Of course when you read this, it will be there already. HI.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that it seems we may have tied the low temperature record for February in my weather records dating back to 1959. It shows a low of 12 below on my remote reading thermometer which ties a record set on Groundhog Day back in 1961, if memory serves. If it is the same or lower on my official outside thermometer, I'll check to be sure of that. -30-

Sunday, February 15, 2015 7:48 PM - A cold day today and a colder night coming up. The high was either 9 or 12 today depending on which remote reading you want to believe. I'll venture out later to get the 'official' reading. Right now it's either 0 or 1. Brrrrrr!! But at least no new ugly white stuff.

No DX this evening so I'll have to try later or in the morning. Weather permitting, Mike will be visiting tomorrow. I don't blame him if he doesn't want to venture out though.

Right now I'm getting my laundry done, and then going to cross-check our sprint logs. Hope to get that all done this evening, so I better get to it. -30-

Saturday, February 14, 2015 8:30 PM - Easy DX this evening. PA6NB and PI4A in the PA contest on 40 meters. That's day 717 for the DX streak, and for the big streak, 7,500 days.

I wonder why it is that many times when a DX or contest station asks for a repeat, the station calling will QRS. 99 times out of 100, it's not the speed that is hampering the DX station from copying, but QSB, QRN, or QRM. Sending slower will not help out in any of those situations. In fact sending faster often helps. In QSB, you can send your whole call in an 'up' time whereas if you send slower, some of your call could wind up in a 'down' time. Oh well, just wondering.

We're turning down the heat for the weekend. Right now it's 7 degrees and some forecasts are saying it won't get above zero all day Sunday and maybe down to 10 below Sunday night/Monday morning. The only encouraging thing is, as I said in a previous entry, that this is the middle of February and not early January so that light at the end of the tunnel is not as far away now. -30-

Friday, February 13, 2015 8:07 PM - It will be nice to see the bands quiet down after this weekend when the RTTY contest and the K1N DXpedition come to an end. It's been very hard finding European stations to work for the NAQCC challenge. They are all seemingly chasing K1N when I do hear any.

I did work E73RO this morning to keep the DX streak alive. He was well over S9 on 10 meters around 1420Z. Later in the afternoon the bands were down, but I managed to work SV2JAO just because he was there on 20.

Then no DX again this evening. I did work Steve K9IS for the big streak though.

A beautiful clear day today. The calm before the storm. Well actually no big storm, but a spell in the deep freeze for the next several days.

Looking forward to a visit from Mike KC2EGL on Presidents Day. Hope we don't get 'colded' out. -30-

Thursday, February 12, 2015 8:35 PM - No exciting DX today - no DX at all, in fact. So DX streak day #715 will have to come tomorrow morning or afternoon - maybe later tonight. Not much at all going on today to talk about. It was one of those days that start out decently 'mild' and then go downhill all day. It was 34 at midnight, and it's now 9 at 8:35 PM. The next 4 days or so we will remain in the deep freeze, maybe not getting out of the single digits on Sunday. Fortunately it's mid February and not early January so the end can't be that far away.

Today I processed a lot of our sprint logs getting them ready for the cross-checking program. We're around 110 logs now with still almost 3 full days for log submissions remaining. Hopefully we'll cross the 120 log mark again as we did last month.

I also worked on some more pages on my web site. Now all my contest stories pages have the full new menu bar at the top so access to any part of the site is available there. I plan to eventually have my CW stories, teens and CW, FISTS columns, etc. pages fixed up the same way. -30-

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 9:54 PM - Never say never, you'll probably be wrong. As in "I'll never work K1N through these pileups." You know I was wrong there. Or how about "I'll never work S01WS, he's never all that strong here." Wrong again. Although he was barely out of my S5 noise about half the time, I only had to wait through a half dozen stations before he came back with a perfectly clear K3WWP 599. So that's another new overall country, #223 now. First time since the CQWW DX test in November that I've worked two new countries within a couple days or so. And it's thanks to our computer club meeting this evening. Huh?

