Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Years (Resolution)

I was motivated by Alastair Humphreys blog post to set a "radio micro-adventure" goal for 2013

I'm going to devote time once a month to pursue my two passions outside of family and work:   The Great Outdoors and Amateur Radio.  I'll plan my own "radio microadventure" each month:  Hike, Bike, or Climb to some wilderness location near my home.   Bring portable radio gear capable of making contacts with other radio operators around the world using morse code.  Log several contacts, and then return home.  I plan for these to be day adventures, and hope to incorporate some camping during the year.  Hey, this is kind of "geeky" but I'm excited to combine the physical challenges of the outdoors with the mental challenges of getting a portable radio station on the air.  Alastair Humphreys blog.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Radio Central Contact

Tuning the dial several weeks ago, I was fortunate to hear the W2RC Special Event Station, sponsored by the Radio Central Amateur Radio Club.  There sounded to be a number of club members operating CW with the call.  'Really great to hear CW used in a Special Event!  Shortly after my successful contact, I received a nice certificate suitable for framing, documenting the QSO vial email.

A great part of Amateur Radio is the ability to learn a bit about history, while using present and future technology.  I did a little web research on this historic transmitter on Long Island, NY.   Beginning operation in 1921, I understand this was the most powerful radio transmitter of its time.  The antenna array consisted of multiple 450 foot towers.


The RCA Rocky Point Facility was dubbed in 1922 as "The Worlds Greatest Radio Station"

The facilities were demolished in the 1970s, and the land turned into a nature preserve.  I suspect quite a feat for Long Island.  Quite a few artifacts appear to remain in the area, as documented by a photographer and published to Webshots.  I especially like the photo of the 150 foot tower resting quietly in the woods.  

Thanks to all who participate in the W2RC special event.   I enjoyed the contact and learning more about this historical facility.
Photos courtesy of W2RC QSO Certificate and Wikimapia.

mPING for iPhone

28 degrees   Heavy Snow    Relatively Calm Winds   Barometer  29.48" and Falling

Ok, I think this is Citizen's Science at it's best!  I've been periodically submitting  Winter Weather Precipitation Reports to a research project of the National Severe Storms Laboratory called PING:  Precipitation Identification Near the Ground.  I first learned of this program at From the Key of W1PNS, a fine amateur radio blog by my New England neighbor, Pete W1PNS.  You basically help meteorologists correlate their radar images with what's actually happening on the ground at your location.  To date, you had to navigate to their web site, manually enter your longitude & latitude, and select from a menu of precipitation types.

Tonight we're experiencing some rather heavy snowfall.   As I went to record an observation, I saw that PING now has an iPhone app to allow for observers to file reports, with automated location entry, on the go.   I just sent my first iPhone PING report to the NSSL.  Check it out:  mPING at the iTunes Store

Friday, December 28, 2012

A little reading for 2013

A definite advantage of living in central Connecticut is the ability to drop by the bookstore at ARRL HQ.  There's nothing like have a bookstore experience, browsing through dozens of books ONLY about ham radio.  In addition to (most) all ARRL publications, they have books from RSGB, and some other publishers, such as Idiom Press.   There a noticeable absence of CQ publications.  I used a quick trip to Newington today to pick up some fun reading for 2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Working for a string of QRP Contacts

35 degrees
light (but constant) rain

The weather threatened to be messy here, but the freezing temperatures are just above us in Massachusetts.  We've had probably 1/2 inch of rain in the past 24 hours.

I answered NU5X, Jim in Arkansas tonight with 5 watts on 40 meters.  He picked up my call on the first try with a 339 signal report.  We worked 30 meters earlier in the year.

I've decided no New Year's resolutions for 2013.  I don't tend to keep them.  But I hope this will be the beginning of a string of QRP contacts for the coming year.  I have my eye on some NAQCC and SKCC low power awards.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Straight Key Century Club WES

I hoped to start this weekend with some hiking and portable radio operating. A large to-do list for the weekend, and a cool drizzle called for a change of plans. I decided to set up in the backyard and hold a DOTA. You know, "Driveway on the Air". This turned out to be a nice opportunity to check out my portable setup, which had been packed away for most of this summer. I soon realized I was missing the pipe for my fiberglass Jackite Jack pole mount. That was solved by a quick trip to the local hardware store.

