Showing posts from 2015

An iron rod...

An iron rod being placed on the outside of a building from the highest part continued down into the moist earth, in any direction strait or crooked, following the form of the roof or other parts of the building, will receive the lightning at its upper end, attracting it so as to prevent it's striking any other part; and, affording it a good conveyance into the earth, will prevent its damaging any part of the building. -- Benjamin Franklin

Project: Pico Paso Kit - Light Controlled Analog Noise Machine

We attended the 2015 Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo, California back in June 2015.  It was a day filled with amazement and wonderful creativity.  It was one big show and tell event.

As you would expect, there were plenty of great kits for sale and we picked up a few including the Pico Paso by Bleep Labs.  The Pico Paso kit is a light controlled analog noise machine and is based on the Atari Punk Synth concept.  It is powered by a 9V battery.

Kit assembly was straightforward with only a small number of components in the circuitry.  The Pico Paso kit is suitable for beginner builders.  The only trouble we had during soldering was when we inadvertently installed the audio jack on the wrong side of the board.  A quick desoldering followed by a reinstallation of the jack on the proper side of the board resolved the issue.  It does indeed help to follow the kit instructions as this was plainly explained.

This is a fun little kit to build and play with after construction.  We fed the 1/4&…

So your dog has been skunked?

Northern California is home to one of the most beautifully groomed skunk populations anywhere.  The skunks here tend to be big, healthy, and beautiful with long shiny black coats.  They prance around the area with confidence and poise of runway models (yes, exactly like Pepi Le Pew).

 Northern Californian skunks go wherever they please which includes fenced in backyards occupied by big dogs.  Apparently their defense makes them fearless.  Perhaps they just enjoy spreading a little holiday joy to their canine friends.

There is nothing quite like discovering at midnight that your dog has had a close encounter of the 1st kind with a skunk.  Fresh noxious skunk fumes are breathtaking.  The odor is a cross between a hot sulfuric fumarole and burning rubber tires.  It is such a strong chemical odor that it doesn't immediately smell like a skunk.  9 out 10 Northern California pet owners prefer the delicate scent of a volcanic bubbling hot sulphuric acid fumarole to that of a freshly skun…

Maxwell's theory...

Maxwell's theory is Maxwell's system of equations. -- Heinrich Hertz

Always been ahead of my time...

It seems that I have always been ahead of my time. I had to wait nineteen years before Niagara was harnessed by my system, fifteen years before the basic inventions for wireless which I gave to the world in 1893 were applied universally. -- Nikola Tesla

Funny Magnets

Q: What did the male magnet say to the female magnet?
A: From your backside, I thought you were repulsive. However, after seeing you from the front, I find you rather attractive.

Bad light...

Q: Where does bad light end up?
A: In a prism.

First electricity detective?

Q: What is the name of the first electricity detective?
A: Sherlock Ohms

The ocean is made of waves...

An ocean traveller has even more vividly the impression that the ocean is made of waves than that it is made of water. — Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington

Vintage Fender Champ Amplifier Restoration

We have been using a weathered looking vintage Fender Champ "silverface" guitar tube amplifier ever since it was given to us by a friend a few years ago.  It had acquired innumerable cosmetic warts and battle scars over the decades as well as a set of extremely dirty/noisy potentiometers and input jacks.  The issues all seemed manageable and we decided this great little amp was worthy of restoration.

Planning the Restoration Our objective for the restoration was to return the amplifier to its original function and beauty. We made a list of the restoration work that we intended to perform:

Replace electrical power plug - connector pulled away from the outer insulationReplace speaker grill - original color had faded, dirty, puncturesClean the Fender logo - minor corrosion, dirtyClean the knobs and panel face - dirtyReplace the black Tolex - dirty, several large damaged areasClean all hardware - corrosion and dirtyClean inside of cabinet - dust bunnies and layers of dirtReplace …

Notably to electrons...

After long reflection in solitude and meditation, I suddenly had the idea, during the year 1923, that the discovery made by Einstein in 1905 should be generalised by extending it to all material particles and notably to electrons. — Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie

Bad times...

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Morse on Patent Defence

I have been so constantly under the necessity of watching the movements of the most unprincipled set of pirates I have ever known, that all my time has been occupied in defense, in putting evidence into something like legal shape that I am the inventor of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph.
From a letter to his brother describing the challenge of defending his patents (19 Apr 1848).

— Samuel F. B. Morse

DX Technique: Persistence

We have all been there.  You are calling and calling on HF with no reply.  You then start to wonder, "Is anyone receiving me?"  Perhaps you may even begin to doubt your signal is making past your properly line, "Is my signal going anywhere?"