OK, I'll explain. At the meeting, I gave a presentation on the latest upcoming Microsoft operating system, Windows 10. The meeting ran until around 0200Z, and when I got home and took my temperature readings, I thought I'd see what was on the bands. I doubted I'd work any DX, and other than K1N, PV8ADI, and CO8LY, one of whom I had worked a few days ago and didn't need on another band, and two that I work all the time. So I passed them by along with a RU0 who didn't hear me at all. Off to 40 meters to see what a CQ would bring. It brought a QSO with W5UXS/4 near Miami which started strong and then the band changed. So I'll check again for some DX. On 30 meters, I noticed a small peak on the panadapter near the low end of the band. In fact two small peaks separated by a kHz or so, about the width of a DX working split. I tuned down to see who it was. Turned out to be S01WS, and as I described above, it didn't take long to get a sure QSO with him. Had it not been for the computer meeting, I wouldn't have been on the bands at 0230Z when I worked him. Reminds me of the time I worked KL7 on 30 meters because I got on late after playing chess with my neighbor Bruce. That QSO completed 30 meters WAS for me after several years being stuck on 49 states on that band. -30-

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 11:57 AM - YES! I'm definitely in the K1N log. Thanks to Dave VA3RJ for checking and letting me know (and beating me to the punch). When I checked last night, the last QSO time in the log was about 30 minutes before my QSO. I was going to check later today, but now I don't have to, although I probably will just to see it for myself. HI.

As I said in yesterday's entry, I now have all 50 current NA entities worked with QRP/CW/simple wire antennas. Now today in checking, I have 48 of the 50 verified with a card (missing the new Sint Maarten and of course Navassa). I do have Sint Maarten verified in the LotW a couple times. I'll have to try to get a card also.

I almost let my DX streak get away from me today. I forgot I didn't get a DX QSO last evening, but when I went to my shack to look for challenge QSOs, I realized that and worked OK2LA on 10 meters for day # 712 in a row. I didn't find any challenge QSOs though. I might try a couple more times during furnace silent periods. -30-

Monday, February 09, 2015 4:30 PM - I now have worked every country/entity in North America CW/QRP/Simple wire antennas. Finally got K1N a few minutes ago on 20 meters. A good solid QSO. I have had two other very tentative ones - one that didn't show up in their log, and another one I have yet to check. But this one was definite and it was thanks to a WA8 or WB8 station. It was often hard to figure out the frequency K1N was listening to because of the size of the pile plus a lot of QSB. But this 8 station was a zillion over S9 and I set to transmit on his frequency, and after one more QSO, it was me. YES!!! Actually I shouldn't say "finally" because honestly I hadn't really tried all that hard since I didn't think I stood a chance in those awesome pileups. I would guess I probably tried less than an hour total time in all the time they have been there on Navassa.

Only one comment so far about the new look on the web site. Thanks to my old friend Dave VA3RJ who says it is looking great. I've still got some fine tuning left to do, but virtually all the main pages now have the new menu system in force. I like it because it makes updating and adding pages easier plus there's a lot more space for content on a page with only the couple of lines near the top allocated to the menu on each page instead of all the wasted space when the menu was at the left of the pages.

Gosh, I'm so excited about getting K1N, I don't know what to do next here now. First of all, I've got to update my DX pages with Navassa, then I don't know where I'll go from there. -30-

Sunday, February 08, 2015 8:21 PM - I'm sure you noticed what I did today, so I'll not comment on it till tomorrow as it is not quite finished yet.

My DX came on 40 this evening when I worked S53A. He was booming in here. I thought from the strength he was probably a USA station although the MO gave him away as being DX. We've worked before a few times.

Earlier in the day, the bands were still in chaos. I looked a couple time for some European stations for the NAQCC European Chapter challenge, but didn't find any from the needed countries.

Maybe tomorrow things will be a little quieter on the bands. The K1N pileups remaine HUGE and WIDE, so I again probably won't try to make contact unless I happen to find them just starting up on a band before the spotters ruin it. -30-

Saturday, February 07, 2015 7:45 PM - ADDENDUM (again) I'm just logging my LotW verifications, and I got one from AH0K. I wasn't positive about that QSO back in the CQWW DX contest, but now I know it was definitely a good QSO. Whew! That makes 216 entities veried via card and/or LotW.

The bands are really a mess today with my QRN, K1N, a DX test, the FOC contest, etc. Reminds me of the old W.C. Fields line (which really needs the video to be effective) that went like something like this. The theater was so crowded you couldn't clap this way (sideways), you had to clap like this (up and down). Anyway I did manage to work Derek J67ZF on 10104, just a couple kHz below the K1N operation. That made 710 days for the DX streak. Earlier in the day I worked ES5QD just to test how my signal was getting into Europe. Then I looked around in between everything else and managed to find and work F5PCV to the get the F and C for the NAQCC European Chapter challenge. -30-

Friday, February 06, 2015 8:03 PM - ADDENDUM. Well, I guess no one has caught the error. That's unusual. Of course it's Bluebirds, not Blue Skies in the original song made popular by Vera Lynn with her 1942 version. It just dawned on me as I was humming the song here. OK now back to the original entry.