I set up my Yaesu 817, Par N-Fed 20/40 meter antenna, and American Morse iambic key.

I called CQ on 20 meters for about 30 minutes without luck. As I tuned down from 14.060, I heard a number of strong CW signals. The Straight Key Century Club WES started early this month!

I didn't have much time left. However, I quickly made 3 contacts with SKCC members. Thanks to N9ZXL, W4CUX, and W9DLN for picking my call out if the ether.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Can you spot the vertical?

This is my final post while traveling in Jerusalem. I take a portable radio kit on some trips, but decided early on to leave the gear behind for this trip to the Middle East. That doesn't mean you can't think about radio while on the road!

While scanning the skyline in a Jerusalem neighborhood near the YMCA , I couldn't help but notice all the antennas on home rooftops.

There's such diversity within a single block: homes, markets, and shops all having there place here. This is quite a contrast to the growing deed restricted neighborhoods we have at home where uniformity is encouraged, if not enforced.

The antennas are most always UHF and VHF designs for television with an occasional vertical in the mix. But wait! Today I spotted a commercial multi-band HF vertical antenna. Straight out if the QST classifieds. While my photo rendered drawing doesn't do a good job of showing the capacitance hats, see if you can find it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


As a kid growing up in the Southern United States, I heard my share of civil defense sirens when tornadoes threatened.  There was the fear of dangerous weather, and the comfort of knowing that you would be safe when the weather front passed.

As I write this post, minutes after the Israel - Gaza cease fire, our family has spent the week in Israel celebrating a long planned family reunion and celebration.  We left JFK as tensions were rising, but before large scale rocket attacks had begun.   We've been quite fortunate so far, as our home base of Jerusalem has only been the target of rocket fire from Gaza on two occasions.  The first last Friday right after we arrived, the second time later in the week as we traveled in the West Bank. There's been no damage.

At the first siren, our family was getting settled in our rental unit after a long flight from the US.  It took time to realize exactly what was happening.   We took shelter in our apartment's safe-room (after I pulled my son off the balcony as he searched for rockets!).   The only thing more eerie than the wailing sirens throughout the Holy Land, was the dead silence that followed.  Nobody was around to announce "It's OK to come out".  A rocket fired by Hamas fell short, outside of Jerusalem.

As the days have passed, and literally hundreds of rockets have been fired toward Israel, I have witnessed an amazing culture.  Israelis move forward, going to work, going to school (when possible) and carrying on life as normal, despite being the target of terror.  I ONLY HEARD ONE SIREN, but now think twice when an ambulance passes.  And have difficulty going to sleep thinking about what I'll do if a siren sounds in the middle of the night.  Or think where I would shelter my family as we walk down a crowded city street.  I can't image the horror that many Israel residents have endured over 8 days, with dozens if not hundreds of rocket warnings.

 I've gained a new appreciation for social media as a public service tool for Emergency Communications, adding @push321 @MDais @IDFSpokesperson to my Twitter feed to follow the rocket threat in real-time.  I understand there is an iPhone app on the Israel iTunes Store that announces rocket threats by your location.  I think we could learn from their experience here in the United States, particularly in light of wordy, repetitive statements issued by our National Weather Service when a storm approaches.  And to my knowledge, we have no real "functional, contemporary" public warning system for IMMEDIATE threats, whether natural or man-made in the United States.   Correct me if I'm wrong...

I ONLY HEARD ONE SIREN, but it changed me in many ways forever.  Unlike tornadoes of the Deep South, the terrorist threat remains even after a cease-fire has been singed.  I strongly support the right of all nations to defend their citizens, especially Israel that seems to be the never ending target of aggression from extremist groups.  (What would the US do if another country launched over 500 bombs into of our our States?  I think the answer is obvious.)  I want my kids to understand the complex, and sometimes dangerous world we live in.  I hope they'll be better Americans and World Citizens in the process.  I'm going to increase my personal knowledge of emergency communications, and I'm ready to embrace internet technologies that complement traditional radio (echolink, IRL, D-star)  And finally, I'm going to be more thankful for the security and comfort I have as an American.

