Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yes.....I'm still around!

Well…..hmmm, let’s see, over six months since a post....egad! When I started this blog last March, I promised myself I would try for a new post once a week. That schedule was maintained fairly well through the spring and summer, but then ran afoul in the fall. Truth is, I’m a busy guy! Work and family concerns, especially during the fall and winter months, mean much less time spent hammin’.

It’s May now. Ironically, summer isn’t exactly prime time for traditional HF contacts as the longer daylight hours means less good DX opportunities, especially on bands above 20 meters. Alas, that’s when things at work back off a bit for me and I have a little more time for RF pursuits.

For my throngs of readers out there in the Blogosphere (okay I’ve probably lost everyone with the posting drought, but maybe someone will stumble upon it from one of the hotlinks out there), here are what few radio highlights I’ve had since last fall.

Christmas DX to the North Pole
My little '2nd harmonic' Kaden (turning the big 0-5 in a few weeks!) had a contact with Santa Claus back in December. We even used his callsign VA3KDN for the occasion. No he doesn’t hold the Guinness record for being the youngest licenced amateur radio operator (who is the youngest licenced tot anyway?), Daddy decided to get an auxiliary callsign a few years ago that kinda works with his name. Should he actually want to pursue his ticket down the road, I can transfer the call to him. He may very well not be interested in the hobby (my older son didn’t take much of a shine to it), but imprinting positive ham radio experiences at a young age like a talk with big guy at the North Pole can’t hurt! Kudos to the guys with the ONTARS net who make this very special contact possible every year for many young hammies.

I did manage to spend the odd half-hour here and there making a few contest contacts. The bands were swarming with QRM in March as one of the “biggies” took place…the ARRL DX contest, SSB version. What was the most often heard expression on the air for this one?... “5-9 Kilowatt” I don’t know why the H-E-double hockey sticks I bother with these contests. With a mere 100 watts into a wire, the frustration level often runs high. But every so often, my pip-squeak signal manages to find its was through the ether to a far off land. If lucky, I won’t have to repeat my call sign ten times using every variation on phonetics I can think of…. “Negative, it’s Victor’s Eating 3 Crazy Hamsters!" Then, or course, getting my 5-9 signal report (err, why did I have to clarify my call and exchange 18 times then?). I particularly enjoyed working those seemingly few DX stations that were running just 100 watts (kindred spirits!). Most of the time their signals were maybe S3 or 5 (yes…I gave them a 5-9!), but in most cases they probably had the advantage of a decent directional antenna.

CW vs. Phone & special calls
I’m starting to prefer the CW contests, where it seems I have a much easier time making contacts, although I desperately need a better CW filter than the stock one that’s in my little FT-897.

Hopefully I’ll be able to spare a little time for the Continuous Wave version of the WPX contest coming up later this month. I don’t think there are any special prefixes available to Canadian hams this year. Last year I signed as XM3CH. Actually in the SSB WPX recently I made a handful of contacts as VG3KDN (borrowed the kid’s call!). The special prefix was to commemorate the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Managed to miss the Ontario QSO Party in mid April due to a family commitment. I used to really enjoy this contest, but haven’t seriously taken part in the past few years. I think it was 2002 when I actually managed to scoop the award for my county. Then again, I think I was one of maybe three stations on from ‘HAS’ (Hastings County).

I did a presentation recently at our local ham club on EchoLink. I operate an EchoLink simplex link at the college’s amateur station VE3ALC. It’s been on the air a little over a year now only a few of the local hams had checked it out. Of course with EchoLink you can operate directly from your computer. The local simplex node is usually connected to a small network of other links and repeaters in the greater Toronto area, Niagara region and even to a couple of repeaters in British Columbia. All you need to do is key the mic on the local 2-meter frequency on which I have it operating…and every once in a blue moon, someone will actually come back to you! I’ve noted from the systems electronic log that there have been some interesting users connecting from places like Hong Kong and Indonesia…places I can only dream of working on HF! Unfortunately these stations were connecting in the middle of the night local time, so I doubt that they got a response to any call.

That’ll do it for now. I could go on, but I’ll save that for another post which should appear quicker than it took for this one. Thanks for checking in and happy hamming!

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