W4H Sticky

W4H - 2nd Anniversary of the 470 Amateur Radio Group
Start Date: November 1, 2009
End Date: November 15, 2009
Frequencies:Voice - 24.450, 14.260, 7.260, 3.860
PSK31 - 14.070, 7.070.
QSL Info: Note the amateur's name and send QSL to the call that is working the W4H event. For example if you work me as W4H I will also give you my home call and tell you to QSL to me AJ4IJ.
More Info: The 470 Amateur Radio Group website

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ashby Contacts Santa

I guess I've been living in a hole for a few years, but apparently Santa has a ham station, a live web cam, and talks to kids on the HF bands. A few people had mentioned that he would be on, and I've been watching for him. Tim called today and said he'd been spotted on the DX Watch, and I promptly called Dad for affirmation that we could hear Santa. Dad called back a few minutes later with Santa booming in, told me he was powering up the amp - and I responded that we were on our way.

Ashby (KJ4EGJ) and I finished up getting ready, and went over to contact Santa. She threw her call out, and Santa picked her up first thing - although he put her on standby to talk to another little girl first. She waited patiently, while watching Santa on his webcam and then he asked for her.

She had a very interesting conversation with Santa, including such topics as Purple and Yellow striped salmon, sucking the heads of mudbugs (crawdads), the new "Santa Diet" - mentioning that Santa would rather fruit than cookies, and naming all the reindeer. After a good 10 minutes, Santa wished Ashby a Merry Christmas and went for a late lunch break.

I'm really glad she got in to speak with him... she may be "too old" for that next year.

Thanks to W6S (WO6T) - Santa Claus.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hi Hi Hi Cake??

Well... I think this was supposed to be a Christmas cake?? A Santa cake?? A "Ho Ho Ho" cake?? But those little skinny O's made me think this cupcake cake was designed to cater to Hams instead... Hi Hi Hi

Seen this on Cake Wrecks... Absolutely HILARIOUS blog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Wonderful Christmas *Gift* & Letter to Santa

Tim and I have been wishing and hoping for our very own HF rig for ... well.. since we got the bug. Things are starting to look up on the matter. I'm going this evening to get a 756Pro to try out. The nice OM is offering us a wonderful deal on this radio, and wants me to try it out a few days before I commit.

I, personally, can already tell you that I'm dead set on that radio. I know the man, he's a good guy, and he wouldn't offer anything that wasn't up to his standards... which happen to be very high. I'm not going to post the price, his name, or any information, but let's just say, it's a steal.

I've also got my heart set on a Lenovo IdeaPad... a netbook to run all the digital modes on. I don't know if I'll get it *really, I highly doubt it* but a girl can dream can't she!?!?

So... if we do purchase the radio... I'll have to further my Christmas List. So...

Santa, I hope you are doing well. I've been a very good girl this year, or at least I've tried to be. I would like to have the following, if you can find it in your bag:

~~ 100+ feet of 450 ohm Ladder Line
~~ 50+ feet of LMR400 UltraFlex (or the equivalent)
~~ Some wire for a couple dipoles
~~ A couple baluns -- or a good idea on how to build one that isn't too horribly hideous
~~ Some PL-259 connectors... if we don't already have some lying around
~~ Some insulators -- not necessary, just nice
~~ 2 Ice Lightning Arrestors
~~ 1 Cable (I don't even know what kind) to run the TigerTronics
~~ That Netbook previously mentioned
~~ A wireless fullsize keyboard & mouse - for typing *the netbook has wonderful portability, but I may need a full size keyboard so I don't "fat finger" everything I type*
~~ The nice Mission-Style desk and hutch I seen at Target :)
~~ And lastly -- If you could pull my daddy out the bag and have him teach me how to SUCCESSFULLY *and DON'T laugh!!* wire my speaker... Because, in all of this, you have to be bad at something. :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In Response...

In Response to this post by XOM: 2008 Skywarn Recognition Day...

All I got was a rock... er, uh... one: WX4MRX.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Update to Olivia Post

Well, the dressing is in the oven, and it's almost time to start the 'Bird.' The pre-cooking is done, and the house smells of Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie, and poultry seasoning. And all the while, I still wish I had an HF radio to sit down to this morning and wish everyone I can speak with (whether they celebrate it or not) a Happy Thanksgiving! This will have to do for now.

I also want to mention something that I... quite literally... stumbled upon. I was taking off my tennis shoes the other day, when I lost my balance, caught myself by placing my hand on the counter top, and as I did, I looked down. I had placed my hand upon December's QST magazine, which just so happened to be opened to the Olivia article I spoke about previously. And as coincidence seems to happen, my finger was pointing right at a name and callsign that I was familiar with. Gary L. Robinson, it said.... WB8ROL, it said... I stood in astonishment for a moment, then picked up the magazine to look. Sure enough, Gary had written the article about Olivia... the one that had us anxious to use it. Why is this important??? Gary was the nice OM I spoke with for my first Olivia contact! I couldn't believe my eyes....

I ran to living room, stumbling over the shoes again, and pointed out this anomaly to Tim. Now, it's either a very small world, or I'm one of the luckiest Ham women around... 'cause these coincidences keep happening to me!

Well, Gary -- I'm sorry I didn't realize before. I'm glad we had the conversation that we did, and the article (in my opinion) was great! Very informative, well written, and captivating. Thanks again, for the contact -- and another chance happening to add to my growing log of flukes!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

To OLIVIA, With Love

I just love dabbling in digital modes. Some I find to be boring, some too fast for my hand, and some just utterly confusing. Last night, I tried OLIVIA for the first time. We went over to visit Daddy, and he was playing around with DM780 and had OLIVIA all set up. He was really wanting someone to try it, and being the brave soul that I am... I gave it a shot.