CQ, CQ, CQ, ...
Faced with this type of doubt many hams simply turn the dial or switch bands.  After all, if your signal is going nowhere then why bother?  However, does abandoning the frequency as a strategy make sense if your signal is actually being heard in desirable DX locales?  As in life, good things (i.e. good DX) come to those who are persistent.

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." -- Thomas A. Edison

Often the key to unlocking your own personal power of persistence is information.  Information can remove the uncertainty and doubt and help us make an informed choice to stay or move from a frequency.  In the age of the Internet, we now h…

What God Hath Wrought

What God Hath Wrought. Message transmitted to inaugurate the first U.S. telegraph line (24 May 1844). The biblical text, from Numbers, 23:23, was selected by Annie Ellsworth, daughter of the Commissioner of Patents.   — Samuel F. B. Morse

NJ2X's Centennial Points Challenge Award Arrives!

I was very excited to receive my ARRL Centennial Points Challenge award this week.

I rather like the design of the award certificate with the Hartford, CT skyline in the background.  I earned the Level 3 award with my final score of 9,746 points.  Not too shabby considering that I was unable to operate for most of the first 6 months of 2014.

The ARRL President (Kay Craigie) signed the award and also contributed quite a few points via our contacts.  It was always great fun to hear her on the air working the pileup.

The ARRL Centennial Points Challenge is one of my very favorite contests of all time.  May of us wish there would be a similar contest in the future.  I hope we don't have to wait until 2114 though.


Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Completed DXCC on Phone

I was very excited to see that my QSO's (17m and 20m SSB) with the DX Expedition E51MKW (North Cook Islands on the Manihiki Atoll) were confirmed today.  Propagation was very poor.  However, the expedition team did a stellar job in pulling stations out of the noise.  I am very impressed and pleased on how quickly the team uploaded their contacts to the Logbook of the World (LoTW).  The Manihiki Atoll is magnificent.  I am considering adding a visit there to my bucket list.

This was the final contact (number 100) I needed to complete my ARRL DXCC Phone award.  All contacts were completed using wire antennas with 100 Watts of power.  Looking forward to receiving the certificate and add another to the shack walls.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

First telephone conversation over outdoor wires

On this day (October 9) in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson conducted the first two-way telephone conversation over outdoor wires using telegraph line between Boston and East Cambridge.

The most incomprehensible thing...

The most incomprehensible thing about our universe is that it can be comprehended. -- Albert Einstein

50th Running California QSO Party

Be sure to join in the fun on October 3-4, 2015 with the Clifornia QSO Party.  The QSO part starts at 1600 UTC October 3, 2015 and ends 220 UTC October 4, 2015.

There is a way to qualify for a really cool looking Gold Rush Commemorative Coin.  Check out for complete rules and information.

Hope to hear on the air.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Two things...

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.  -- Hippocrates

Finished 20 Meters WAS award from California

Thanks to AB1NJ in Vermont today, we completed the WAS award for 20 Meters (from California) with a JT-65 contact.

Chasing ARRL awards is good fun.  Awards also encourage radio amateurs to stay active which is good for the hobby.  The LoTW makes it easy to keep track of all the contacts for the various awards.  Looking for the next award which will likely be Phone DXCC.  So many interesting and challenging choices...

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Hiram Percy Maxim Award Recipient Anna Veal, W0ANT

Sunday's are a perfect day for reflection and inspiration.  We were inspired today by Anna Veal, W0ANT, who is the 2015 Hiram Percy Maxim Award Recipient.  This article also appears in the October 2015 edition of QST on page 82.  If you haven't read the article then do yourself a favor and read it now.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Basic research...

Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing. — Wernher von Braun

Who invented ferrite?

Who invented magnetic core material known as ferrite?
Dr. Takeshi Takei from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, discovered zinc and iron oxides have special magnetic properties.Professors Kato and Takei applied for a patent in Japan in 1930 for their discovery of oxide magnetic core materials which was granted in 1932.Tokyo Denki Kagaku Kogyo (now known as TDK Corporation) was founded in 1935 to commercialize ferrite cores.  TDK is still making ferrite cores today.Philips applied for a patent in The Netherlands in 1941 for ferrite.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Using a Diamond HV7A Mobile Antenna as a stealth base antenna

We recently had need for a multiband stealthy antenna covering 70cm, 2m, 6m, 10m, and 20m.  The stealth requirement meant that the antenna had to be near invisible on a rooftop as seen from the ground level.  After evaluating our options (beam, traditional full-size base vertical, wire) we were unsatisfied.  None of the choices seem to meet the prime criteria of invisibility.

This prompted us to consider the use of a multiband mobile antenna which tend to be constructed with a minimal profile.  We eventually settled on the Diamond HV7A as it offered multiband coverage that met our needs in a rather stealthy package.