This morning a Jerusalem taxi driver gave me an interesting insight not provided by the talking heads of cable news services: "Hamas is ready for a cease fire....they've just about exhausted their rockets...they need time to replace their stockpile."
photo - aged tower on top of Mount Herzl, Jerusalem....warning siren?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Radio Active

A part of most contacts I make is checking out the QRZed site for more info on the call, location, station, and interests of the operator. I can't help but notice how many people state "I was inactive for xx years"...

I can understand. Sometimes the demands of family, career, and maybe even your own health make radio take a far back seat. Hey, those things are just more important.

This summer has been a challenge for me. We've been fortunate as a family to travel quite a bit. Bringing along the radio and launching a wire into a nearby tree just doesn't seem to be tops on the family list of "fun things to do".

But hey, I'm proud to say that I still enjoy trying to make a QSO several evenings each week. I especially try to frequent sprints or the occasional contest where I'm most likely to make a contribution to my log.

Some people may not think much of this. I'm reminded of several exchanges during the recent ARRL Sweepstakes contest. Hours into the tst, I'm contacting a station with NR 104, and I'm sending T T 3. There's a silence on the other end, maybe a ?, maybe a TU.

Hey, just proud here to stay Radio Active.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday, July 8, 2012

SKCC Revolutionary Weekend Sprintathon

For tonight's Straight Key Century Club Weekend Sprintathon, I used my J-38 Morse Code Key on a "custom base" made years ago by my youngest son...after his first woodburning class.  The J-38 came from e-bay for maybe $40.  The base is priceless :)

Great WES with lots of activity.  Made it on the air hear and there over the 24hrs; gardening and kid's lacrosse kept me busy.  Never really figured out the propagation, but had some nice suprises.  Started Saturday evening with one of my few 13 colonies contacts, my neightbor Lee, K1LEE, here in CT.  This was my first sprint to use the new SKCC by AC2C, and it was great to work and log Ron later on last night.  Thanks Ron for a FB addition to the SKCC software pool. Started Sunday morning with quiet bands, and then heard one of the strongest and finest continous waves to ever come across my little 857d.  I thought this must be my ham the next neighborhood (who I've never meet or heard).  Well, it turned out to be W5ZR, Bert in Louisiana!  599+  Finally closed out with S57WJ, Gabor in Slovenia.  Thanks for the new SK DX.  73 to all. Phil, N1DN

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Thank you Emmanuel for a "New One"
and the very fine QSL package.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Panama Beacon Confirmation

Listening for 10m Beacons

I've started scanning the lower part of 10 meters daily (well, most days) to listen for 10m Beacons.   The stations received have been sparse, but every now and then a surprise pops up:

Date UTC Freq Call QTH Locator Km RST
03/23/12 23:34 28.2133 XE3D MEX EL50ex
03/27/12 21:15 28.2028 KB1QZY MA FN32qc 35 449
03/27/12 21:18 28.2030 PY2WFG BRA
6186 569
03/27/12 21:23 28.2313 NP4LW PR FK68mi 2666 589
04/01/12 21:43 28.1770 HP1RCP PANAMA FJ09fa 2301 389
04/03/12 00:45 28.2020 KB1QZY MA FN32qz 35 559
04/05/12 22:49 28.2020 KB1QZY MA FN32qz 35 559
04/06/12 18:15 28.1770 HP1RCP PANAMA FJ09fa 2301 119
04/06/12 18:20 28.2000 YV5B VENEZUELA FK60nj 3539 579
04/06/12 18:24 28.2027 KB1QZY MA FN32qc 35 579
04/06/12 18:40 28.2033 PY2WFG BRAZIL
6186 339

Thanks to my neighbor, KB1QZY just up the road in Massachusetts.   Your signal is always there and serves as a  nice check that the antenna, radio, and headphones are working.

YV5B was received clearly every 3 minutes, down to the 100mw signal.   The NCDXF/IARU beacon web page lists this beacon in Venezuela as off the air.  I was pleased to receive this signal, and took care to listen for several cycles to ensure I got the call correct.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

30 meter Beacon

W0ERE/B   10.1288   RST 579  UTC 0506

Tuning around 30m in the early morning, found W0ERE/B from Grid EM36.   Good signal 579 into east coast this early morning.  Allan has a nice QRZed site and interesting YouTube videos on his experimentation with mobile beacons.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Exploring VOACAP in Texas

Great morning here, as I had a chance to take a day off from work and take kids to school.   I listened on 20 meters afterwards and answered the morning call of KE5SBZ, Ed in Texas.  Most of my radio operating is done late evenings, so sending a continuous wave (CW) through the air with the sun up is not a common occurrence....especially on a weekday.   Ed and I had a nice QSO with good copy throughout.   His signal report to me was 449 (fair signal, readable with minor difficulty) and I replied with 559 (fairly good signal, readable).   As we exchanged the usual ham pleasantries (rigs, antennas, age, dogs, and so on....) his signal improved steadily to 589 by the time I signed.