I probably called CQ for nearly 45 minutes before anyone came back. Apparently, there's not a lot of Hams working it -- or maybe it was just a bad night for it. I was on 80m around 3.577 and, FINALLY, I got a response. Thanks goes out to Gary, WB8ROL, for making that my first OLIVIA contact. Gary was very nice, and taught me a few things I needed to know. Being as slow as it is, it took us nearly an hour to complete our conversation, but I had fun nonetheless!

I really really like how I can type everything out (I'm a quick typer -- nearly 70 wpm) while I'm reading their response back to me, and then hit Auto-Send and get up -- stretch, have a break, go to see "John", etc... all the while, transmitting my response. I really had fun "talking" with OLIVIA.

Tim gave it a try, too. I'm sure he'll blog about it over in his neck of the woods, if you're curious. He's usually more thorough and technical about things than I am. HAHA I hear there is a nice article about OLIVIA in December's QST magazine. So, if you're interested, check it out!

It's slow, but it's tons of fun!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Dances and W4H Update

If you read this blog, then you know, each and every personal achievement deserves a special dance.

This weekend, I was finally able to sport the "I Contacted Japan!" dance -- not once, but twice. I just hope I can get confirmation, since they were both contesters. Thanks to JR5VHU and JH4UYB (btw, that's a station!) for the excellent signal reports and the contact on 20m!

Additionally, I hit another milestone, requiring another dance: the "I'm over 1,000 lookups" dance!

We did some work on the dipoles this past weekend. Now that the leaves were falling off the trees, we could see where the wind had blown the balun around and got it all stuck in a branch -- a branch that Tim hacked down...

He's so good, he can cut down that limb with his eyes closed!

We also did some W4H Special Event cq'ing on 80m. I worked it for almost an hour, had a pile-up that sounded like a hornet's nest, got spotted on the DX Cluster, and made 46 speedy contacts. I was starting to lose my voice though, and had to pass it to Tim. I did make one very interesting contact... I pulled out a call at one point, N3FJP, and as I was writing it down I was thinking to myself how familiar that call sounded... you know that feeling when you hear a call and you know you've seen it before but can't place it. About that time, Tim piped up, "Hey, He's the guy that wrote this program." That's right folks. Another example of how small this world is. Scott, N3FJP, wrote the logging program that we use, the Amateur Contact Log. We've only been using it for about 2 weeks, but it is AWESOME! We're going to be sending him a check soon... this one is well worth paying $19.00 for folks!

Lastly, I just want to remind everyone that may have contacted me during the W4H special event. Since there are multiple operators in many places, we are all doing our own QSL'ing. We have had special QSL cards printed for this event, and if you want one, send your S.A.S.E. (or S.A.E. & 1 green stamp/1 IRC) to me directly. I'm good on QRZ.

Anyway... just thought I'd post that brief little update. Take care everyone and I'll "see" you down the log!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

W4H Special Event: On Air

The W4H Special Event has begun! This special call will be used to mark the 1st Anniversary of the 470 Amateur Radio Group. There will be many of us operating from Nov. 1st until the 15th. Please take a moment to listen for us on 28.350, 14.250, 7.250, 3.850 (+/- 20 khz).


We have decided that each operator shall do their own QSL's. Please send your QSL card to the operator you contacted to get your Special Event card back. For specifics on QSL's from me, visit my QRZ page, AJ4IJ.

Please take a moment to visit our web site to learn more about us. http://www.470arg.com

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Evening in the Field

The weather here has really given me the bug to be outdoors... even when it comes to Ham radio. It's October. The weather is perfect. The leaves are changing color, the dogwoods have berried, the walnuts have fallen, and the fields have been mowed for the last time this hay season. This is good news for us. It means that from now until next growing season, the field is ours. Our secret little place to try to contact the world, the space station, or just gaze at the sky for hours during the winter season for meteor showers and iridium flares.

Last Saturday (11/10-08), we once again disassembled parts of Daddy's (KU4ME) station and toted it up the ridge. Thank goodness for the Jeep, though. I wouldn't have carried all that without a mule or llama, and Tim (the XOM) doesn't count. We took the most necessary out-of-doors items, including an awning, a table for the radios/equipment, chairs, rope, lanterns, TP & the ages old percolator coffee pot that hasn't let us down yet. Add in the generator, extra fuel, power cords, and fuel for our bellies and we had ourselves a nice little evening in the field.

Unfortunately, the most beautiful aspect of fall in East Tennessee is also a hindrance. The dry, fallen leaves combined with an already unusually dry season means that building a fire on top of a ridge bordered by a tree line thicker than the eye can see is out of the question, especially when the wind wouldn't let up long enough to catch your breath. Therefore, our smoked sausages stayed in the cooler, instead of on a roasting stick. This was a bit of a set back that the smallest of our group, the bottomless-pit, growing-like-a-weed, 12-year-old Ashby (KJ4EGJ) wasn't ready to cope with. But seeing that I had brought enough snacks to probably keep us sustained for a "few" hours, she was cool about the whole thing long enough for us to have a good evening.

When we arrived, it was still daylight. Since we had Field Day 2008 at the same location, our ropes for a tree-to-tree dipole were already stationed (and to our excitement, were still there - unharmed by the many fallen trees). Tim and I had drove up first, to deliver all the loot -- and while he went down the ridge to collect the others, I stayed behind and set up. It's a breeze to put up the awning we have, and I seem to get better at it each time. I set up the awning and the chairs, and still had enough time to enjoy my sole presence there and listen to the "ridge-talk." Shortly thereafter, the rest of the field-party arrived.