I has a wrong word in last night's entry. It should have been, "There were blue skies over the ugly s#$w cover." Still not a perfect match, but better with that two syllable word instead of the one syllable one (and a more accurate description to boot). We didn't lose much of the ugly cover today either despite the same blue skies again as it only hit 31 degrees.

At least I got to make another mark on my sun chart this morning, and saw my friends, the stars again this evening. I caught Sirius tonight just as it peeked through the trees on the horizon at about 5:49PM EST.

More and more I'll be glad when warm weather comes. I think as my furnace ages, the noise it puts out is increasing. When it's really cold, its cycle of about 5 minutes off and 10 minutes on really cuts into my ham radio time. I think this summer, I'm finally going to try to attack the noise problem one way or another. A shielded cable from the thermostat to the furnace perhaps, along with some other ideas.

During the off periods today I did manage one QSO for the European Chapter challenge. I worked EG5ANT for the A and N in SPAIN. The bands are really rough with my QRN, the K1N DXpedition, the S01WS activity and now this weekend the FOC contest.

At least I got my DX streak QSO this evening for day # 709 when I worked RI1ANR on 30 meters way down there where it is just past mid-summer. Still I wouldn't trade our winter for their summer. HI

In looking at my tomatoes today, I note that 7 of the 16 seeds have sprouted now. That one I pictured here a couple days ago now has two nice seed leaves on it. Still nothing from the pepper seeds yet. -30-

Thursday, February 05, 2015 8:37 PM - I've been listening to a lot of good songs from the 1940s WWII era lately. That music is so great compared to what passes as music today. Anyway one of my favorite songs from that era is "There'll Be Blue Skies Over The White Cliffs Of Dover." That is a good description of today as "There were blue skies over the white s#$w cover." OK, the match is not perfect, but the description is. The sky was a clear blue all day with only a couple clouds here and there. I finally got to mark another spot on my sun chart this morning. It's nice to record the movement of the Earth bringing the sun up higher and higher in the sky with its increased heating power. Even with temperatures mostly in the teens and twenties today, you could see some s#$wmelt going on. A delight to see. It's supposed to be near 40 this weekend with some rain which should improve things even further.

With the clear skies, although it was too bad to take out my telescope, I did a lot of naked eye stargazing out the kitchen window this evening. I knew Sirius would be rising just about the time it got dark enough to catch it, so I kept an eye on the spot on the horizon where I knew it would appear. I didn't quite catch the rising, but did spot it maybe only two or three minutes later just above the trees on the horizon. It was the first star I spotted, then as the sky got darker, Rigel popped into view followed by Betelgeuse. Procyon was there also although I didn't look over for it till a bit later. The Orion belt stars were the next ones spotted. First it was Alnilam, then Alnitak, finally Mintaka. As they came into view, I though the middle one was brightest, then the left, finally the right which is the order listed in the previous sentence. I think I'll check now to see if that is correct. Alnitak is mag. 1.74, Alnilam 1.72, Mintaka 2.23. So I was right although it's almost a toss-up between Alnitak and Alnilam. Some other familiar stars then were noticed like Bellatrix, Saiph, Mirzam, Gomeisa, Castor, Pollux, Wezen, Adhara, and Aludra. Later Jupiter showed up followed by Regulus. It sure was nice to see all those old friends. With the almost always cloudy skies here, a clear night like tonight is really appreciated even though it means radiational cooling is at full speed and it is 8 degrees now headed for zero or below. Finally it was the moon rising as shown here. The picture is blurry because it was too dark for the auto-focus to work well, but you can easily see the bright moon which at that point was shining through a big tree on the horizon.

pix_diary_20150205_001 (17K)

Getting back to ham radio again, I finished the groundhog challenge last night when I worked HH2JR for that final elusive R. So tonight with no chance to work Europe for that challenge, I just went for my DX streak QSO and got it from KP2/AG2J, this time on 40 meters. Then I got my first USA station this month when WA0JLY answered my CQ from Steamboat Springs, CO.

Now it's just 9:00 so I'm going out to get my temperature. -30-

Wednesday, February 04, 2015 10:06 AM - I'm sitting around waiting to go shopping with Nancy and Bruce, and I thought I'd make my diary entry while waiting.

I listened a bit on the bands looking for that letter R for the challenge, but no luck. Most of the bands are occupied by K1N pileups, and they are awesome. I liken working K1N to playing reverse Russian Roulette. Five of the six chambers have bullets in them, and every time you call K1N, you're more than likely to be shot than to make contact. Actually it would be a gun with hundreds of chambers with only one not having a bullet.

