About to gear up for the new contest season

It’s been a few weeks since my last QSO. You know: that dreaded warm December with it’s never ending rain and strong winds. Of course the weather changes for the better when the weeks with lots of free time are over and tower is down and the low band wires coiled up hanging over a tree branch. Same with propagation it seems. Solar flux went a lot higher than in December.

In the mean time I’ve been doing some chores around the house. Freezing cold and in the snow. YES – we have snow now. And it doesn’t melt. Which means we have a real winter. At least to Belgian standards: temperatures between -8 and -2, and last week I saw -14 °C one morning. And a few centimetres of snow. In fact the layer of white stuff is thickening as we speak: it’s been snowing for a few hours straight now. I hope it lasts a few weeks because the alternative for a real winter is rain and wind when it’s too hot in January/February. It’s either Arctic with some sun and no wind, or Atlantic with 10°, rain and wind.

Doing the work outside in the cold isn’t a problem in itself. It’s just that plastics become brittle and cables become stiff. I’ve been installing outside lighting and movement detectors. Don’t ask why I don’t do that in summer. So you need to take care when installing devices housed in a plastic case. The clips are so brittle they break easily. Inside I’ve been spending quite a few hours with the Netduino board again as you can read in the previous post.

January usually means zero ham radio except for the last weekend. Yes, next week it’s UBA DX SSB again. It’ll be a busy week gearing up. The shack is a mess. I need to sort out the cluttered desk. And finally install the KPA control cable on the Elecraft amp. Oh yeah, I received a detailed calculation for the rip-off fee from Belgian customs. It seems the handling fee is also subject to VAT. In one word: screwed! I also need to set up the log checking software for the email acceptance. I made two new POP3 boxes last week and had the UBA log submission address relayed to my mail server. One day later the brand new account contained a bunch of Russian spam already! Google Translate told me a Russian dude was offering cheap real estate with building permits as a great business opportunity. I wonder what other pots of gold I threw in the thrash bin.

Maybe I should try to reconnect the RX loop again? I first and last used it in CQ WW CW. I need to find a permanent place for it, and find a way to route the coax and rotator cable to it so that it’s not too visible and most of all out of reach for the lawnmower as well as the XYL who uses it. Putting it back up this week might be a fun job in the snow. The snow itself is not the problem, it’s just that it covers huge mole heaps I might trip over. There is an overactive mole digging its way through the garden. And it mocks my futile attempts to trap it. Maybe I can play in the CQ 160 CW contest once again at night when the UBA SSB contest comes to a halt? The tower is up anyway and the 160 wire is still connected to the 80m part of the dual band antenna. The RX loop should enhance the fun in the 160m contest. We’ll see how the work evolves.

So you see: all quiet on the ham front. For now. Because in a few weeks, there is a streak of contests I just have to participate in: ARRL CW, UBA CW, ARRL SSB (optionally but I’d love to), RDXC and CQ WPX SSB. Five contests in seven weekends. And then there’s a bunch of my friends going to Burundi as 9U4U. It’s starting to itch again. QRZ?

As a closing note, just to show how smart spambots have become. The following message was caught in the comment section’s spambox. It is  genuine ham lingo although not about one of my postings. Yet the URL associated with the sender would lead you to an online gaming site.

I can appreciate the fun and interesting aspects of QRP, even though I have no interest in it myself. I see why building a tuna tin type rig and using it to make dx contacts would be cool for some people, but as in anything, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about qrp. Right: Mostly cw, or some digital mode, short qsos, mostly on the higher bands and whenever possible, with gain antennas (yagis, quads, phased towers with lots of radials). Wrong: Low bands, 20 db over 9 QRN, operating phone with 5 w. and a mobile antenna on 75 m., then launching into a 10 m. transmission as if I’m sitting back cooling out with armchair copy. Trying to convert all hamdom to qrp, calling for a fcc ban on amps, telling me I never need to tx more than 100 w. I politely attempt to answer all who call me (I operate the low bands 95% of the time) and at least give a signal report, but there are times on the low bands when 100 or 200 w. isn’t enough, and getting on there on phone with an IC703 and whip antenna….please, get a reality check. There are things to appreciate about QRO too by the way. 3-500s, heliax, vac. variables, dahl transformers, Cardwell roller inductors, ceramic silver contact rotary switches…these are beautiful things also.

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