Since daylight was fading fast, we all jumped into action. Ashby picked up walnuts for me (long story, but I wanted the walnuts), Mom (KF4SSI) straightened out some of the chairs and did other miscellaneous things, I hunted firewood (unbeknown to me that the wind would keep us from building), and Tim and Daddy set up the antenna (a G5RV we had built earlier in the day). The work didn't end there. Tim and I set up the station, while Daddy made roasting sticks (thank goodness I wasn't the only one doing needless work). Once all of that, and a little bit of other work, was done, we were on the air and ready to go.

Daddy spent a little while tuning up, while Tim helped by keeping a chart for ease of use later. Night fell, and I spent nearly a half-hour rigging up a lantern behind them so that they could see better, almost collapsing the awning in the process. Later, I once again felt that crazy sensation that all that work was for naught... seeing how the lantern didn't have a full charge and died within the first 2 hours of use.

Tim did most of the playing at first, making contact with a couple DX stations -- I can't remember now what they were; it's too early in the morning. Later, when nothing was left but the Pennsylvania QSO party, we joined in on that. We didn't plan on contesting, nor were we going to submit our logs to it... but it was fun nonetheless, and better than sitting there spinning the dial, which we had done for nearly an hour before we gave in to the party.

It was nearly 10:30pm local time when our bellies were telling us that the PB crackers weren't sustaining us. Ashby had already crawled in the Jeep to escape the wind and sleep. Mom was covered in a quilt, nearly asleep in her chair. Daddy, Tim, and I had had our fair share of the coffee, and Clover Beene (our pooch) was tuckered out and bugging about food (her crackers and treats were used up, too). We decided it was time to pack it up... although I wish we could have stayed longer. I always wish that when I'm there. I get there, and never want to leave.

We disassembled the station, left the antenna for pick-up in the daylight, and Tim took Mom, Dad, and Ashby down the ridge. I stayed behind with Clover Beene, packed up, and waited for him to come back. There is absolutely nothing that speaks to my soul more than that ridge. There's just something about being up there alone -- with the moon shining bright; the whispers of the wind; the sweet scent of cut straw, fallen trees, dried leaves, and walnut hulls -- that clears my mind and cleanses my spirit.

AJ4IJ, Robin with Tim, AJ4JD in the background

Daddy, KU4ME, tuning up

Tim, AJ4JD, making contact.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More Updates!

Well, I was running out of room below (or at least I felt like it was becoming a novel), so I started a new post. Don't forget to read the post below this for other updates.

Tim held his first Net the other evening. He was net control for the Weather Training on our weekly ARES net. He says he was really nervous, but you couldn't tell it. He did a fine job, and I'm really proud of him. I don't have any pictures, sadly, because I was running the rugrat around town -- one of my other motherly duties -- the kid taxi.

And I've received quite a few interesting QSL cards in the past few weeks. I got conformation of my Tonga contact! WOO HOO! Got the FBI special event card and certificate, and the Football Hall of Fame certificate (I can't remember all these call signs, and I'm too lazy to get up and look at the moment, if you want to know them, send me a comment or email, and I'll send them your way). I've had 2 Nova Scotia confirms, 1 from Mexico that came with a ticket or something that I can't read because I know no other language other than English. I got the Nautalis card, and another one from Australia, which is the most interesting at the moment.

Back during Field Day, I made my first dx contacts. One was an Australian station, VK2TSB. I could hear him okay, but he kept dropping into the noise... a lot of QSB. In any case, this was so exciting to me, to hear Australia like that. So, even though we had a dipole strung up about 30 feet, in the middle of a field running barely 100 watts, I tried to make contact with him. He couldn't hear me very well, but stuck with me to make the contact. There was a Lady Ham in New Zealand, whom I could just barely hear over the noise, but she was hearing me quite well and was relaying my information to the guy in Australia, whom I could hear better than her. In any case, I didn't expect to ever really get confirmation of that QSO, but I sent a card anyway. Now, 3 months down the road, he sent me one back. I was so excited to get that one. So, thanks Steve, for sending me that card. That was a milestone card for me. That was the evening that I finally let go of my mic shyness, and started getting excited about HF. Thanks for sticking with me.

Ten-Tec Hamfest, Skywarn Class, SET, & Other Updates

Wow. I have been so busy that I haven't had a chance to sit down and actually write something worth reading. Now, I'm way behind and I'll have to do some major catching up.

Way back in September (Ha, time seems to be flying at the moment), on Saturday the 27th, the family and I piled into the car and drove an hour to the Ten-Tec Hamfest, in Sevierville, Tennessee. I was Tim's first big hamfest, and he was pretty excited to see all they had to offer. The boneyard is huge there; larger than he'd ever seen. We spent a considerbly large portion of the morning sifting through all of that junk. We went in empty handed, and came out with 500 feet of 800 lbs rope that we paid $40 for. Other than that, we didn't really see anything we were looking for. We took the tour of the Ten-Tec factory around 10am, and came out of there with 2 t-shirts, a coffee mug, and an Emcomm book. We needed log books, and were going to buy them, but Rick (N4JTQ) volunteered to give us some that he had laying around. I thought that was very nice, and I declared that as my "Ten-Tec Hamfest Winnings." I'm never lucky enough to actually win anything, but that's okay. Cathy (KI4YPO) actually did win something, but I honesting can't remember exactly what it was. Some sort of antenna mount, although should would have been better off with a Ten-Tec Sky Hook (ha ha).

