Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Anybody Know what this is?

I got this in a "buy it all for 5bux" deal at a hamfest. Appears to be a transistor, has 5 pins on the bottom, 2 grounded to the case.

UPDATE 12/14
Ok, so the camera fone kinda let me down with that pic.
After posting to QRP-L, a consensus kind of developed around the idea of this being a SAW filter.  
Sometime after Christmas, I'll get a dremel tool (currently don't have one, however I am taking Donations, if Sandy Claws is feelin' generous. :-D ) and cut one open.
Update to follow after that!

GB Hoyt

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December WES Adventures

Plenty of Murphy on this adventure.
Where to start...
I got to work about 15 minutes early, and attempted to deploy my End Fed Half Wave antenna. After throwing the antenna into the tree over an acceptable, but not optimal, branch I started to hoist it into place. The antenna hung up about 3/4 of the way to being fully deployed and the support line broke. Because I had to get on the clock, I stopped, and waited until my first 15minute break to finish deploying the antenna. Getting the antenna in the air was easy enough but I discovered more trouble when I tried to tune in a signal.
First, I noticed the antenna was quieter than normal. This could be explained by solar conditions. I was still receiving signals, the band was just less noisy. Then I transmitted, and the SWR was way off. I inspected the line and the transformer. When I looked into the pillbottle holding the transformer, I was in for a shock.

He Broke!
I had to rush it in for emergency surgery.

It can be fixed!

I cut the bottle open, and used a lighter to get the solder hot enough to flow and reconnect the antenna connection.

After sealing everything back up with duct tape, I reinstalled the antenna, and made a total of four QSOs. Here's the video account of my WES adventures.
Please don't forget to like the video and share it with your friends!
GB Hoyt

Monday, November 25, 2013

Go WES Young Man

In November, I participated in my first WeekEnd Sprintathon (WES) sponsored by the SKCC Club.

Portable Station ready for WES!

It was a lot of fun, and I hope I get a chance to work many more!
I didn't make many contacts, but four out of the five did QSL via LOTW, so that's good news. While operating portable, I made three contacts, here's a brief account of how that went:

See you in December!

GB Hoyt

Saturday, November 23, 2013

It's True, Ham Radio Always Gets Through

Wednesday, 20-Nov-2013 I pulled one of the craziest ham radio stunts I've ever pulled.
It started when my oldest two kids brought home a sheet of paper that said  something about "The Great American Teach-in." My wife suggested I talk about ham radio.

I accepted, and found myself agreeing to speak to two classes, one full of kindergardeners, and one full of third graders. When I speak to kids, I can't help but smile. They ask questions, tell you stories, and keep you thinking all the time.

I decided pretty quickly on two things:

1. QSL cards would have to be involved. They are a good, quick visual way to show something about ham radio.
2. It's one thing to tell people about amateur radio, but I wanted to go further. I knew that somehow we would have to find a way to do radio.

With this in mind, I concocted a plan to spend about five to ten minutes talking about radio, and the balance of the time trying to make a QSO. I decided to bring several radios, so the kids could see what a built radio looked like, and so that they could understand that making radios is an important part of the hobby (to me). I used my Swan 100MX to attempt contacts because I wanted the power the Swan transmits (100w max). I brought several antennas, and two different ones, one for the kindergardeners, and a different one for the third graders. I did this because I had the ability to set my station up before hand with the kindergardeners, and I had to do the set up "live" with the third graders.

The setup for the Kindergarden class went smooth. Earlier in the week I had my two daughters help me build an antenna, the 2 band HF Groundplane featured in December 2013's QST. They were great help getting it made, and I wanted them to be able to generate some chatter about helping build it after I gave the presentation. I used this antenna for the Kindergardeners. A parent volunteer from the school helped me get things set up. He was a great help, and it turns out his third grader is in my third grader's class, so that was cool. Testing it out, I had some hiccups in connecting the feedline to the antenna, but it shook out after I reseated the connection. I went to get some juice on the air, and discovered three unfortunate things right away. First of all, my phone's battery was depleted. I think it's getting old. Certainly, it doesn't hold a charge like it use to, and it cut off at the absolute worse possible time. Second, the update that happend to the twitter application on my phone broke the application 15 minutes before I needed the application to announce my operating times/frequencies. Third, once I did manage to get my weakened battery to power on, I discovered that the clock was out of sync, and that instead of being several minutes early, I was late. I hate being late. Kids couldn't tell I was that late though. Propagation was strange on 15 and 20, and we made no contacts. Kids still gawked at the antenna and radios though, so that was pretty neat.

