Watches, Warnings & Advisories for Sunflower Co.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Operating Notes, 31 Jan 2012

On The Air:
National & Regional
I participated briefly in the ARRL RTTY Roundup on January 7.  I don't really get into contests, but will give participants a reply to improve their scores. Fifty-two contacts were logged in about 2.5 hours of operations.  The most distant contact was S53M, the Murska radio club in Murska, Slovenia, 5282 miles away.

The Central Mississippi Skywarn HF net ran its first formal net on January 5, 2012, and gathered a host of check-ins from across the state.  The purpose of the net is to expand the reporting area for the Jackson National Weather Service office.  Weather reports for the 40 or so miles around Jackson are relayed in using local repeaters, but reports from further away were few and far between.  The Skywarn HF net will meet on the first Thursday of each month at 7:00pm.

Be sure to mark your calendars for March 3, 2012.  The kids at the Olde Towne Middle School's Amateur Radio & Technology Club in Ridgeland, MS will launch their second high-altitude balloon project, and would appreciate you monitoring their HF telemetry beacon and sending them the data.  I monitored their launch last year, and it is really neat to see them put their science lessons into practice.  In addition to telemetry, they're considering adding an experiment to test the viability of microbes grown on petri dishes for exposure to the deep cold and high ultraviolet environment of near-space.  Visit their website for mission planning updates, and a link to download the proper telemetry reporting software.  They also have a Twitter account that you can follow.  Good luck, Titans!

Here's their QSL card for the 2011 mission.

Around the Station:
Working on these Operating Notes for the past couple of months has brought to my attention the fact that operating an amateur radio station entails far more than being on the air.  Maintenance of station logs and documentation, management of QSL cards and Logbook of The World, general equipment/antenna maintenance...all of those things that take place off-the-air.  Not only do those activities need attention for obvious purposes, spending time on each one makes for a better operator.  One of my goals for 2012 was to bring my logbook up to 1000 contacts.  That won't be easy if I don't keep a close eye on my logbook and the data it contains.  In future Operating Notes, I'll briefly explore some of the various ancillary functions of good station operations.

An experimental Echolink node under my callsign is being tried on 147.420 MHz simplex.  I've not convinced myself that it will be a permanent addition to the station, but the possibility exists.  It would be useful to link into other portions of the state for weather nets.  I picked up an Icom IC-2350H for a great price at the Jackson, MS Hamfest this month.  It was bought with the intention of being the Echolink radio, but the dual-band and crossband capabilities means it might find a home in my truck instead.  I also picked up a Blue Star Antennas dual-band aluminum J-pole to go with it at the shack.

Speaking of weather nets, January saw our first severe weather outbreak of 2012, which is highly unusual for a winter month.  We opened a weather net that ran for about 6 hours on January 22, with twelve stations in five counties participating.  Initial forecasts called for a moderate severe weather event.  Not much rain fell, but at least one EF-2 tornado affected the far northern portion of Bolivar County, resulting in one injury.  For a short time during this net, we linked a series of repeaters but technical issues required us to break the links.

My primary goal for 2012, bringing my logbook up to 1000 contacts means I'll need to log around 435 contacts this year.  For January, 97 contacts have been recorded....338 left to go!  I've plotted various state QSO parties on my calendar, as well as a few contests to help in reaching my goal.

On the subject of contacts and QSL/logbook local logbook shows I've got a contact in each state, but my Logbook of The World needs just two states confirmed to gain the Worked All States basic award.  Oklahoma and Montana....anyone out there reading this?  While we're on awards, I'm waiting on a couple of QSL cards to come in so I can complete the paperwork for Worked All Continents.

I recently read some articles about "lx-peditions", the local variant of DXpeditions - operating from remote geographic locations.  K4WK has a quick description of what an LxPedition is.  Basically it's operating portable from a nearby location of you choosing, purely for the experience of remote operations.  On the weekend of January 14, I had a chance to do an LxPedition.  Friday evening was spent packing up the transmitter, antenna, generator, paper logs, and other miscellaneous things that would be useful while working outdoors.  I planned to operate from Grid Square EM53bl, on some land my family owns.  All went well until the generator refused to crank.  Note to self: test ALL equipment before taking off for a remote spot!  The power issue was quickly resolved though, pulling 12 volts from my truck.  The morning's weather started out cool but bearable.  But within a couple of hours' time, increasing winds made the cold less than bearable for a quick field-portable setup.  Having made no contacts (more on that next), I rolled up the wire and called it a day.  My first LxPedition yielded no contacts.  I stayed around 20 meters, calling CQ for a while, then dialing around to see if anyone else was hunting for contacts.  What I did find, though, were a lot of nets.  Nets calling for early check-ins for an hour before their net time, or nets with four or five participants going on for an hour or more.  I have nothing against nets, and routinely participate in several around Mississippi.  But I'm used to nets that convene, take care of business, and close down.  We don't tie up the bands for extended amounts of time praying for the ether to give us check-ins for an hour before the nets starts, nor going around the table again and again for another comment from the half-dozen folks on the net.  Maybe I'm used to quick, concise nets.  Or maybe it's that most of my on-air time is late afternoon and evening and I miss out on the morning nets.  Either way, Amateur Radio has lots of different aspects to enjoy, and these nets were filling their niche.  I'll just plan my future LxPeditions better.  I'm not sure when I'll try another, but I'll definitely do one or two before summertime.  Grid EM54bl will be back on the target list, and EM53eg will be too.  I mentioned that I didn't make any contacts, but it wasn't a total loss.  Here's the view I had (let the sweet sounds of Beethoven's 9th - Ode to Joy fill your thoughts):

QSL Cards Received
ZL3NB (New Zealand)

QSL Cards Going Out

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