Row of Omni VII's at the Ten-Tec Factory

Ashby, KJ4EGJ, with an Orion II

Dad, KU4ME, at Ten-Tec Factory

Closest that Tim, AJ4JD, will ever get to an Orion II

After browsing, we spent the rest of the morning talking and visiting with people. Later on, we attended the Skywarn class for weather spotter's. I really enjoyed that class. We had to watch a pretty long movie smack dab in the middle of it, and I'm not sure what I enjoyed more: everyone's snoring or the terrible acting. Ashby took the class with us, and it was so funny watching her pick out and giggle about all the sleeping class members. Everyone was so worn out after Ten-Tec, that it was difficult to stay awake once we all sat down. HAHA But we made it through, and I really enjoyed that class. I don't know how many others did, but I liked learning all the information that we did. Unfortunately, most of the things we learned, we'll never actually see in the hills we live in. Because the horizon is changed by the rolling hills, we don't see storms roll in like they do in the flat lands.

Skywarn Class, Sept. 27, 2008

Moving on -- Last Saturday, October 4th, I had my first encounter with the Simulated Emergency Test (SET). Tim, Ashby, and I are members of the Claiborne County/Union County ARES, and our EC, Rick Blasco (NX6R), had to go out of town. He appointed me and Tim (and one other fellow) Assistant Emergency Coordinators while he was away. I don't know how I ended up volunteered to run the SET, but I did. I was totally thrown to the wolves, with no idea as to how to run things. However!! I was invited to attend another ARES groups Pre-SET meeting (Sevier County's), where I learned exactly what I needed to do, and how to go about it. I came home that evening very confident that I could tackle this task.

So, Saturday morning came, and I was shaking like a leaf. My stomach had migrated to my throat, my heart had migrated to my feet, and my brain couldn't be located anywhere in my body... Needless to say, I was nervous, and that is putting it lightly. I was Net Control for our Simulated Emergency training net (my first time at the helm of any net), and I was also expected to pass and receive formal traffic (which I crash-coursed myself on the night before) to an Army MARS station.

In the end, everything went wonderfully! We had a great time, we discovered where our weaknesses were, I successfully passed and received the message to Army MARS, and I did the net control thing without too many flaws. HAHA It was a lot of fun, and we ended up with 10 members participating, 53 messages passed, 1 formal message passed, 1 formal message received, and quite a few silent giggles to add to the collection.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All Ham's Day Picnic & WAS Update

On Saturday, September 20, 2008, Teresa (KI4ZQO) and Jack (KD4TNY) held a wonderful "All Ham's" picnic. We had tons of food, and lots of friends, and I just wanted to say thank you to them for such a wonderful time. I met just about everyone I talk to on 2 meters on a regular basis, and then some. There was a wonderful turnout, with more than 65 people. And the weather was absolutely beautiful. It's officially fall in East Tennessee -- My favorite time of the year. For the ones that weren't there, maybe I'll get to meet them at the Ten-Tec Hamfest this coming Saturday.

We all had a lot of fun... Here's a couple pictures:
Cathy (KI4YPO) & Ashby (KJ4EGJ)

The Picnic Area & A Few Hams

Rick Sr. (N4JTQ), Cathy (KI4YPO), & Ashby (KJ4EGJ)
with Larry (KB4ITS) & Ricky (KG4WYW) in the background

Tailgating in the parking lot - from left to right
??, Lucy (KE4RLK), Rick Jr.'s wife, Rick Jr. (KG4QPG), Bob (KB4ABF)


WAS Update! Thought I'd add my new updated WAS map. I'm going to have to get to work on this!
Click for Larger Version

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

1 QSO, 4 Minutes, 5 DX

I have a habit of writing about my AR firsts. This is one of them. Last Friday, while Dad (KU4ME), Tim (AJ4JD), and I were running up and down the band, (they were looking for Rt. 66 contacts) we spotted an Irish station in the dx window on 80 meters. I wasn't up for much talking, but I couldn't resist getting Ireland. Dad tuned me up (I've still yet to learn how to work those things confidently), and I sat down to make contact with Ireland when I noticed that there was another station in there wanting to make contacts as well. This wasn't new to me... I'd heard two stations working together before. I kept listening, jotting down the info for the log, when I heard there was another station, then another, and then another! Five stations working together... I had to get them.

So I threw my call out a couple times, and finally broke through the pileup on about the third time around. By then, I had everyone's names and calls written down.

I first made contact with G0KPW (whose name I wasn't sure about, but think it might have been Jerry) in England. Then EI6S (George) from Ireland, GI0VJE (Chris) from Ireland, GW4RIB (Wyn) in Wales, and lastly G4AMN (Chris) in England.

All I've got to say was, that was really cool! Glad to have got to make their aquaintence.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Germany Confirmed! Woo Hoo

Wow... Thanks to Norbert (DK6NF) for my first ever dx QSL card sent to me first! Plus, that confirms Germany for me! And it's a very spiffy-lookin' card, too.

Hey Norbert -- when you get your card back from me, notice the orange streak on the envelope. I removed your card and the return envelope from the main envelope, and when I moved the card away, there was this creepy bug laying there! I smeared it before I realized that I'd probably just mashed a German bug. (Hi Hi) So sad for it... especially since it had traveled so far. That's okay though. My XOM (AJ4JD) said it was probably a good thing that I did, because if I hadn't it probably would have taken out all the black walnut trees. Just kidding! (Hi Hi).