Shortly before my scheduled appearance time with the third graders, I tore the station down, packed it up, and trucked it over, making it just in time.
I walked into the class room with RG-8 wrapped around my chest like a bandolleer, and said:
"My name is Mr. Brandon, and I'm here to tell you about the greatest hobby in the world, Amateur radio."
Apparently, I made a great impression, because my daughter relayed later how some of the guys said I was "cool".
We went outside, and I passed out the QSL cards, I had them find the names and locations of the hams on the cards, while I got the station laid out. Then I spent about 10 minutes quizzing the kids about the information they discovered on the cards, and telling where each one originated, and the QSO that went along with it. I then told them how radios take one kind of electricity and turned it into another, and I plugged in the powersupply, and turned the radio on. We didn't hear much, because I hadn't hooked the antenna up yet. I hooked up the antenna tuner, and we still heard nothing. Then I hooked up the antenna. When I turned the radio on, I had strategically placed the dial near the lower end of 20m hoping to hear some CW. That strategy worked. They heard Morse Code. I was using a different antenna this time, for the third graders I wanted to use and easy to deploy antenna, one with a single support. I chose one of the End Fed Half Wave antennas I recently described. It only took one throw to get the line up and the antenna in the air. As it rose, the signal strengths came up, and the morse code got louder. We took a tour of the band, and then I went to 14.330 where I had said I was going to be. I called "Is the frequency in use?" twice, and when I heard nothing, sent out a CQ. BOOM, David, KW1DX comes right back to us. Several jaws dropped, and we started a pleasant QSO. The bands were a little funny, and we could never get over 55, but I did let several of the kids ask David questions. The neat thing was that David has a third grader in his family. The kids in the class made note of that.  We had a QSO on 20, and then we QSY'd to 15 with David, and signals on his end improved a little, but not a lot.

The kids had to go to lunch at 11, so we said our 73's and they went back to class. I got everything packed back up, and went home.

Portable radio is fun, and I'm glad I've had several opprotunities to work stations from the work parking lot. That prepared me to quickly and efficiently get the antennas in the air. For next time, I think I will focus on promoting the event, and try to have multiple ways of getting the word out, perhaps via the local repeater, and maybe even getting a couple of stations on frequency before hand.
I could also stand to lose some weight, trying to carry a box full of radios is hard work.

GB Hoyt

Monday, November 18, 2013

QST QST QST: Great American Teach In

Update: After Action Report Posted here:

I'm speaking to Kindergardeners and third Graders about ham radio Wednesday, November 20th as part of the "Great American Teach In".

For the Kindergardeners:
I'll be doing a brief overview of what Amateur radio is, how it works, and why it's the greatest hobby in the world. Then I'm going to demonstrate ham radio using a semi-portable setup. I want to give these young ones a chance to ask a question to the station we are working.

For the third graders:
Same as above, but with the added element of comparing signal reports on two different antennas. They will keep a tally as to which antenna is reported as creating the stronger signal.

My plan is to work semi contest style if we can get enough people interested. Also, will let the kids get in on the action if possible. Because I will be time limited, I would like to have people waiting on a particular frequency if at all possible. I want to create a great operating experience for them, so please consider being available Wednesday.

TIME: 1400 UTC 20 November 2013 - 1600 UTC 20 November 2013

This is aproximate.

at 9AM Eastern Standard Time, I will begin speaking to the Kindergardeners. I'm not going to spend more than 10-15 minutes actually talking about radio, and the rest of the time I will be doing radio. I'll be on air about 9:10- 9:15 EST (local time) (1410-1415 UTC).

At about 9:45-9:50 local time or so, I will have to QRT to book it over to the other class and get set up. At 10, I'm going to run through my talk again, and should be on air again by 10:10 to 10:15. We will work as many stations as possible.


