Monday, February 18, 2008

A visit from the south

This past weekend, my friends Larry, N4VA, and Coleman, K4RZ came up from Virginia to visit. I guess Larry and I have known each other for 6 or 7 years now, and we chat (usually online while we're both at work) quite frequently. We try to have an "eyeball QSO" at least once a year or so, and while I'd planned to head down to visit last summer, all kinds of things kept that from happening, so I was happy that they were able to come up to visit me.

Although Coleman is pretty much a "newbie" to ham radio (like me), Larry's been licensed since 1960, and has done his share of operating around the world from places like Thailand, Guyana, Japan, and even Bangladesh. (I keep trying to encourage him to go back there; I need that one!) We spent most of the weekend just chatting, mostly about ham radio. We spent some time in the shack just making the occasional contact in the CW version of the ARRL International DX contest, though it was more for me to just pick up a new band fill here and there. I think that I only made around a dozen contacts in total, though I did submit my log as I've mentioned previously. In this case, with so few contacts, I'm pretty sure I won't win anything, but it does serve as a check log for the contest sponsors, and only takes a couple of minutes.

It was really fun to have someone "in-house" to just talk radio with, and it's great to get Larry's perspective on various things. For example, with all the talk about whether or not Kosovo will be a new DXCC entity, still officially unknown as of the time that I'm writing this, Larry's opinion was that based on the guys who were operating there, it seemed like a pretty good chance that it would be a "counter". We'll see if Larry's right or not, but my money is with him. For what it's worth, I worked a couple of stations last night using the YU8 prefix, one being YU8/OH2R and the other YU8BH, since, as they stay Work First, Worry Later (WFWL). If they only count for Serbia, well, it's cost me a couple of pennies of electricity to work them. If they do count for Kosovo as a new DXCC entity, I've got 'em in the log. I guess we'll see.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My turn to brag -- but not about me

If I were the "cluster crab" type, about 30 minutes ago I would have posted a spot on the packet cluster showing that I'd worked VP6DX on 80M with a comment like "Easy!" or "100w into dipole!" or even "Bingoooooo".

Fortunately, I'm not one of those. In fact, I did manage to work VP6DX on 80m CW using just 100w into a G5RV (posting that here is OK; the whole purpose of a blog is to be able to express onself), but the real bragging is about what an absolutely amazing job the guys on Ducie Island are doing.

At the time that I'm writing this, one of the recently posted news items on their web page says:
After 1,5 days of operation they have now about 28,000 QSOs in the log (about 17,000 after the first 24 hours!)
I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to look at their website and try understand the difficulties about putting on a DXpedition like this, but I'm amazed that they not only seem to be on pretty much every band that I can hear (and those that I can't, judging from the spots on the cluster), but that they are working stations rapid-fire endlessly. Yesterday I worked from home due to the inclement weather, and while I didn't have time to actually transmit very much, I was able to listen to the radio now and then, and between the early morning and late evening I heard the VP6DX team on every band from 17m through 80m, usually on more than one mode, working stations like they were a big-gun contest station.

But here's the really awesome part: Tonight, when I saw them spotted on 80m, I tuned to the reported frequency and heard them working stations. (Here's what it sounds like from the K2DBK station, recorded about 10 minutes after my contact with them.) Regular readers will know that I have just a G5RV and run barefoot at 100 watts, but I figured that I'd give them a try. It took about 10 minutes of listening to who they were working, and trying to place myself in the right place within their listening range so that they could hear me, but the fact is that they did hear me amidst all the much louder stations out there. They are not just peeling off only the big gun stations, but listening for us little pistols as well.

Bravo, VP6DX!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New look, same content

For those of you who read my blog on the website (instead of via RSS or email), you'll see that I've changed the look. (If you really love it/hate it, drop me a note or leave a comment.) I can't decide if I'm going to keep it this way, but it was something to do while trying to work the TI9KK Cocos Island DXpedition.

Although they've been pretty strong here on 17m phone, I've resisted calling them there, since I've already worked Cocos island mostly during the TI9M DXpedition in 2002 on 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m, and 20m then. (In other words, I don't need them on that band and mode.) Since this is a fairly short trip, which apparently was made even shorter due to some licensing issues, I think it's only fair to allow someone else a chance. I have to wonder how many people calling them really needed Cocos Island on that band or mode, as opposed to just wanted to brag that they've worked them?

Anyway, I do need TI9 on the lower bands, and on CW, so I will try for a contact there. (As I write this, they are quite strong and building on 40m CW, but the pileup is pretty ugly, so I don't know how much of a chance I'll have.)

With all the recent talk about the start of Solar Cycle 24, band conditions in general haven't been all that good, but I was very pleased to work 9Q1EK earlier today on 12m, which was not only a new band for me for that DXCC entity, but also the first contact that I've had on 12m since December 2006!