We mounted the antenna on our rooftop and it was amazingly difficult to see from the ground level.  This was exactly what we had hoped for in terms of physical appearance.  We have been satisfied with the HV7A though performance as a stealthy base antenna is a compromise due to its intended purpose as a mobile antenna.

 Antenna_BandFrequency Coverage RangeVertical Antenna G…

A few favorite free amateur radio iPhone iOS 8 Apps and Podcasts

The iPhone is one our favorite technologies.  It is so amazingly useful.  The iPhone is also an outstanding platform for amateur radio applications.  Here are a few of our favorite free amateur radio apps on our iPhone running iOS 8.

QSTEchoLinkRepeaterBookQRZWSPR watch

The Apple Podcasts application provides yet another vehicle for enjoying amateur radio through ham radio oriented shows.  Here is our list of favorite Podcasts programs:
Ham NationARRL Audio NewsAmateur Radio QSO ShowAmateur Radio NewslineQSO Today

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Vacationing on a motorcycle...

“You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

The real purpose of the scientific method...

“The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Sometimes it's a little better to...

“Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Program that HT and get on the air!

An HT or handy-talkie, isn't of much use if you don't use it.  Perhaps it could be an unusual paperweight or interesting desk ornament.  They do look nice sitting on the desk in the shack in a sad inert, powered off, dust-collecting way.  Our two Kenwood TH-F6A HT's were mostly idle due to having relocated across the country to California.

The radio memories had been programmed chock-full-o-stations located on the East Coast (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and the Easter Seaboard).  None of the repeaters in the radio memory were accessible from California.  Lack of useful programming was main reason our HT's weren't getting used.  Turn on the radio and there was simply no way to contact anyone other than via simplex communication.

The Kenwood TH-F6A is a compact and very capable radio.  It transmits 5W on 144/220/440 MHz and includes a wide-band receiver.  You can really pack the radio's memory with stations given its 435 PC programmable memories.  The ra…

The act of getting there...

It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not the possession of but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. ― Carl Friedrich Gauss

Plan of the universe...

There cannot be a language more universal and more simple, more free from errors and obscurities...more worthy to express the invariable relations of all natural things [than mathematics]. [It interprets] all phenomena by the same language, as if to attest the unity and simplicity of the plan of the universe, and to make still more evident that unchangeable order which presides over all natural causes” ― Joseph Fourier


With me, everything turns into mathematics. ― René Descartes

All things in nature...

But in my opinion, all things in nature occur mathematically. ― René Descartes

We came in peace for all mankind...

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind. — Neil Armstrong (Plaque left on the moon, July 20, 1969)

The hardest arithmetic...

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. -- Eric Hoffer

Trying to be tall...

Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others. — Paramhansa Yogananda

Celebrated by pomp and parade...

"I believe that it (Independence Day) will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival... it ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..." -- John Adams

John Adams probably wouldn't have minded extending his list by adding, "ham radio".  Happy Independence Day!  Let the bells of freedom ring.

Divine madness...

Let us grant that the pursuit of mathematics is a divine madness of the human spirit, a refuge from the goading urgency of contingent happenings. -- Alfred North Whitehead

If it is clumsy...

The traditional mathematician recognizes and appreciates mathematical elegance when he sees it. I propose to go one step further, and to consider elegance an essential ingredient of mathematics: if it is clumsy, it is not mathematics. -- Edsger Dijkstra

Things people know that ain't so...

I could never accept findings based almost exclusively on mathematics. It ain't ignorance that causes all the trouble in this world.  It's the things people know that ain't so. -- Edwin Armstrong

One of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics...

Programming is one of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics; the poorer mathematicians had better remain pure mathematicians. -- Edsger Dijkstra

No such thing...

There should be no such thing as boring mathematics. -- Edsger Dijkstra

The art of proposing a question...

In mathematics the art of proposing a question must be held of higher value than solving it. -- Georg Cantor

The music of reason

Mathematics is the music of reason. -- James Joseph Sylvester

Follow the advice of Plato...

If I were again beginning my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with mathematics. -- Galileo Galilei

The poetry of logical ideas

Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. -- Albert Einstein

Truth in science...

Truth in science can be defined as the working hypothesis best suited to open the way to the next better one. -- Konrad Lorenz

Santa Cruz Mineral and Gem Society - Annual Mineral, Fossil, Gem, & Jewelry Show

Santa Cruz Mineral and Gem Society 
Annual Mineral, Fossil, Gem, & Jewelry Show
Saturday & Sunday, April 25-26, 2015 
10:00 am - 5:00 pm 
Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium (corner of Center & Church)

Scouts in uniform are free!

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Science gathers knowledge faster than...

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. -- Isaac Azimov

Science has not yet mastered prophecy...