15m 21.330 USB +- Depending on QRM.
20m 14.330 USB +- Depending on QRM.
I tried searching for nets, and it doesn't look like we'll be interfering on any frequencies with any of the nets, but you never know, so be prepared to move a lil, remember, SEMPER GUMBY.

I will announce via twitter: exactly when I QRV and QSY

1. Let's have fun. Our point with this exercise is to ignite that little spark of curiosity we all had at one point in time when it came to radio.
2. Let's make noise, especially when we call for stations. When we get on the air, I will ask, "Is this frequency in use?" there should be silence. Then I will say, "This is Kilo Golf Four Golf Victor Lima operating Portable from Carleton Palmore Elementary School, are there any radio amateurs who wish to talk to Ms Keller's Kindergarden Class?" BAM, everyone calls at once, Let's wow the kiddos! Then we'll orderly work through the stations we have.
3. Let's be courteous to each other. After the intial noise, I will call for DX first, then I will call for stateside contacts via area. There's been openings this time of day to the northeast, so I will call 1's, 2's and 3's first if there's a bunch. We will give each other RS reports, our name, and then the answer to a question that the kids will determine during the opening session.
4. Let's take turns. I'll be working from two class rooms, the first session with Kindergardeners, the second with third graders, If there's a lot of people waiting on the air, and you get a chance to work the Kindergardeners, please stand by during the third grader's session. Remember, we'll need everybody's voice at first, we really want to wow them with volume on the intial call, but when we begin working stations I'll ask precendence be given to stations who did not get a chance to work the first class.

 if you are available, please respond via email: qrprat77 at gmail dot com, or contact @KG4GVL via twitter and use hashtag #HAMitup .

I think we will really make a great impression on these kids Wednesday!

More Things to Read Over Coffee in the AM

Added VU2SGW's blog to my blog list.

He hasn't posted since October, but I added it because he had posted a link to it on twitter. What I saw there was interesting enough, I figured I wanted to know when he updated, and you might want to know too.

 India has fascinated me lately because even though a billion people live there, I don't know much about the country. I've known several Indians, some from the north, some from the south, and some first or second generation immigrants. It's got fascinating geography and history.  I can't wait to work Sailin, and I can't wait to hear what else he has to say about amateur radio in India!

GB Hoyt

Monday, November 11, 2013

More Fun with Iron Donuts Part 3: Bigger is Better?

Is bigger better?
When talking about icecream and chocolate bars, I'm going with yes!
When talking camping gear and portable radio options, I'm thinking no...

Big Happy Iron Donut
I do own 2 QRO radios, only one of which works, the Swan 100-MX. Because I seem to be digging this EFHW design, I decided to up the ante so to speak, and try my hand at making a setup that was a little more robust, capable of handling 100+ watts.  When it comes to Transformers, that means bigger wire and bigger cores. The largest wire I have on hand is 22 gauge, which is big enough to handle 100w, if the match is good, and there's not a lot of core heating. At least I think it is, that's why we give things the ol' trial by fire so to speak. My thoughts were, get it right at QRP levels, and then go QRO.

I wound up the same transformer as The Micro-Matcher, only bigger. it has a 1:9 turns ratio, and is wound on an FT113-43 core. Poking around in the junque baggie of NP0 caps, I found another 150pf cap.

After wiring up the toroid, I hooked up the half wave 20m wire, and got portable. Well, battery powered at least:

OP ready to go, Rig is SW-20+ rated at around 1 watt on battery output.

We have a match!

Since the match looked pretty good, I figured I would go ahead and call CQ a few times to see if I could quickly scare up a QSO. No luck then, but I checked the RBN and there I was!

Notice the one entry from Nov 2? 

I moved the rig back inside, and hooked up to the bench power supply to give me that little extra bit of RF. Life intervened and I had to wait until my wife got home before really testing out the setup from inside the shack. Tuning around 20m I came across a CQ that lead to a QSO. Noticing a hike in the SWR when going through my tuner (even in Bypass mode), I began to suspect either a problem in the tuner or in the antenna switch.  I looked out the window, and discovered my problem. I was a little pressed for time (had to get ready for work) so I apologize for the brevity:

Funniest thing about it was that the SWR was still less than 2:1.