Thank you, again, for the wonderful card.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

TN QSO Party 2008

I had a blast participating in the TN QSO Party this year. I made 89 phone contacts on my own, and Tim (AJ4JD) and Daddy (KU4ME) made enough to boost our team (The Toadtown Team) to 140 contacts. I had a ton of fun calling CQ (mostly on 75 meters so I could get TN counties) from Union County. I made quite a few people's day, since Union County is one of the rarer ones to get.

I don't know how we faired against everyone else, but it was fun nonetheless, and we will likely be in the multiple operator, high power group. Maybe we'll win something! HAHAHA

Doesn't matter to me if we don't though. I still had fun.

Well... off to get ready for tonight's ARES meeting. I've decided to write my thesis (which is really an applied project -- meaning, they want to see results) on the need for an individual ARES group in our county. I've already contacted a few people, just for information on how to contact others, but I have to have everything reviewed by the board at the school before I proceed any further... That means, lots of writing and researching for me over the next few weeks. So, if you see that my postings are scarse, please don't fret. I'm still here... still active... and will be playing radio galore every extra minute I get.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Author of 1,000 Marbles - Jeff Davis

Well, I have to say, I'm usually taken aback when I get a comment. I rarely receive them, but it seems when I do they are of quality.

A couple days ago, I wrote about an email that I had received from my good friend, Cathy. I mentioned in it that it really made me think about my days left. I also quoted the email to share it with you.

Now, I'm happy to be able to say that the Author of 1,000 Marbles has found this excerpt and has introduced himself to me. Being the person that I am, I give credit where credit is due.

Mr. Jeff Davis, KE9V, wrote 1,000 Marbles many years ago as a short story. It wasn't long before everyone was using it... putting it in emails, requesting its use in newsletters, etc. (You can read more about Mr. Davis' story here: http://ke9v.net/stories/1000marbles.html) In 2001, and with what seemed to be a lot of work (and hopefully, not too many Saturdays full), Mr. Davis published "1,000 Marbles," which includes his short story and 1,000 unique and life-enriching ways to spend your day off.

I want to send out my thanks for Mr. Davis, who contacted me first (look at the comments on the Saturday's Marbles post), and point you all in the direction of this book.

The ISBN number on the book is 0740715534. I found used copies of it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I'm sure there are others floating around, and new copies at some other places, but it's just too darned early for me to hunt through them all.

73 to Mr. Davis, KE9V, and Kudos! to you for such a wonderful story!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Saturday's Marbles...

I received an email today from a fellow Ham. It's not often that I take the time to sift through junk mail -- but since it came from my dear friend Cathy (KI4YPO) I took the time to read it. Needless to say, I was in tears by the end (and I'm not an emotional person... at least not in that way). So, here it is... the golden email that caused me to think about my Saturdays in a different light...

"The older I get the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

"A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.

"Let me tell you about it.

"I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about 'a thousand marbles.' I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say.

"'Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It's too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital' he continued. 'Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities.' And that's when he began to explain his theory of a 'thousand marbles.'

"'You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic.. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.'

"'Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part. It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail', he went on, 'and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.'

"'Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.'

"'There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.'

"'Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.'

"'It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 Year old Man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!'

"You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

"Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss... 'C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast.' 'What brought this on' she asked with a smile.' 'Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles.' "

**note** K9NZQ is not found in the QRZ database. I'd imagine this is made up, but it still brings a small tingle in my heart.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Touring with the 470 ARG and A Tonga Contact

We were recently given the opportunity to tour one of our local television news stations, WATE. The 470 Amateur Radio Group (145.470, ARG meets Tuesdays at 7:00pm est) was kind enough to invite everyone to come to this tour, organized by Jim Yearwood, KE4HX. And a definite thanks to him for a WONDERFUL tour, and a special thanks to (I think his name was) Bob, the chief engineer. He gave us a wonderful explanation on the new change-over to digital in February 2009. He answered quite a few questions, and was very knowledgeable on the subject.

There were quite a few of us there. There was 6 of us in our little group that showed up, Tim (AJ4JD), Ashby (KJ4EGJ), Jodi (not yet a Ham), Mom (KF4SSI), Dad (KU4ME), and me. After arriving, we were introduced to the whole bunch and treated like royality. We were given an entire tour of the building (Greystone), which is now off limits to the public. Even the usual group tours aren't given access like we were. We were really lucky, and very grateful for their hospitality.

A little history on Greystone, WATE's headquarters: It was originally built in 1885 by a gentlemen known as Major Eldad Cicero Camp, a lawyer and public official. Most of the stone that was used to build the home was acquired from the Major's quarry in a nearby city (Lake City). Each of the rooms in the house had elaborate, hand-carved mantles -- and might I add that they were ABSOLUTELY beautiful and each individual and as original as the first. Each room is also paneled in a different type of wood, and no detail was ever overlooked. Matter of fact, even the doors were double-sided - split down the middle so that when the doors to the rooms were shut, the wood on the door would match the room. There were elaborate gas lantern chandeliers in almost every room. It wasn't until November 21, 1920 that the Major died from an illness in his own bedroom at the age of 81. Later, after many owners, Greystone fell into the hands of WATE, and they have worked very hard to restore it to it's originality.

The tour of all of the house was excellent and thorough. There wasn't a rock left unturned, and our guide even took the time to tell us about the Ghost Stories surrounding the place. It was very funny, due to the fact that these stories had some hoping for encounters and others hoping to get out as soon as possible. HAHA

I had a really good time. The best part, though, was meeting some of the people I talk to often on 2 meters. I really enjoyed finally getting to put faces (in person) with personalities. I got to meet Cathy (KI4YPO, one of my bestest 2 meter friends!) and her husband, Rick (N4JTQ), along with many others. We had a lot of good laughs, watched the news in progress, was on constant lookout for the ghost of Major Camp, and well, had more laughs. I had the best fun all week.