I'm not about to sit there and play in those kind of pileups. I think they are the biggest since the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles countries on 10/10/10. This morning the whole of the CW segment on 12 meters was full, and other pileups are 30, 40,... kHz wide. I certainly would like to work them as that is the only North American country I've never worked, but I don't think I'll have much of a chance unless I run across them just starting up on a band or maybe near the end of the operation when hopefully the pileups will have diminished. Miss them this time and it's at least 10 years before it will be activated again. Oh well, it's not going to change my life in any way at all whether or not I work them, but it would be nice.

By contrast, I still need perhaps a half dozen countries in Europe to complete that continent, and they are pretty rare also. I haven't even ever heard some of them like Andorra for example. I'm curious now, and think I'll make a list to see just who and how many there are that I need.

OK, here it is for NA, SA, and EU:
KP1 - Navassa Is.

HK0 - Malpelo
PY0P - St. Peter & St. Paul Rocks
VP8 - Falklands
VP8 - So. Georgia Is.
VP8 - So. Sandwich Is.

1A - SMO Malta
C3 - Andorra
OJ0 - Market Reef
SV1/A - Mt. Athos
I checked my tomatoes and peppers last evening, and found one tomato sprout had appeared as shown here at the red arrow.

pix_diary_20150204_001 (40K)

So that's kind of encouraging help to get through this miserable winter weather. -30-

Tuesday, February 03, 2015 7:40 PM - One of those nice days if you look up at the blue sky and don't look down at the ugly white ground. Still a lot of ice around and not very safe to go out walking, so I didn't. I will brave it and go out and get my temperature at 9PM though as I did last night.

When I go to my shack at 0000Z, I have three objectives in mind:
1. Work someone to keep my big 20+ year streak going.
2. Work a DX station to keep my 700+ day DX streak going. Of course if #2 comes first, that also covers #1.
3. If I still need letters/numbers for our NAQCC alphabet challenges, I then look for them. Or if there is some other kind of challenge instead of an alphabet one, I'll work on that one.

Tonight, #2 came first (HC2AO on 30M) so that covered both #1 and #2. Further looking around did not turn up anything for the challenges, so I QRT.

Now tomorrow morning I'll get on and try to get that final R I now need to complete the Groundhog challenge I discussed in yesterday's entry. I worked HG90IARU for 2 Rs earlier today along with GW3TMP (nice long chat) for the W.

Now as for the European Chapter challenge which briefly is spelling the name of a country from letters in the call signs of stations in that country. When I worked HG90IARU, I got 5 of the 7 letters to spell Hungary, leaving a N and a Y to finish. Then I got to thinking that I didn't recall ever working a Hungarian station with a Y in the call. I was almost right when I probed my log for Hungarian stations. Then I got to wondering about the other nine countries in the challenge, and I did a detailed analysis of my log and came up with the following that shows how many QSOs I've had with each country and how many of each of the required letters were in the call signs of those QSOs. A piece of cake to do with my MS Access log and a little counting help from MS Word:

Germany - 1,733 QSOs
G  160
E   58
R  184
M  268
A  498
N  143
Y  107

Italy - 978 QSOs
I 1113
T  141
A  202
L   87
Y  105

England - 851 QSOs
E   56
N   38
G  755
L   61
A   67
N   38
D   65

Hungary - 789 QSOs
H  843
U   74
N  145
G  325
A  611
R  102
Y   11

France - 766 QSOs
F  627
R   66
A  116
N  117
C  142
E   67

Poland - 570 QSOs
P  375
O   53
L   39
A   81
N  202
D   41

Russia - 559 QSOs
R  493
U  212
S   17
S   17
I   23
A  487

Spain - 493 QSOs
S   31
P   19
A  506
I   20
N   41

Ukraine - 302 QSOs
U  343
K    3
R   75
A   48
I   44
N   11
E   47

Sweden - 280 QSOs
S  289
W   66
E   72
D   24
E   72
N   18
Look at Ukraine as the worst case scenario. Only 3 letter Ks in all the 302 QSOs I've had with that country. There are other cases that are going to be difficult also. I sent the above to the European Chapter folks in charge (Matt and Ton), and they are going to think about the consequnces and maybe modify the challenge a bit. -30-

Monday, February 02, 2015 11:02 AM - We made out pretty good in the storm. It got warm enough so it was mostly rain which kept the s#$w accumulation down and melted some of the existing stuff. The only problem is that now with the cold front coming through a little while ago, everything that was wet by the rain has frozen or is freezing. Another good thing is that it wasn't true freezing rain, but regular rain that is freezing later. That way no power lines, trees, etc. down as the only real ice is on the ground. All in all a good day to stay inside and do ham radio which I did as described here.