Testing at QRO levels is still ongoing. Things are promising, especially on 20m so far, but the jury is still out, and I need to buy some connectors, coax and PVC to check some things out.

GB Hoyt

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Heat Death Vs Eternal Life

People have an enormous capacity for missing the obvious. Common sense, as it turns out, isn't, and the consequence is that people will waste their entire lives chasing after something as fleeting as beauty, or "a good time". When it comes to missing the obvious few people miss the obvious as those who profess a disbelief in the presence and person of God. The Bible says it best:

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,[a]
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

When God looks out over us, He finds people oblivious to what they are doing. Every day we live our lives as if things are the same as they ever was. Even crazier, we say that when we are in the process of completing something we are 'making progress.' In reality we are kind of clueless about how the universe works. Things are not going to continue forever. Even the most ardent atheist believes that the universe will come to an end. While they do not believe that God has redeemed us by His son Jesus, and made us joint heirs in His kingdom, they do believe that everything stops. Literally, everything stops. The universe ends, many of them contend, when the energy level of the universe is of a uniform density, thus producing a maximum state of entropy. This even is known as "Heat Death".
Don't worry, heat death is a long way away, except between 2 and 3 pm when all I want to do is take a nap. I'm fairly certain that's the closest I'll ever be to heat death. There's plenty of energy available in the cosmos to keep us going for quite a while. One thing this does do, however, is illustrate one of the chief differences between people who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and people who do not believe God's truth. Every morning when an atheist gets up, if he is honest, he  has to confront the fact that everything he will do on that day is meaningless. Most of them choose to pretend that what they do matters, they don't want to think about the implications of meaninglessness in their lives. They can't escape the truth though, if they are correct, there is no progress, heat death takes all that away. As Christians we have knowledge of the future through God's word:
Revelation 22:1-5
 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
God makes this possible through the blood of His son. When we gather for the Lord's Supper, we don't have the face of the Lord before us, we have  reminder in a meal that the sacrifice has been made and the road to the kingdom is secured. Let us partake today knowing that we look forward to Eternal Life, and not Heat Death.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sometimes it Pays to Check the Power Output!

The QRPARCI Fall QSO Party took place second weekend in October. I took an oppurtunity to participate in it albeit in a limited fashion. Mainly I wanted to test deploy my End Fed Half Wave antenna, and have some fun slingin' some dits and dahs.
20m Portable Operation, QRPARCI Fall QSO Party
Saturdays I work a monster 12 hour shift beginning at noon. After I got done doing some UI testing, and before the next batch of jobs I have to monitor began, I decided to take a half hour lunch break to feed my brain using ham radio, specifically the QSO Party. I sprinted out to "El Toro" (our red Mazda Tribute) after clocking out for lunch, and got to my station. This is the third time I've deployed in the parking lot using a wire antenna like this, and it was the first time I've used the EFHW to make a QSO from the parking lot. I made exactly one QSO, with NM4T on 20m. The EFHW did well over all, lots of signals, some were VERY loud, especially the SKCC WES stations near the QRP watering hole. I did make a couple of mistakes though.
1. I assumed I had everything I needed in my box. when I got out there, I realized I didn't have the connector for my 7AH gel cell battery. I did have the end that plugged into the radio, but not the end that plugged into the battery.
2. I could have used a second roll of fishing line. The EFHW works well on 20m with 33' or 66' of line deployed. I used 33' because I didn't have a way of stretching the second 33' section out, and time was too short to attempt a redeploy of the antenna. I didn't want to cut the line because I felt that would have been a waste of string.
3. I intentionally left my NoGAwatt at home, and I missed it. I like having the reassurance that my forward power is good to go. I would have checked, and then removed it from the line. I've discovered that it does add some non-trivial at QRP levels loss in the line, so I left it home.
Sunday I try to limit my "on the air" time in favor for some "play with the kids time" but I did take a little time to play radio at my in-laws from their driveway. We went over there to eat hamburgers, and the kids were playing as the sun was setting. This time I deployed on 40m, and confirmed my issue number 2: when setting up an EFHW on 40m as an inverted vee (It kinda looks more like a caret (^)to me) It helps to have two separate lines, one to support the middle, and one to support the far end. I keep a piece of paracord handy in the box to tie down the end where the RF goes.
Best Pic I have of my Sunday Night Setup
This time instead of using 20m I decided to go with 40, using "The Killer Watt Radio." It's supposed to be calibrated to transmit at one watt with the little 8 cell AA battery pack I use. That's with a fresh battery pack. I did take a better picture of my setup, but right when I snapped the pictured, my phone's battery died and it was lost :(. I did managed to get two QSO's on 40 before the skeeters got bad, and about carried me off. The first QSO was with WB4MNK, he was so loud, I had to turn the gain down to be able to hear anyone but him when tuning to people calling on nearby frequencies.
The second QSO was with N0WL. I had hoped that I could stay around and work him during the 4SQRP SS after the ARCI Party, but I could not stand the skeeters.

