Last Chance Hammin'

Perhaps that's a bit melodramatic, but my time for operating and homebrewing is going to be severely curtailed very soon. Baby Boy Milldrum will be arriving any day now (the estimated due date is July 22) and we're in full-blown panic mode as we finish the last minute preparations to get the baby's room ready, make sure we have all of the assorted baby stuff that's needed, and take care of those homeowner chores that need to be done for the summer. So I figured that I should take some free moments to enjoy the hobby while I can. Sometimes I feel like every blog post here should have some really meaty and meaningful content, but perhaps that inhibits me from posting more than a few times a month. So prepare for this post and many of my future posts to cater a bit more to the short attention span crowd. I'll have to get my ham radio in small doses whenever I can, so expect a bit of ADD to set into the blog for a while.

Anyway, my inbox has been blowing up with DX Sherlock alerts telling me that 6 meters has been open most evenings over the last few weeks. I finally broke down and dug out the Buddipole components on Friday so I could try to snag a few QSOs on 50 MHz. I managed to grab a few SSB QRP QSOs with the FT-817 into VE4 and VE6-land on Friday night using the Buddipole in a simple dipole configuration. The band was in great shape that night, as I could hear a lot of East Coast stations coming in quite strong via multihop Es. On Saturday, I tried to work CW QRP on 50.096 MHz but had zero success even after calling CQ many, many times. The band was open and there was still plenty of activity on the SSB portion of the band, but CW was a bust. Come on CW ops, we've got to do better than this.

I still managed to make it a interesting ham radio night. After packing in the gear from the back deck, I went into the shack, flipped on the HF rig, and checked 20 meters (just around sunset local time). Very soon I stumbled upon the legendary Martti, OH2BH calling US West Coast stations. After a quick tune-up, I was able to snag him within about 4 calls. He was absolutely booming into Beaverton (by the sounds of it, he was booming into the entire western portion of the US). This was my first QSO with Martti and was memorable to be sure.

Moving on to a more unpleasant topic, am I the only one who things that most of the ham mailing lists are dying of a creeping mediocrity and groupthink mentality? The big two QRP-Ls are mostly a joke as far as getting an interesting, topical discussion going. On the other hand, start bitching about computers or some other off-topic old fart rant, and you'll get 30 messages a day. The SKCC group made me sick with its virtual pitchforks-and-torches assault on the new owner of Vibroplex because he had the audacity to replace the stamped brass identification plates with a silkscreened version. The way that a few prominent members of that group (including one who is affiliated with a competing key manufacturer I might add) character assassinated the owner was quite disgusting.

This provides a nice segue into another topic people love to hate: Twitter. I quit tweeting a few months ago due to the large jackass/decent person ratio that I was experiencing. I thought I would miss it quite a bit, but once I got over the DTs in a few days I didn't really miss it much at all. I still debate whether I should go active on Twitter again, because I see some utility in it; but even when you remove the jerk factor, it still feels like drinking from a firehose most of the time. Not to mention that huge time sink that results from checking your account all of the time make sure you are up-to-the-minute on the latest crap. What to do?

Finally, a plea. Some of you may know of qrpedia.com, which I tried (and failed miserably) to turn into a QRP/homebrewer aggregated blog and knowledge repository. It's already in sad shape, but with the new kid coming, I know I'll have no time to devote to it, so I need to let it go. I don't want to nuke the site because there are a handful of people who put a lot of hard work into posting content there. I would like to sell the site for a nominal price and have it go to someone who could give it another chance. Please contact me if this interests you at all. Prices and terms are very negotiable.

A Brief Update

Family commitments and issues have kept me from doing much radio related stuff lately, which is why I haven't blogged much recently. When I have had some spare time, I've been using it to complete the documentation for my FDIM 2010 QRP Challenge entry, which I finally finished and submitted last night. After attending a marathon childbirth class last weekend with Jennifer, I did get a chance to operate for a few hours in 7QP, which was a nice bit of time away from "real life". I stuck to phone only because I still don't feel like I have the mental acumen to tackle CW contesting for more than a few QSOs. Even though I only got to operate sporadically, I did double my score from last year, so that was kind of cool. I think I got QSOs with all of the New England states because their QSO party was running concurrently with ours.

Now I have to get ready to fly out of here next week for Dayton. I don't know if I'll be able to liveblog from Dayton, but I'll do my best to get some photos and initial impressions up on the blog while I'm still there. I hope to get at least one post up each day I'm there. I can't wait to meet all you QRPers at FDIM!

Fresh Meat on the Blogroll

I've added quite a few new blogs on my blogroll over to the right in the last few months. Please take a few moments to check out these fine blogs and if you like what you see, don't be afraid let the owner know (something that I'm guilty of neglecting all too often myself). I didn't get to everyone new on the blogroll, so please click through to all of the entries on the blogroll that are new to you.

Hoaglun's Rant & Useless Info

Now here's a blog that feels like it's written by my twin. NG0R does an excellent job in documenting his homebrewing experiments and showing us his process in developing and measuring his circuits. He also recently made the leap to Ubuntu Linux; something I did a little while ago and haven't regretted for one moment. FB blog John!

KB9BVN

My Flying Pig buddy Brian recently started his own blog to talk about his own QRP adventures and other personal topics. Brian is the editor of the QRP Quarterly and has been plugged into the QRP community for a long time.