Conditions were good on all the high bands and I spent about an hour and a half chasing DX, working on our NAQCC challenges, and picking up a couple nice new prefixes along the way. I often talk about our challenges here in the diary, and I thought today I'd go into a lot more detail so maybe you'll see what fun you are missing if you are not a NAQCC member, or a member who never delved into the challenges. The following applies to our alphabet challenges although we do have other types of challenges as well.

Let's start at the very beginning with apologies to those who already know all this stuff and progress from there. An alphabet challenge consists of a list of words to be made from letters (and sometimes numbers) in the call signs of stations you work. For example, to make JOHN, you could work pJ2t, Oa4ss, wy3H, and vo2Ns. Usually there are around a half dozen or so words (or short phrases) containing around 80-90 letters or so. That varies widely with the European Chapter challenges usually containing fewer letters but including numbers in the mix also. With that said, here's my worksheet for the February Groundhog Challenge with a description following:

pix_diary_20150202_001 (103K)

Across the top of the page is a list of the letters of the alphabet that are included in the words. Most are crossed out in this example since I gathered all of those particular letters. When I get near the end, I put the number of that letter remaining to get. See 4 Hs, 4 Rs, and 1 W remaining here. If I now get 2 Hs, I'll change the 4 to a 2.

Now the heart of the page is the list of words to be gotten written horizontally with room to list the station that gave me that particular letter. See J6/SP7TF for the P in PUNXSUTAWNEY as an example. Since each letter in a call sign can be used twice, you'll also see J6/SP7TF listed for the P in PHIL.

At the right is a countdown of letters worked. See at the top where 0/84 means 0 worked and 84 still needed. Right after that is EA8TL who was the first station worked this month. The hash marks after EA8TL show that I got 8 letters from his call sign. That means 8 worked, leaving 76 to go, hence the 8/76 below the 0/84. Next came J6/SP7TF from whose call I got 7 letters making it 15/69 worked/needed. And so on down the list where I currently stand at 75/9.

Of course, that is only the way I personally keep track of our alphabet challenges. I think it is perhaps the optimum way, but others have other opinions and ways of doing it.

This morning I searched and pounced on 7 DX stations, 5 of whom helped out with letters for the groundhog challenge, and a couple others that helped with the European Chapter Spell the Country Name challenge. What a great way to spend time on the bands. While doing it, I had some thoughts run through my head. I was thinking how much fun it is to just tune the bands and find stations. As many of you know, I NEVER use any kind of spotting when I'm on the bands. I just tune and see what is there. I don't condemn anyone for using spotting if that is their wont - I just don't find it at all rewarding personally. It's kind of like fishing in a small pond that is well-stocked with starving fish. No challenge or effort at all to catch them. Or maybe spotting is like using a telephone to contact someone. You look up their call on a spotting page somewhere just like you look up a name in a phone book to see who you want to work or call.

With that said, I will confess although I've never used true spotting, a couple times ham friends have told me via email that so and so is on such and such a frequency if I'd like to try working him. I don't mind that and appreciate it.

I also thought that although it may not have been mentioned much, that a good way of knowing what chance you have of working someone is to hear how they are working other stations. If they ask for a lot of repeats, even from high power stations, that may not bode well for your chances. However that is not totally tried and true as it could be that you have a good path to the station while others may not. So give it a try anyway. That happened this morning with DL1BUG. He was having all kinds of problems getting even an RST from one station he was working, yet I worked him with ease.

I'm kind of long winded this morning and also getting hungry so I'll close in a bit. First speaking of groundhogs, I wonder how Phil did this morning. I haven't checked yet because it really doesn't matter one way or other. Perhaps at one time, folks did check to see whether the prediction was accurate or not, but now it's just a circus side show and even on the cloudiest day, Phil will "see his shadow". It all depends on what the guardians or whatever they are called decide after doing a lot of research into long-term forecasts. Many years ago in Europe, it was whether or not the sun shone on Candlemas Day, February 2 that somehow got translated into groundhog shadows when Europeans immigrated to the New World. That's only a thumbnail compression of the story. It makes interesting reading in toto on the Internet.

OK, off to lunch now. -30-

Sunday, February 01, 2015 9:17 PM - We're sitting out a mixture of just about every sort of precipitation imaginable. I don't even want to discuss it.

I got off to a great start on the NAQCC February Grounhog challenge. 59 of the 84 letters already in the books thanks to a half dozen stations with long calls worked today. No DX worked this evening though so I'll be chasing DX tomorrow morning, weather permitting. I did work VO2NS for my regular streak QSO though, so the big streak is safe for another day. -30-