Strange Times

It’s eerie at work this week. Normally, we have a steady flow of customers in and out of the shop, all having some sort of communications difficulty. This week, I think I can count the number of visitors on the fingers of one hand … the Coronavirus is definitely affecting business. Traffic is noticeably lighter when I head home after work, and it’s odd seeing all the empty restaurant parking lots.

I’d much rather be at home, isolating myself. My wife and daughter are both at home this week, due to their workplaces being closed. I’m in the at-risk group … chronic illnesses, over 66, etc. But since I’m working in the public-safety field, I’m considered “essential personnel.”

FT-modes have been pretty busy this week. I’ve worked a lot of Europeans. I’ve seen quite a few Asian stations, but haven’t managed to work any. I check the spotting page for POTA frequently, and see lots of posts, but when I go to the indicated frequency … nada! Forty and twenty meters are not being cooperative for CW and SSB.

Today is the first day of Spring, and the temperatures are supposed to climb into the mid-seventies, but it’s still gray and dreary-looking outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the eighties … maybe Spring is actually here?

73 de Dick N4BC

Random Thoughts

It’s a beautiful day outside … sunshine, but a little chilly (41 deg F) and breezy. The prior couple of days have been wet and cold. The folks north of us have been “blessed” with a major winter storm. I don’t envy them!

Tonight is our annual Radio club Holiday Banquet. This year it’s a potluck with the clubs (PARC and SPARK) supplying the fried chicken and all us attendees bringing a side dish or dessert. Last year’s party was mass confusion due to a mix up about the restaurant reservations. This year it was decided to have a self-catered meal.

I was off work all last week. As usual I had a list of things to accomplish and never got around to any of the items. There were lots of POTA activations, but most were not even copyable at my QTH. I could hear hunters giving them reports, but for me … NADA! I did work a few, and my unique park count is now up to 216.

I’ve been concentrating on the FT4/8 modes and had reasonable success with contacts there. JS8 has upgraded to version 2.0 with some new features, so I’ve been looking at that mode a bit harder. Then too, I’ve been playing with my new RSP-1A SDR receiver. It’s fascinating tuning through the shortwave bands and listening to what’s there.

I’ve also been working on a few FEMA certifications. They’re not only applicable for my job, but also for ham radio stuff like SKYWARN and ARES. I had completed most of them years ago, but couldn’t confirm it, so I’ve been working my way through the training and tests again.

73 de Dick N4BC

Memorial Day Weekend

What a wonderful weekend! The weather was nice, there was lots of activity on the bands (CQ WW WPX CW Contest), and Monday was my 25th wedding anniversary. I didn’t work the CW contest, though … I DID spend a considerable amount of time chasing POTA activations, though.

Saturday and Sunday I made a total of 30 contacts with parks, using different modes and different bands … SSB, CW, and even one FT8! Fourteen of those contacts were with Sean, KX9X … he was on a marathon run to activate as many Connecticut parks as possible. The man’s a machine, cranking out the QSOs. I have worked 83 unique parks so far, in 20 different states, and really enjoy the hunt!

Monday, I took the day off from radio. I thought about rearranging the shack, but decided to just laze around. The XYL cooked up a feast of BBQ chicken (with her secret vinegar-based BBQ sauce), green beans, fried squash, potato casserole, and pickled beets (all the veggies were fresh, from a local produce stand). I spent that afternoon reading and watching YouTube videos. Just a relaxing, laid back day. It needed to be, after a meal like that!

Unfortunately, today is back to work! Since I was off Friday through Monday, there was a bit waiting for me. It’s about 9 now (I come to work at 6), and I’ve just about got my head above water again 😀 !!

73 de Dick N4BC

A Day Off …

I took a day off from work today. I’ve built up 455 hours of vacation time, and I can only carry over 400 to the next fiscal year, which begins August 1st, so I’ll be burning a few hours now and then. It wouldn’t disappear, though … they just move the excess into my sick leave account.

I slept in, and then got up and took lunch to my wife at work and spent some time with her. I returned home and turned on the rig. Nasty sounds! We had an electrical storm while I was with the wife, and there’re still more thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon and evening. The bands were so bad, I even went out and checked my antenna.

I disconnected the feedline and radials at the base and carried the UnUn into the shack, where I disassembled and checked it. It looks OK inside, so I buffed up the outside connections and reconnected everything. The bands are still crappy, but I have a lot more confidence in it not being antenna connections now.

There’s nothing spectacular going on radio-wise in my shack. I’m still pursuing POTA Activators, and still regularly working FT8 contacts. Same ol’ same ol’.

73 de Dick N4BC


It was a pretty good Friday at work, actually. We had out Shop Holiday Party and the boss paid for everybody’s lunch. It was a a buffet restaurant, and I subsequently fell into a food coma! Honestly, I always eat too much when it’s laid out like that. Anyway, we were given the afternoon off afterwards, so I went home and immediately took a nap to sleep off the food overdose!

Later on, I woke up and flipped on the rig and checked out the bands. Not very exciting … quite noisy and weak signals. I tuned around 30 meters and found FY5FY in French Guiana, Didier, calling CQ. One call to him and he was in the log. He was literally the only CW signal I was hearing on that band.

I dropped down to 60 meters and saw some FT8 activity, so I called CQ, and had QSOs with California, Florida, and Poland … the Polish station was really marginal, but finally in the log.

Stations hearing me on Sixty meters

There was good activity on 80 meters CW and FT8, but I didn’t have good luck there. My vertical loads perfectly through my tuner on 80, but it’s really short (31 feet), and not an efficient radiator. With good conditions, it works well enough, but in these current conditions, it’s hit or miss sometimes.

So that’s my Friday. I’ve got a busy weekend with several holiday concerts to attend, and Sunday afternoon, a friend and I are replacing the driver’s side window on my truck. It was frozen shut one morning and I cranked it a bit too forcefully. Lesson learned! It’s forecast to be cold and rainy all weekend, so maybe I’ll get on sometime.

73 & Happy Holidays de N4BC