I took this opportunity to plot our locations and information on VOACAP (Voice of American Coverage Analysis Program).  I'm just learning to use this great on-line tool.   It demonstrates nicely that Ed and I were communicating right along the MUF, maximum usable frequency, around 1200 UTC on 14.050 MHz.

Thanks Ed for the fine QSO, and a little education on propagation.

73 de Phil, N1DN

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and Cobra Dipole

47 degrees, clear skies, 30.29" and steady

As the weekend winds down this Sunday evening, another fine Straight Key Century Club Weekend Sprint comes to a close.  More on these fantastic CW sprints in another post.   This month has been notable for the conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter in the early evening sky.  Tonight, I was treated to "triple conjunction" (kind-of) as the two planets approximated the Cobra Ultralite Senior Dipole suspended up about 50 feet between two tall oak trees.

The Cobra dipole has served me extremely well since getting on the air with HF.    Most all of my contacts have been made with this ladder line fed, multi band dipole.   It's manufactured by Joe, K1JEK in neighboring New Hampshire, and I can't say enough good things about this antenna.  In its 3 years of service, this antenna has survived one Tropical Storm, multiple Nor'easters and several epic winter storms...without a hitch.  In most cases, if I can hear you, the only limiting factor in making the QSO is my operating skill, not the equipment.

The Cobra has earned it's right to stand side by side with two great planets.    73, Phil

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Study of Evaporation

Motivated by "Citizen Science" advocate Forest Mimms' and his studies of the atmosphere, I decided to run an initial experiment of water evaporation (or perhaps sublimation) during the New England winter.


1.  Place 500 ml of room temperature water in a plastic pan
2.  The pan is 10" x 6" = 0.03876 meters squared surface area
3.  Record the initial weight of water and pan in grams
4.  Place the pan in a standard location, shielded from wind, at 6:30 am daily (when I leave for work :)
5. Expose to the atmosphere for 24 hours
6. Record the final weight of water and pan in grams, obtain grams water evaporated
7. Quantify daily observation as grams water / meters squared / hour
8. Do no record results for days with measurable precipitation


Graphed above.  Note that pan size and observation time of 24 hours essentially cancels unites such that grams water evaporation is almost identical to g / m2 / h

Future Plans:

1. Continue observations
2.  Add morning dew point, ambient temperature, and presence / absence of ice

Saturday, February 4, 2012

On the Air

'Good to get on the air last night.   Thanks to the many SKCC members for the contacts.   I still enjoy sending and receiving QSOs.  My current firetruck qsl is a photo I took from a past parade of our local fire company.   I hope to pay tribute to those in public service, and support the US postal service.  The card was produced by    Great service,  great product, great price (period)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

34 degrees, Barometer 29.88 and steady

I finally joined the digital modes, and I'm enjoying an occasional PSK-31 contact.  Thank you Luca, IK2LUE for being one of the first to find me on your waterfall.   Your home of Pedrengo, Italy is a most beautiful place.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wet Bulbs and Satellites

It's 38 degrees, then rain has passed, and the cool night sky is crystal clear.  Midlife has brought an obsession for observing and recording.   I began making my own weather observations in 7th grade, guided by a middle school library book on how to build your own weather station.  In high school I was set on a career in broadcast meteorology, but dreams change often.  I've always liked to experience the weather: cycle in the rain, hike during a snow storm, and (safely) face the wind of an approaching thunderstorm.  I've recorded weather observations on and off over the decades.  It's one of those "on" times.