Monday morning I decided to check out my power levels and I discovered something interesting. The open circuit voltage on the battery pack was down to about 11.7 volts, and I was transmitting about .689 watts on both radios! This makes my Fall QSO party power multiplier a 10. Heh! that's one way to boost your score.

Here's what I learned:
66' of wire can be tough to quickly deploy without two support lines. I could have gone for a single support on the far end as High as I can get it, but I think I get some benefit from having the high current portion of the antenna (on 40m at least) at the apex. Might be worth modeling, if I can ever get a computer that will successfully run software.
  • Check and double check your kit, and make sure you have power redundancy. That saved my bacon both days, because I forgot the part that hooks up to my battery the first night, and then I forgot the part that hooks up to the radio the second night!
  • If you think you'll use it, bring it. I didn't technically "Need" my NoGAWatt, but I missed having it.
  • Bugspray is your friend, but having a layered strategy is better. Wish I had long sleeves, bugspray, and some sort of "area skeeter control" gadget with me instead of just bugspray. Them things are meaner now than when I was a kid!

GB Hoyt

Monday, October 14, 2013

First, You Gotta Build the Stuff to Use to Test the Stuff You Build

I'm in the process of designing and building my own MOPA using a 10DE7 vacuum tube. I want to use one tube for both the Master Oscillator and Power Amplifier. It's been a great learning experience so far, I go to sleep every night with Colpitts Oscillators dancing in my head. One of the tools I've used when building a radio has been a Peak to peak RF voltage reader. This circuit is described in Dave Benson's instructions for his SW+ series of radios. Better go download the manuals! Dave's closing shop in favor of retirement, and he won't leave the site up forever. When I built the circuit, I decided to put it on a board, and let it dangle off of my dummy load. That got annoying though, and there was always the problem of what to do with the dummy load when I was done measuring power. Evenually I just ripped the circuitboard off of the dummy load. Then I had a thought.

Since the circuit uses components that are QRP level, I decided to go with a QRPish dummyload. A long time ago I located some 2 watt 200 Ohm resistors. I used them to make a dummy load that would handle 8 watts. The circuit board once upon a time dangled from the dummyload like some sort of absurd dangily earring. It just makes more sense to put the dummy load on the circuitboard. This is the result shortly before hookup:

Dummyload Added!
To insure that all my resistances were correct, and I could sanely measure voltages, I did a quickhookup to check out voltages, etc, before putting in an Altoids tin.

Ready To Test!
 Once the little job was ready to permanently affix to the inside of an altoids tin, I located some two sided sticky stuff I had laying around, and attacted to the bottom of the altoids tin. I may have said "Oh Good Grief" or something like that when I realized that the board was a lil' bit crooked in relation to the bottom of the box. After hooking up a BNC connector, and attaching the wire to my test point, my RF voltage meter was ready to use.

Ready to Use!

I plan on using this to test my designed Colpitts oscillator, but until then, the glowbug I have now will have to do. The first time I measured the voltage things seemed a little low.

This seems low.