WB8ICN's Blog

Here's a blog from Mikey, another one of my friends from the Flying Pigs QRP Club. Mikey updates it somewhat infrequently (probably because he's retired and out on the road a lot, lucky guy), but he always has some interesting posts about his homebrew experiments.

Dave Richards AA7EE

Dave is a Bay Area ham that I had the pleasure of "meeting" on Twitter. He always posts really insightful and smart articles on his blog about ham radio operating, QRP, kit building and other topics. He's on a bit of a hiatus right now as he is in the process of moving, but I'm sure he will pick up the blogging again when he's settled in.

K4UPG.COM – Adventures in QRP Portable Ops!

A really fun blog from Kelly K4UPG. He enjoys portable QRP operations and posts tons of neat articles about his adventures, along with a lot of photos to show off the great time that he's having. Makes me want to get outside more often (if I lived in Florida, I probably would!)

On Politics

A quick note on a change to the site. If you've been paying attention to the events of the last year in American politics, you have probably noticed that there has been a highly contentious atmosphere. I'm someone who follows news, politics, and current events quite closely, and I have strong opinions about nearly every subject. However, I don't want any of that to bleed into this blog, which is supposed to be primarily about radio. I've dropped a handful of ham bloggers out of my Google Reader in the last few months because I can't take the blatant political content that appears regularly. A tiny bit of it on occasion does not bother me, but when the majority of the content is about politics or puts a political spin on ham radio, I don't want to read it any more. I enjoy radio because it's time away from bitter, divisive topics such as these.

Therefore, in order to enforce a more strict firewall between my personal political feelings and this blog, I'm removing the Twitter sidebar. I do have a bit of a loud political mouth on Twitter, and I don't want to completely take that outlet away from myself. I'm sure that some of my strongly worded opinions can be a turn-off to those who come to the blog for technical content. I'll still use Twitter to chat about whatever topics interest me, but I'm going to do my best to keep Ripples in the Ether as apolitical as I possibly can.

For those of you who have stuck around, thank you sincerely for being a regular reader of the blog. Lately, the content has been light because much of what I have been working on are things that I can't currently discuss. As Dayton approaches, I expect the content level to pick up again. I'm excited to blog about my FDIM 2010 QRP Challenge entry, which is shaping up to be a neat little rig. Stay tuned...

Website Overhaul

I finally got fed up with my lousy custom coded main website (at www.nt7s.com), so I've decided to rip it down and install a CMS. Don't be surprised to see some strange things going on there over the next days/weeks. I'm going to get all of the important content back up there. It may take me longer to get the visual design of the site in line with what I want.

In Loving Memory

Margaret "Peggy" Tucker

1924 - 2009

Peggy Tucker

Grandma's obituary, as written by my mother:

Margaret “Peggy” Tucker, 84, of Newberg, Oregon, died October 2, 2009 at home surrounded with loving family.

She was born December 17, 1924, in Lakeview, Oregon, the daughter of Zera Thompson and Lola Kline. Peggy was married 50 years to Cliff Tucker. She retired from Caterpillar Tractor Company 20 years ago. Peggy’s family describes her as a very intelligent, spunky, resourceful and gifted woman. She was a talented artist, oil painter, writer, seamstress, crafter, and chef. She loved to fish, hunt, camp, travel, decorate, and collect fine glassware and antiques. Her family was the essence of her drive for life and most knew her as someone who appreciated debating any subject. Her family called her their “pistol and their pearl”.

Peggy is survived by daughter, Pat Terrell of Sarasota, Florida, son, Les Fay of Portland, Oregon, daughter, Phyllis Griffin of Dayton, Oregon, daughter, Denise Perkins of Park City, Utah and son, Jeff Tucker of Monmouth, Oregon. Sisters, Lola Raschka, Oroville, California, Mary Germond, Oakland, California, and Bessie Duncan, Mountain Home, Arkansas, as well as brother, Bill Thompson of East Wenatchee, Washington. 20 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.

Peggy was preceded in death by husband, Clifton Tucker, sons; Joe Fay and Gene “Buster” Fay, and sister; Martha Credille.

Grandma & Baxter
Grandma & Baxter

Welcome to the Social

A few months ago, I activated Google Analytics on the blog so I could get some idea of my traffic numbers, what search terms land people here, which posts are most popular, and who is sending traffic my way. This tool has been a bit of an eye-opener in multiple ways, but one of the most glaring things I noticed was some incoming links from other blogrolls that I hadn't seen before. I like to reciprocate these links whenever possible, so I've been working on updating my own blogroll when I catch some previously unnoticed traffic coming in on Analytics. I believe it's important for us ham bloggers (especially in the tiny subculture of homebrewing) to network with each other as much as possible.

To those ends, I'm going to post more often regarding cool content that I've found on other blogs (much like the SolderSmoke blog). Analytics has shown me how important this crosslinking is for traffic generation and for building awareness of other blogs. Hopefully it won't distract much from the original content. Let me know if you think it gets out of balance.

Update

Somebody does read these posts! I'm pleased to see that some other folks agree with me. One nice side effect of this post was that I was able to smoke out a few new blogs to link to. Thanks everyone!