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CQ 160 contest

Friday night at about 11 p.m. I realized I'd forgotten about the 160 meter CW contest this weekend. I tuned around the band, heard some stations, but it was dark, cold and snowy outside and I didn't want to go out and reconfigure the antenna. So I went to bed. Saturday I went outside while the sun was out, it was still cold and snowy, and reconfigured the antenna so I could operate Saturday night. I have a 80 meter off-center-fed dipole fed with ladder line up about 50 feet. For 160, I tie the two sides of the antenna together and feed it from the long wire connection on the Dentron MT-3000A tuner. On 80 meters, I've been running coax to a balun just outside the shack, and feeding the open wire from there to reduce RF in the shack. Hence the need to go outside to reconfigure antennas. Saturday night I got on 160 about 5 p.m. as the band opened to the East Coast. I took a couple breaks in the evening to eat dinner and go somewhere with my wife, but by 11 p.m. I'd brok

Noisy bands for NA QSO party

This weekend I spent several hours Saturday in the North American QSO party. This is a quick contest -- it only lasts 12 hours, and I operated about six of them. I wound up with around 240 contacts, but spent a lot of time battling my high noise levels. I could tell people were calling me, but I couldn't pull them out of the noise. Noise has been an intermittent problem at my location, but it's gotten worse this winter. Hopefully, it will pass and I'll start hearing things again. If not, maybe I need that cabin in Arkansas with a remote station set up.

Straight key night

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Every year on New Year's eve and New Year's day there is an event called Straight Key Night, when cw operators get out the old straight keys and pound out a few contacts. I made eight this eyar, and it was enough to remember how much work is is to send with a straight key. Today we all use electronic keyers, much faster and much easier, but maybe not as much romance. I'm always surprised my fist -- that's how well you send cw -- isn't that bad with a striaght key. I used two different keys, a Vibroplex I picked up at a hamfest a few years ago and an old miltary key -- it says WEP 1940 --on the bottom

Bad weather, bad bands

This morning it's -5 F, the wind is blowing hard out of the west and snow is drifting across the driveway. I'd say it's a good day to go in the basement and play radio, but between poor band conditions and my high line noise, I'm not having much luck. Over the weekend I did manage to squeeze out a few nice contacts. Here they are. This morning I talked to Vic, WA6MCL, in Riverside, CA. Vic was running an old Heathkit SB-102 and SB-200 amplifier. These were kit radios built in the early '70s. They were considered very nice radios back in their day. It's always nice to talk to someone on vintage gear, and we had a nice talk about running old gear. A few years ago I ran a lot of old Drake gear, but sold it all and am sticking to the modern gear -- for now. Last night I talked to w3ANX, Geo, in Apollo, PA. It was our second or third contact this year, and we compared notes on weather, Christmas plans, and updates to our stations. A nice, high-speed cw QSO. Earli

Sorry for silence

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It suddenly dawned on me I hadn't posted in weeks. Sorry. That reflects a little on my radio acitivity -- it hasn't been that high. Two weeks ago I spent a little time running the CQ WorldWide DX contest. The first day I was plagued by high noise level and poor conditions, so did very little. The second day my noise disappeared and I could hear Europe and Asia on 40 and 80 meters, so I spent some time running both bands. Not a huge effort, but that was fun. Last weekend was one of my favorite contests, the ARLL 160 meter. But I was travelling last weekend, so never got on the air. After all, this is just a hobby, so you do miss some contests. This weekend is the ARRL 10 meter contest, but so far I've heard two signals on 10 meters. Hopefully it will pick up this afternoon and I can work a few stations. On 10 meters, you are entirely at the mercy of propogation -- the radio gods. It doesn't matter how good your station, etc, if the band is dead, it's dead.

A good Sunday

With all my recent posts on the run-up to Sweepstakes and SS itself, it's easy to overlook how I spend most of my time on the radio -- with casual random contacts with other hams. Today -- Sunday -- was a good example of a day of radio for me. This morning I had a couple short contacts, then got in a long conversation with W3ANX, Geo, in Pensylvania. We quickly we discovered we had a common passion -- radios -- and spent about an hour talking about different radios, pluses and minuses of each, etc. etc. It's like when a bunch of car guys get together, they can talk about cars for hours. We can do it on radios, but we do it via radio and with Morse code. This afternoon I was doing something else when I heard a loud CQ on 80 meters from K5HZ. I answered, and started talking to Ron in Autrian, MI, in Michigan's Upper Penninsula. As we talked, I discovered he lived on a lake I've driven by several times, always thinking that a home along that lake would be ideal. Now I&#

I almost met my goal

With over 500 contacts I only managed 79 sections, one short of the coveted clean sweep. On Sunday morning I only had four to go, ND, and NLI in the US. and NWT and NL (Newfoundland) in Canada. I got them all but NL. Oh well, that gives me a goal for next year, to finally get that clean sweep. In the end, I had fun. That's all that matters.

Sweepstakes goals

It's Saturday morning and Sweepstakes, the biggest and toughest contest, starts this afternoon. It's tough because the exchange is long and unpredictable. People complain about contensts having a meaningless 599 exchange, but Sweepstakes is just the opposite. I'll be sending a serial number, precednece or the classification I'm in, my call, the check which is the year I was first licensed, and my section -- 1 U K9OZ 65 IL. That may not seem like much, but copy different variations from different stations a few hundred times at high speed CW and you start to see the problem. I ususally set a goal for myself prior to the contest. Last year my goal was 400 contacts and a clean sweep -- working all the sections. I wound up with 380 and 75 sections. Someday, I'd like to do the clean sweep, but most years I wind up in the 75 to 78 range. There are a few tough ones, like the Northwest Territories in Canada. So my goal this year is 500 and a clean sweep. I'll report ba

Ready for Sweepstakes

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After what seems weeks (okay 2 weeks) of swearing at the computer, I have the station fully set up and ready to run for the contest season. In this screen shot you can see LP-Pan giving me a visual display of the band, CW Skimmer decoding a signal, and N1MM logger running. I had most of this running on an old XP computer two weeks ago, but I was at 100 percent processor capacity. So thinking it would be too much work to upgrade to a bigger processor on that machine, I bought a basic new gaming computer with Vista, a high-powered processor and lots of RAM. That made sense to me. I could get the machine for $500 or so, move the sound card and extra port cards from the other machine and be ready to run. If Vista was a problem, I could downgrade to XP. I waw wrong on every assumption. The sound card I had -- an M-Audio Audiophile 2486 -- has no Vista drivers and it was a bear to get the Power SDR software to run on Vista, so I decided to downgrade the computer to XP. It didn't want

Illinois QSO party

I took part in the Illinois QSO party today, racking up arond 250 contacts in about five hours of operating. The K3 with the LP-Pan peformed great, and I'm ready for Sweepstakes in two weeks. I even plugged in the microphone and did 40-some phone contacts on 40.