Jan 28, 2011  01:14 UTC  38 degrees, Easterly Winds at 15, clear, Barometer 29.54" and rising 0.45" rain

Thanks to Jim AF3Z/K3Y/3 and Greg WA1VIL/K3Y/1 for the contacts tonight, as the Straight Key Century Club K3Y Special Events winds to a close.  I've have a busy month, with radio taking a back seat to other priorities.  I REALLY appreciate getting on the air tonight guys, and making several CW QSOs.

I use a remote / electronic thermometer that seems to do a good job with current, hi, and low temps.  The hygrometer is not good, often wildly off from the NWS Bradley International readings 10 miles away.  This was a good excuse to use a wet bulb thermometer.  A quick internet search shows a new sling psychometer for $60, a "classic" 1960s instrument for more.  Why not build one from the local hardware store for $5.

Thanks to the good folks from the El Paso, TX NWS office who have posted a wet bulb calculator on their web site. 

I'm outside, twirling my homebrew sling psychometer, trying to stay warm, and stay hidden from the neighbors who certainly think in nuts by now.

Relative Humitidy 84%, Dewpoint 39 degrees

As I pass the time, look at Orion, Jupiter, there is something more.  A satellite passes overhead.  South to north east, quietly in the distance.  This is why I always come back to observing the weather.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Long Weekend

20 degrees F, Clear Night, Cold Winds from the NW at 12mph, Barometer 30.03 and rising

Very nice CW contact with Del, KJ0Z from Cass County Nebraska this evening.  Del thanks for the great "rag chew" CW contact.  I have been away from the radio this week, and your steady fist with straight key was easy to copy.

I just picked up Forrest Mims' "Science and Communication Circuits & Projects Volume II" and digesting the great projects for atmospheric studies.

A new soldersmoke podcast recently came out.  Plan for great listening with tomorrow mornings coffee.  Number 140 and going strong.  Thanks Bill!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


The recent Quadrantid Meteor Shower provided an opportunity for some interesting radio listening.  Space Weather Radio ran a nice feature on the reception of radio waves reflected from the ionized paths of meteors.  With a few mouse clicks, you can listen to the realtime reception of the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar transmitting on 216.98 MHz.  I don't have a received operating in this band, and probably live too far north anyway.   Thanks to the Space Radio Patron who kindly publishes his receiver's output to their website.   I  then downloaded iSpectrum to my Mac, a freeware software spectrum analyzer from Dog Park Software.   I was able to generate a real-time waterfall display of the 216 MHz signal.   Some time passed listening to static, until a PING came over the laptop's speaker!  I wasn't certain if this was my laptop, or the dog.  BUT, a quick check of iSpectrum indicated a clear change in the radio signal. I do believe (hope) either a satellite or Quadrantid Meteor caused the reflection and change in the signal.   There's some additional great information on this technique at science@NASA.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Year

"People can still smell the rain, hear the owls, eagles and coyotes, and feel the sun's warmth and the brace of the wind that can come and go on a moments notice."    A quote from the on-line travel journal of Patrick Rodden:  Searching North of 45 Degrees.

New Years Day brings both resolutions and (perhaps even better) revelations.   I looked over my 2011 radio goals, and can't say I made great progress over the past year.  Perhaps "radio revelations" is a better approach for 2012:

-Amateur Radio is a great hobby that inspires learning, investigation, and fellowship.
-Hiking and biking regional trails, plus hiking to mountain tops, provide a great opportunity for portable, low power radio operating (or perhaps the other way around)
-Digital modes are fun and I need to learn more
-CW is even more fun, and for me provides the ultimate challenge in this hobby. Continually work on skill, technique, and speed.
-6 meters is said to be the magical band.  I've recently found the 'nack of 6m beacons. 6 meter propagation, in it's many forms, and potential relation to weather, is very interesting.

In closing, I logged onto  today, to check out the entries of big time road cyclist for January 1, 2012.   A number of Australians have logged 60+ mile rides for the first day of their new year.  Just by chance (really?) the home page was 'randomly' highlighting the journal of cyclist Patrick Rodden.  He has a number of long distance cycling accolades to his credit.   This happened to link to his travelogue of a Pacific Northwest to Yukon cycling tour at    I began reding his travel journal and I AM HOOKED.    Highly recommended reading!    The internet truly weaves an intriguing 'web' and I am learning a great deal about the thoughts, personal tragedies, and triumphs of this inspirational cyclist.

Happy New Year and Very 73
Phil, N1DN