That measures out to 0.9216 watts. ((Vp-p * sqrt(2)/4)^2 / 50) And then I got to thinking. I remembered that the last time I checked the RF output on this lil' tube radio was without my NoGAwatt attached! I pretty much just used just the dummy load dangling off the back of the radio. That was one of the reasons why I moved my dummyload onto the circuit board.
I took the NoGAWatt out of the equation and this is what I got:
Much Better Now!
For a whopping total of 1.092 watts! Just to make sure there wasn't anything crazy happening with thee coax I was using, I used both pieces of coax I used for the first test, and substituted a BNC female to female barrel coupler to see if adding that particular section of coax would alter the power out at all:

Not Much!
 That confirmed my suspicion, The NoGAwatt was consuming power. Not surprising, since something has to make the needle move to indicate forward and reflected power. I bet I could calculate the maximum amount of power lost to the meter based on the full deflection reading of the needle...
ah, maybe later. Right now is time for operating!

One last internal shot.
 I still have some prettying up to do on this lil-bit-o-kit, namely, I need to find some better way of hooking the RF measurement points up to make them accessable without being in the way, or easy to short out. Right now I'm just using the "situational awareness" method, and that doesn't always pan out.
Eventually, I hope to make this something that is publish worthy. We'll see how that works out.
GB Hoyt

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


A brief overview of what's happening in my world:

My girls are growing up. Nothing makes me happier than to see them meet new challenges, like with my middle child learned to right her bike "in about ten seconds!" on her sixth birthday. So far, my strongest test as a father has been listening to her say "I don't need any help anymore!" because that's the point. The oldest is in the third grade, and she picked up Andrew Peterson's book On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness at my suggestion. She wanted to know what grade level it was, and if there would be an AR test. Assigning books a 'grade level' and giving them 'AR tests' has got to be a scam, because the readers have now gamed into what is and isn't ok to read as a result. Oh, and you are only allowed to check out certain books at the library based on your reading level. At least that's what my daughter thinks. Checking out books based on a "grade level of reading" seems like a bad idea. My favorite book in the 3rd grade was an historical account of the discovery of various elements by scientists in the 17th-early 20th centuries by Isaac Asimov called The Search for the Elements. I liked it because it was science and history, and it belonged to my dad, and he said I should read it. I never took an AR test about it, and I mispronounced a lot of words along the way, but I learned and I liked it. Don't people like to read anymore? Don't people read things too hard for them to read because they want to be better at it, and they find the subject matter interesting?

Sorry for sounding like an old fogey.

News from the Station of KG4GVL, I discovered another blog, and put it under my blog list: RaDAR-America. It espouses an interesting concept, rapidly deployable ham radio operations. Here's a quote of this short blog post that concisely states the theory of the group:

...the difference between RaDAR and SOTA.

The summit is the operations destination of the SOTA operator. The journey to the summit (including, and back) is the operations focus of the RaDAR operator. For every five QSO's, the RaDAR operator is required to move (on the move QSO's are allowed as long as the five QSO rule is valid).
Seeing as how the highest point in FL doesn't qualify for SOTA, I think this could be a wonderful excuse to get outside and do ham radio!

On the workbench, I'm working on a MOPA using a singe tube.
more on that later.

Soon I will be 36, more on that later as well.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bhut Jolokia, Down the Hatch!

Yummy yummy yummy, can't wait to do the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Yes I have one.

Ok, here's the story,
I've eaten hot peppers since I was a too curious for my own good 8 year old boy visiting his grandparents, wondering just how hot is the homegrown cayenne Grandpa was eating in his omellette. Grandpa gave me an omellete like his, only with a green pepper (not nearly as hot) and I was in love. I thought I was eating fire. Eventually, I graduated to red cayennes, and they are still to this day, my favorite pepper of all time. They just taste nice. When I was in college I discovered habeneros. The first one I ever ate, actually put me in shock. It was a pale yellow/green color, about like a banana pepper, and I was in a "Crazy enough to try anything twice!" kind of mood. I have since grown to love habs, and wanted to stretch out my pepper handling ability. A buddy from church also loves hot chilis and he gave me a bag full of his own home grown bhut jolokias and trnidad moruga scorpions (TMS).
So far, the bhut I ate in that video was the hottest pepper I've ever eaten. It was tasty too. I was glad that I got to taste the pepper pretty good before the heat hit. That's my one complaint with Habs, they taste great, but the heat seems to hit before the tasting is done. Take a hab, de-seed and take the placental bits out (That's the ribs where the seeds attach), being careful to not touch the knife or bits you are removing out to the inside fleshy bit of the pepper to see what I mean. taste the hab. Roasted habenero really BELONGS in some foods.
I could see having some fun with the bhut. Bhut curry powder immediately comes to mind. I can't help but think that would be a "Good Thing". The Gravy also sent me a nice recipe for hummus that incorporates bhuts, TMS, and one lonely habenero. I'll post that recipe when I post a video of me eating the TMS.