On a side note, after working our rears off today and missing the gray-line express (ALL ABOARD!!!), we went to dad's to play radio this evening. It was mildly upsetting that the bands were as dead as they were -- however, we had fun anyway. And I did make one contact -- and a very nice one at that. I spoke with A35RK, Paul in Tonga! How exciting is that??

***Doing the Tonga dance!!***

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My First Pileup & Ashby on HF

Well, I had my first experience with a pileup on Saturday. I had been dying to use the new phrase I coined, "CQ on the 20!" I decided to find me an open spot during last weekends QSO party, even though I wasn't contesting, and call CQ. The effects were immediate.

It was so funny. Tim (AJ4JD) was on one side of me, trying to log everything down as fast as he could -- Dad (KU4ME) was behind me with the laptop watching my QRZed lookup count go through the roof -- Ashby (KJ4EGJ) was just being quiet because she's finally gotten into the habit of not being loud when the mic is keyed up -- And Mom (KF4SSI) even came out to see. I was trying to keep up the best I could, and I think I did an okay job at it. I'm pretty sure I got everyone's call right -- although I may have called one OM Pete instead of Keith -- HAHA -- Sorry Keith.

I had a blast with that though. I really had every intention of helping out contesters -- but I ended up having more non-contesters. I didn't mind though. I just enjoyed making contacts and having the conversations that I did. I made 26 contacts in 30 minutes from 15 different states. I sure hope some send cards for the states I need! I'll wait a while, but if they don't send one, I might send one to them and wait for the mail-lady to bring my reciprocate cards. HAHA

Also, Ashby made her first contacts on HF as a General class. She made quite a few on 20m, and was more interested in the Lighthouses than anything. She didn't care too much for the contesters -- they were going way to fast for her.

Here's some pictures of her working HF:

Ashby talking on HF

Ashby learning the 756Pro

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My QSL Card

Here's a look at my QSL card. I'm notorious for changing it around, though. For the moment, and probably for a little while, this will be my card. Until I'm so tired of looking at it that it needs a re-design.
Click on the Card to make it BIGGER!

QSL information for me can be found on QRZ. For now, I really only accept QSL cards direct. I am working on LoTW -- and will let ya'll know if and when I get that set up. For direct QSL, I do not require a S.A.S.E., since I am a firm believer that not just ONE Ham should have to cover the "to & from" postage cost. If you're interested in receiving a card from me... look for me on 20 meters -- my favorite place to call "CQ on the 20!" You may also find me calling "CQ on the 40!" and "CQ on the 10!"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

She Done It!

Yup -- Ashby passed her General class license exam today! Woo Hoo! Go Ashby!!

Here's a picture of her with her CSCE. I can't write long... She's wanting to go "Ride the Gray Line" HAHAHA

My General Class Baby!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ladies Only!!

Ooh Ooh Ooh -- Guess what Tim found me??!! A YL's club! I'm sure that there are many out there, but I really liked this one. It's called Chick Factor International (W9YL) and is specifically designed for ladies, by ladies, and for the solid reason of empowering ladies on the radio.

I sent off my membership form, along with Ashby's, and sent the link to my Lady Friends on 2m. I know of at least one that will be sending off her form, too: My Late-Night Friend, Cathy (KI4YPO). The only requirement for membership is that you send a S.A.S.E. -- there are no dues.

So while I wait on my membership number to arrive, I'll just try to promote them via my blog! You may ask -- what's Chick Factor International all about??

Well -- From their site they describe themselves as the following:
"We have entered the world and hobby of men and have stood beside them, operated with them, and contested against and with the best of them. We have proven ourselves worthy of being called Hams.

We will spread the word of Amateur Radio to other women. We will light the flame of curiosity in other women’s hearts, hoping that the simple flame will grow into a full fire and in turn will lead them into Amateur Radio."

And what exactly is a Chick Factor???

According to their site... A Chick Factor is:

A female ham who understands her power in Amateur Radio, and is not afraid to get on the air and call CQ.

A female who is licensed in Amateur Radio.

A female, no matter what age, who is young at heart and not afraid to have fun with Amateur Radio

Now isn't that sweet!!

They also have a Chick Factorette category. It stands for:

A non-licensed female who is curious about the world of Amateur Radio.

A non-licensed female who has been on the air or is interested in doing so.

This is so great, and I'm so excited! That's exactly what I had in mind when I was searching for the right organization! I think Tim just happened upon them. He spotted their Mother Hen station on the DX watch, and promptly notified me. Now, I can't wait until my membership number arrives, and the club gets started on contests. They are a new club, but they're well off to a good start it seems.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to the General Test

I never thought I would have to re-study the General test. I knew that if my daughter, Ashby (KE4EGJ) was going to test up, it probably wouldn't be any time soon. I'd been bugging her about it, put her on 10m to call CQ, and even let her talk third-party to the recent Nautilus special event on 20m, but I still never thought she would test up so soon. This is not to say that I didn't want her to, because I did. But I'm just as surprised as others that she knows from 2m that she's going to try to test up so young.

But I have all the faith in the world that she will pass. She's shooting for this Saturday, and we've been studying every night. She catches on quick, remembers most of it without a problem, we're already halfway through the question pool. We started studying on Monday!