Science has not yet mastered prophecy. We predict too much for the next year and yet far too little for the next 10. -- Neil Armstrong

The waves broke and spread...

“The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Nearly 1,000 light years

The strongest signals leaking off our planet are radar transmissions, not television or radio. The most powerful radars, such as the one mounted on the Arecibo telescope (used to study the ionosphere and map asteroids) could be detected with a similarly sized antenna at a distance of nearly 1,000 light-years. -- Seth Shostak

Neon signs...

Neon signs don't consume much power, but they look like they do. A cousin of fluorescent lighting, neon is actually quite energy efficient.  A neon tube glows coolly when high-voltage, low-amperage electrical power excites the gas within it. -- Virginia Postrel

The grammar of science...

Statistics is the grammar of science. -- Karl Pearson

Gravitation, does it require time?

But when we face the great questions about gravitation Does it require time? Is it polar to the 'outside of the universe' or to anything? Has it any reference to electricity? or does it stand on the very foundation of matter–mass or inertia? then we feel the need of tests, whether they be comets or nebulae or laboratory experiments or bold questions as to the truth of received opinions.  -- James Clerk Maxwell

Setting the electric fluid in motion...

...each metal has a certain power, which is different from metal to metal, of setting the electric fluid in motion...  -- Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta

It is character

Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character. -- Albert Einstein

Goodbye Radio Shack

If you haven't heard already, the US retailer Radio Shack has entered into bankruptcy.  It is sad to see a  94-year-old electronics company fail and for hams, it is especially sad to see a company falter that played a significant role in amateur radio.  It has been a steady decline so the bankruptcy is no surprise.  It appeared inevitable long ago.

Radio Shack started in Boston in the 1920's and grew into a nationwide icon with 4,300 stores.  For radio amateurs, Radio Shack was a familiar source of electronic components, housings, kits, electronics tools, antennas, coaxial cable, connectors, scanners, and HF receivers and transceivers.  For many, Radio Shack was their only local source for electronic components.

The Internet changed everything and being a local source of electronic components seems to have lost its relevancy along the way.  Creative destruction is the phrase often used to describe the effects of the invisible hand at work in the free market.  Business failure…

Understand the universe...

If you wish to understand the universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration. -- Nicola Tesla

Gravitation is not responsible...

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love -- Albert Einstein

Happy Valentines Day!

Learn from yesterday...

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning. -- Albert Einstein

Drives me hazy...

A question that sometimes drives me hazy:
am I or are the others crazy? -- Albert Einstein

Voyaging through strange seas of thought...

And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.

— William Wordsworth

Everyone is a moon...

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody. -- Mark Twain

Travel one, ten, or a thousand miles, or even to California...

What would you think of a Universe in which you could travel one, ten, or a thousand miles, or even to California, and then find it came to an end? Even if you were to go millions and millions of miles, the idea of coming to an end is still incomprehensible. -- Lord Kelvin

It is not really the fish...

In this season of New Year's resolutions here is a little Thoreau to consider...

Some men fish all their lives without knowing it is not really the fish they are after. -- Henry David Thoreau

Happy New Year and Good DX,


ARRL Kids Day - January 4, 2015

It is time for the semi-annual ARRL Kids Day event (January 4, 2015).  Kids Day is designed to promote Amateur Radio to our youth and presents a wonderful opportunity for hams to share the magic of radio with their kids or grandchildren, a Scout troop, or a church youth group.

Kids Day gives youth an on-the-air experience and may even foster on-going interest and becoming licensed. It also gives adult hams a chance to share their station and love for Amateur Radio with their children. We radio amateurs to listen for those Kids Day participants and answer their calls and be extra patient and encouraging.
Good DX and 73, NJ2X

NJ2X's QSL/QSO Ratio for 2014

With the arrival of the New Year, it is time for our annual measurement of our QSL/QSO LoTW ratio.

201320142015DeltaQSO355639554745790QSL148617802338558QSL/QSO Ratio42%45%49%4%
As we write this on January 1, 2015, there are 72,697 ham registered with LoTW (increase of  17,947 users over this time 1 year ago) and our QSL/QSO LoTW ratio is at 49%.  Our prediction of our QSL/QSO LoTW ratio would increase in time continues to hold true with a 4% increase from last year's measurement.  We attribute this increase to having more hams join in the LoTW fun by becoming LoTW subscribers and uploading their logs.

Additionally, we spent a good of our operating activity this year working on the ARRL Centennial QSO Party.  These contacts would have a strong bias for LoTW subscribers which would also account for some portion of the increase in our QSL/QSO LoTW ratio.

The LoTW is an excellent example of network economics in action.  The more hams that subscribe to the LoTW and submit their logs t…