Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fun with Larry & Coleman

Sharon & I spent last weekend visiting my friends Larry, N4VA, and Coleman, K4RZ who live in Virginia. Last year we visited them during the same weekend and I went with Larry & Coleman to W3LPL's open house, which I wrote about when first attended in 2005. Sharon came with me last year as well and she visited with some friends who lived in the area while we visited the big aluminum farm. This trip has become an annual thing for us, and what happens is that I take off the day from work on Friday and drive down, arriving (hopefully) just before rush hour hits the DC area. We have a great barbecue dinner with some friends (mostly non-hams but also with Fred, K3ZO, who is fairly well-known in ham circles), go to W3LPL's Saturday and head home Sunday, with the space in between (when not eating or otherwise having a great time) gets filled with "playing radio", propagation permitting.

When we arrived on Friday, 6 meters was cooperating, and literally just as I walked in Larry had picked up Dennis, 5J0BV who was operating from San Andres Island (which is located to the east of Nicaragua but considered to be a "department" of Columbia). Dennis had a good signal but when I tried to work him with Larry's paddle, I had a really tough time sending my callsign correctly. I make no secret of the fact that I normally send "computer assisted" CW from a keyboard, but given that I'd just gotten out of the car from the 5 hour drive, I was having a really tough time trying to use the paddles. (By the way, I'll say that I had no trouble decoding what Dennis was sending by ear, I just could not get my fingers to cooperate.) Larry finally gave me a bit of an assist, and I was able to count this as a "new one" on 6 meters. Very shortly thereafter, Dennis switched to sideband and I was easily able to complete a contact there as well, even having a bit of time to chat and apologizing for the mess I'd made with the CW contact.

After  dinner 6 meters continued to be open to the west, and I had a good time watching Larry pick up a bunch of new grid squares. Grid squares, like "countries" can be used to earn credit towards certain operating awards, the most popular being VUCC for grid squares and DXCC for countries. For both of these awards there are rules about where you have to be to gain credit, and those rules say that while you can get credit for any DXCC entity while working anywhere within the same entity/country (in other words, I can get DXCC credit regardless of where in the US I'm located), for the VUCC award you can only count new grids that you work from your home grid. (There is actually a little leeway, I'll leave reading the rules as an exercise for the reader.) As a result, although my contact with 5J0BV counted for DXCC, it, along with the other grids that Larry was working that evening, don't count for me for the VUCC award.

More to come ...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Now I've got too much to write about

It's been quite a while since I wrote last, mostly because I didn't have all that much that I felt was interesting. There were a few bits here and there, but none worth writing about. All of a sudden, I have a lot to write about. 

I'll start with a couple of relatively quick things here, and try to get another update out in a couple of days with more.

First, I may be on the air at some point next Wednesday, Thursday and/or Friday as K2DBK/VP9 from Bermuda.  I'm going to be there on vacation and while I hadn't planned on getting on the air, through a series of events I wound up connecting with Ed, VP9GE. If you've worked VP9 on 6m, chances are that you've worked Ed.  This was all very last minute, but I'm trying to arrange at least an "eyeball QSO" (that's a face-to-face meeting for any non-hams out there) with Ed while I'm in town, and Ed's already said that he's going to try to get me a license to operate from there. I don't know how much I'll know before leaving, but hopefully if I make it on the air I'll get spotted on the packet clusters, and if possible I'll try to post here, on my page at, and even on (@k2dbk).

The other quick thing that I wanted to post about was that fellow blogger Jeff, KE9V, has started a new podcast called "Cornbread Road". As Jeff describes it, it's a "different kind of podcast", and here's what his "About" page says: 
Deep in the Heartland a small group of ham radio enthusiasts enjoy an idyllic existence of wide open spaces, no antenna restrictions, low-noise levels, dark skies, and good fellowship. But things aren’t exactly as they seem on Cornbread Road. Unexplained lights in the night skies, satellite signals masked from the ether, strange late night visitors to this small farming community…
Cornbread Road is a ham radio mystery delivered in tiny audio giblets.
I listened to the first episode during my ride into work this morning and I really enjoyed it.