When she comes home from school today, we'll be jumping right into it... provided the teachers haven't piled on the homework. It's just the first week of school and she already has journal assignments and an oral essay project due. I really think she's shooting for this Saturday because she meant to study over the summer, and she just got so caught up in summer time activities that she never did do it. Now, she's wanting to get it out of the way before the homework starts rolling in.

But -- I just wanted to mention that she has had a hard time with the General class book. The terminology and verbiage is just not made for someone of her age. So I found this - The No-Nonsense, General Class License Study Guide. Oh, this has helped her a lot!! I highly recommend it, and send out my thanks to KB6NU, Dan Romanchik, for putting it all together! My soon-to-be 12-year-old thanks you much!

My soon-to-be General Class Baby!

Monday, August 11, 2008

My WAS Progress

I decided to make a map that I could post here from time to time to show my progress for the WAS award. I'll update it as confirmations roll in. I've made contact with many states so far, but not having very much luck getting confirmation back. But... that's just the way it works sometimes.

You can click on it to make it bigger.

Friday, August 8, 2008

To the Arctic Circle and Back

Well, I have to take a moment to brag. It just wouldn't be the same if I didn't. Last night I contacted W1AW/KL7 from East TN on a dipole that's about 40 feet in the air utilizing approximately 400W. That's right folks! I talked to Neil in the Arctic Circle. *insert crazy arctic circle dance here* (on a side note: it was also the first time I ever operated a split)

He was a dropping out a lot on me, and I wasn't certain I'd be able to hear him with all the QSB. He would fade in and stay strong for a good 3-4 minutes, and then he'd drop out and I would barely be able to hear him. So, the minute he came in strong again, I took a gamble. He came right back to me. Gave me a 5-9 with QSB, told me his name and a little about the Special Event. I went back to him and told my name, QTH, and gave him a generous 5-4 -- seeing how I had to hold the headphones down on my ear using my shoulder just to hear past the noise.

After that, Tim (AJ4JD) and Dad (KU4ME) were both brave enough (hi hi) to try them, and they got them, too.

I have to thank Dad though, for the new toy that helped our signal get there. He purchased a used Ameritron AL-811 day before yesterday, and he let us come play with it last night.

I made two other contacts, KC2FTN (NY) and N5AQR (TX) by calling CQ, and would have made more, but the band was falling out on me and I was having a hard time hearing anyone.

Maybe the bands will be good this weekend. I hear there is a Lighthouse Special Event coming up in a couple of weeks (Aug 16-17) and I think I'd like to work them. Gotta read more on it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"10M Rocks!!"

Tonight was a very special night. It was my daughter's (KJ4EGJ) first time using HF. She's just a technician, but 10 meters was open this evening, and we convinced her to give it a try. She's hooked to say the least. She made 15 contacts from 7 different states, and also made Third Party contact with N9N (the Nautilus North Pole 50th Anniversary Special Event) on 20 meters. I want to send out a special thanks to them for letting her come in third party, especially with the pile-up they had.

In any case, we put Ashby out there during the 10-10 contest this weekend, and she made her first 10 meter contact to W5TMC. Special thanks to him for aiding her in her first contact. She kind of froze up on him there, but Mike from Oklahoma was very patient with her, and I love it when Ham's operate that way.

After that, we helped her call CQ on 28.480 for a little while, where she made most of her contacts. She was so excited that she had to take breaks in between, and I made a few contacts while she had vacated the "commander's chair." Matter of fact, I made my first 10 meters contact as well. Thank's to N5WC, Windell in Texas, for being my 1st contact -- even though I think I forgot to tell him that he was. HAHA.

After about an hour and a half, we reclaimed the radio -- there was a few special events we were wanting to get -- and funny enough, she was upset that we had (in her words) "kicked her off the radio". That's when she went to the white board, and marked "10M Rocks!!!" over and over and over. She'd write it, then erase it, and then write it again. I couldn't help but be a proud, proud mother with a beaming grin that wouldn't quit. I think we have successfully implanted the HF bug in her, and she'll work hard to upgrade now. HAHA

As for Tim (AJ4JD) and I, we made quite a few contacts ourselves. Tim made 7 contacts today, and I made 9. Right before we came home I heard a gentleman calling CQ on 14.289, KC2TNY. I answered his call for contact, and was really impressed as to how well he operated, even though he told me that he'd just got his General class last weekend. Congrats to you, Dan!! Thanks for the QSO and hope to see you in the Extra portion of the band soon!!

Contacts for today:
N9N - Special event station - Nautilus North Pole 50th Anniversary
K3MJW/250 - Pittsburgh, PA - 250th Anniversary Special Event
MW0ZZK/portable - Steve in North Wales
N5WC - Wendell, Texas - 10-10=21623
K2DOF - Dan, New York
N5NOU - Mike, Oklahoma
W8AL - 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame Special Event
VK2GBG - George, Australia
KC2TNY - Dan, New Jersey

Friday, August 1, 2008

Feeling like a kid again...

I don't know what it is about Ham Radio, but everytime I learn something new, I feel like a kid again. A kid in a candy store with too many choices, to be exact. Today, though, I feel like a kid in a candy store filled with million dollar treats, and each and every one of them out of my reach.

I learned today that DX'pedition rentals exist. And not only do they exist, but they come with fully equipped shacks and mouthwatering antenna farms... oh and kitchens and bedrooms, too.

The thing is, now that I know they exist... it's just another thing I'll have to save up money for! HAHA I mean, I've always wanted to go to Alaska -- but imagine arriving at your place to stay after a long drive (that's right, drive -- I won't fly) to a fully integrated, equipped, calibrated, and stocked Ham Shack of your dreams. It didn't take but two words to really hook me on this one... Alaska and Kilowatts.