GB Hoyt

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Look Into Your Heart

Jeremiah 17:5- 10 (ESV)
5 Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
  6 He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
  7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
  8 He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
  9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
  10 “I the LORD search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Kaa the Snake in the Disney version of "The Jungle Book" sang a song, it went in part "Trust in me..." I always found his character interesting because he was weak, and his power lay in his ability to control people's minds into doing what he wanted. Usually what he wanted was dinner. He would lull people into a sense of trust so that he could devour them. Our desires can devour us. Our hearts are sick. Our hearts will tell us things to convince us we can do whatever we please. Our hearts tell us to take that first dip into sin. How bad can it be? Try it out! Everyone else is, and if you do it too, you'll fit in. It's pretty easy to suddenly find yourself trapped in a sin, or a bad habit, all you have to do is listen to your heart. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
   Your heart will deceive you until it is changed, and it can't be changed without be changed. God has done something to us and for us to take the sickness out of our hearts:

Colossians 2:8-15
 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.  9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.  11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.  13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
When we became Christians God gave us new stuff on the inside! When we gather around the Lord's table, we remind ourselves of the change within us. Sometimes, we need a little more reminding than others. Fortunately, our trespasses are nailed to the cross, a public spectacle and testimony to the power of God. Christ died, was buried and rose again, so that we could have fellowship with God. Let us pray today and be glad that our fellowship is with God through Christ, and Satan is powerless to use our hearts against us.

Monday, June 24, 2013

More Fun with End Fed Antennas Part 2

This is Part 2, Part 1 may be found here:

There is was, early (like 03:00 early) Sunday morning, and I was stuck with a film canister full of fail. I thought that maybe if I let the goop inside dry, the SWR problem would clear up! Makes sense right?

After waking up very late Sunday morning, I decided to check out the SWR, and it was still high, but not as high, 2:1 as opposed to OMG:1. I decided to wait some more, but in the mean time, I had a couple of other things I wanted to try. First of all, I wanted to try and build the antenna inside a sturdier box. Something that wouldn't let the antenna connector rotate, like the film canister does.
After wrapping and prepping a second iron donut/capacitor combo, I checked SWR again. Instead of going down, it went back up! over 4:1 this time. Time to cut my losses. I chopped out the matching unit, and opened it up, check out what I found:
It is green
Let me assure you, that things were not that color when I put it in the canister! Figuring this was a "Well there's your problem!" type moment, I prepped a small radio shack container I had left over from a previous antenna project. I stuck an eye-hook in one end, drilled out the other, and affixed a BNC on the cover.
EFHW Box Mark II
after buttoning things up and ensuring that the internals were shorting themselves out, I deployed it, and tested it.
EFHW, 20m model, DEPLOYED!

Boom, Match!

I got everything set just in time for the afternoon thunderstorms to move in and ruin the radio fun...
no more QSOs just yet, and I'm going to make some more refinements, but as it is, it works!

Next up, EFHW and W3EDP Showdown at the Shack in the Back!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

More Fun with Endfed Antennas Part 1

This is part 1.
Click for Part 2
and Now we even have a part 3!

I'm participating in this year's "NJQRP Club Skeeter Hunt" as a skeeter, and I decided to limit myself to one band and one antenna, mainly for simplicities sake. I don't have a multiband QRP rig, and I'm figuring 40 will be dead or noisy while the sprint is active, so 20m it is! Because I'm limited in both power and frequencies, using a dedicated antenna makes sense. I began researching antennas, when twitter gave me an idea.