Imagine waking up in the afternoon with 70 degree weather, a nice hot cup of coffee, and a view like this:

Ahhhh... So refreshing!

Oh well... I suppose the QSL card that arrived today will have to suffice as the closest thing I'll get to Alaska today. Thanks goes out to WL7SJ for sending confirmation of our QSO and a little piece of his heaven.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Saying Goodbye to an Icon - NN3SI

I was fortunate this morning to receive a phone call from my Dad (KU4ME), that NN3SI was on 40 meters calling CQ. I didn't know what NN3SI was at first, but then he informed me that it was the Smithsonian Institute's call and that they were going QRT -- forever -- after tomorrow, July 31st. (Time out -- He would want me to give credit where credit is due, so A Many Thanks goes to Jack, KD4TNY, for spotting them and phoning this morning.)

I was pretty sad to hear that after 32 years of being on exhibit in the National Museum of American History (and in working condition!) that they would be closing down the station forever. I noticed that they claimed that "
For most of the three-million visitors to the Museum annually, it was the first – and possibly – only amateur radio station that they had every seen." So sad that such an icon is going to be taken out of the museum.

But I contacted them, and spoke with a really nice "Old Man," Ray (AA4SI) on 7.243 at 14:28z. He verified my address, and told me that they were sending out certificates to those who contacted them during this time. I didn't even know it was going on! I'm always out of the loop :(

In any case, Tim (AJ4JD) came home for an early lunch and contacted him on 20 meters -- on 14.239.90 at 15:37z to be exact. He was pretty happy to be able to get him.

Oh... and another exciting first for me:

I noticed that there was no spot on the DX cluster for NN3SI -- So, I spotted them. My first spot on the cluster! Woo hoo!

Anyway... I was going to stay and play more, but the bands started dying out on me. I might go back in a little while and try again. I need more states if I'm ever going to get WAS.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Waynesville Hamfest

It was Tim's (AJ4JD) big idea to get up at 4:30am on Saturday morning and make the two hour drive to Waynesville, NC. It was a long one, we were tired, and the folks were supposed to go, but chickened out on us HAHA.

We found the place easily, which was a good thing. I always hate having to get lost before I can get somewhere. It was $12 for the both of us at the gate, not an unreasonable entry fee, and we found a close parking place on the grassy bank and proceeded inside. I took my camera with every intention of taking pictures, but there wasn't really anything to take pictures of.... at least not that met my scrupulous eye.

It wasn't a bad Hamfest, whatsoever, but it wasn't the best either. They did have quite a bit of ham equipment, but unless you were going for circuit board parts or coax connectors, you were SOL. There were a few choices for radios, but I didn't see any that I wanted or could afford. The boneyard was the best, but I only seen one thing I wanted... a tower tied in the back of a truck. I didn't inquire about price because I knew that I either A) couldn't afford it or B) couldn't get it in the trunk of my 2001 Chevy Malibu...

In any case... that's about all I have to say about the Hamfest. We stayed for a little while and didn't see hardly anyone we knew. I seen a couple of familiar calls, but didn't talk to them. We spent the rest of the day galavanting around and seeing some sights.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

13 years of Amateur Radio

Hello everyone. Welcome to my "Internets" about ham radio.

I've been hanging around the airwaves since I was a wee-lil'-girl. I remember toying with radios as a tot, helping my daddy by sifting through his immense collection of resistors looking for the correct color combination for whatever job he was doing. I was always really good finding that rare color combination that existed somewhere in the bucket.

I remember my daddy talking about Ham radio long before any of us got our tickets. I used to listen to the DX'ers on shortwave late at night in the backyard on a little portable shortwave radio with an extendable antenna that we connected another antenna to (and don't ask me what it was, 'cause I was too little to remember). I recall how interested I was to listen to foreign broadcasters, and even the ocassional CW conversation that we would pick up.

So, needless to say, I grew up with radio. In 1994, my father and I went to take our tests for our Technician license. Back then, you had to take the Novice and Technician test, which I did, but failed the Novice the first time. I went back a month later and passed the Novice and then waited and waited and waited for my license to come in. You couldn't get online back then and get your callsign. You had to wait for it to come in the mail. It seemed like forever....

Then on Christmas morning of 1994, I woke up to the best Christmas present EVER!! On the limbs of the Christmas tree was a #10 envelope addressed to me from none other than the FCC. Inside was my license, and my callsign: KE4TKH. Under the tree, and the last present to be opened (of course), was my first Ham radio... A Kenwood TH-22AT HT. A monster was born from there......

Except for one thing -- I was a teenager, living in the 90's, going to high school, and interested in boys... That cut into my Ham Radio time, and before you knew it, I had seemingly forgotten my Radio Roots.

It took about 10 years or so before I would return... but here I am, and now I'm married to a Ham (AJ4JD), I have a Ham for a daughter (HAHA, KJ4EGJ), and my Mom (KF4SSI) and Dad (KU4ME) are still active Ham operators.

Recently, I've upgraded to Extra class, now that they removed the Morse code requirement. Not that I'm not interested in CW, because I am, it's just being a full-time mom, full-time student, full-time wife, and full-time daughter kind of cuts into the time needed to study CW. So thankfully, I was able to upgrade, and I also changed my "mouthful" callsign to a more memorable AJ4IJ.

So... That's that. You can find me monitoring the 145.470 and 147.360 repeaters here in East Tennessee, as well as on 20 meters HF.

Scavenger Hunt Sticky

Thanks to all for helping me with the Scavenger Hunt!