W0EA is an awesome ham. So far, I've only worked him once. I hope to change that though. He regularly builds things, and has given good reviews about the various kits he has built. Recently, he decided to make a very small very portable station, choosing for his antenna an end fed wire with custom tiny matcher. He calls it, the "Micro-Matcher". The Micro-Matcher is basically a shrunken version of the Par-End Fedz matchbox.
Parts List:
  • 35' 1" of antenna wire, I used wireman #544 , 14 gauge Flexweave,  with the Army Green vinyl cover. Good stuff!
  • 1 FT50-43 core, the biggest different between my matcher and TJ's. he used a smaller size 37 core. I have some 37's, and I have no idea how he wrapped 27 turns on it. 
  • length of enamelled magnet wire, 24 gauge. It's what I had in the shack.
  • 1 fujifilm film canister. Old school! 
  • 1 BNC connector
  • 2 UMHW pulleys, used for an end insulator, and suspension point for the antenna.
  • 1 150pf capacitor. Mine is marked 151J, making it a 50v NP0 ceramic disc cap. I wish I had a higher voltage rated monolithic cap, but I decided to give it a go. 
The eldest child came outside to help me build the antenna last Friday when her sisters fell asleep. She's been a good helper in my antenna building efforts. 

Cores and Cap

I had "fun" looking for the cap. Some time ago, I purchased several ceramic disc assortment from Radio Shack, I sorted some of them, but have a drawer with nothing but disc caps! Fortunately, I'd already sorted out some 150pF caps.

Notice the size of the core, FT37-43s are even smaller.

Before I wound the iron donut I decided to go ahead and cut the wire and prep it so that the kiddo could stay involved. She helped me cut and prep the half wave section of the antenna, notice from the pic below that I didn't solder the wires, they are merely twisted together. This was strong enough to allow for testing, but temporary, so it was pretty easy to trim to match.

End Insulator, held by 1st harmonic

Iron donut, wrapped! 

I wrapped the primary and secondary on the iron donut. The secondary on this one goes on first. It's 27 windings, and the primary is 3 windings. in this picture, the short leads are for the secondary, the long for the primary. When it got to this point Friday night, I had to go in because the skeeters were about to carry me away, and the kiddos were waking up from their nap hungry for supper. I went to bed hungry for QSOs...

hooked up for preliminary testing.
Saturday morning, I headed back outside with the kids, and we played around, then I went to the shack, and spent about 30-45 minutes hooking everything up. I had time to deploy once, and check the SWR, before going to work. It was high. I posted my results to Twitter, and made plans to cut some wires when I got home.
talkin' shop Saturday morning

While all the cool hams went about participating in Field Day, I was at work. Next year, I have GOT to take FD off! I bided my time at the office, and when I got home, I couldn't rest until I got out to my shack and got to work matching the antenna.

That which I trimmed
I made it a point to have the antenna preset in the air so that I could easily get it up and down for the matching process. I cut the ends of the wires, re-twisted them onto the end insulator, and measured the reflected power with my trusty NoGA QRP wattmeter. It took about 45 Minutes to get the match to look like the pic below.
We have a Match!
funny thing, as I was trimming, I noticed a definite change in received racket with each snip. When I got the final trim done, I even noticed a few stations still operational on 20m for Field Day.
I tuned to a dead spot on my dial, and attempted to make a test video. I wasn't happy with the way it went, so I reset, and started filming a second time, check out to see what happened:

That was the first live QSO with the new antenna! WOW! how can you argue with results like that?
So now it's time to button things up. I get out some DAP sillicone and the big boy soldering gun. First I permanentified the end of the antenna, soldering the twists so they won't come undone. Then I made a mistake...
Thinking that the DAP was ok for antenna use because I didn't notice a strong vinegar smell coming from it, I decided to squeeze a bunch into the film canister, and around the connector. It's an insulator right?
I knew something was wrong because as soon as I got everything together, the racket quieted down, and I couldn't hear anything, a quick press of the key told the tale. My near perfect match was gone, and I was defeated.
to be continued....

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New W3EDP Deployed.

Sorry Central FL folks, it looks like my desire to deploy two W3EDP's caused a tropical storm :) Andrea was named the day after I successfully deployed W3EDP antenna number two. It runs North/South (NS).
Some notes,
So far, tuning is similar to, but not exactly like the East/West (EW) antenna.
Here's how they differ in configuration:
  • The NS runs more like an L antenna than the EW. The far end of the NS does drop down about 6-8 feet but it finishes its drop significantly higher than the EW. 
  • The NS Feedline has 1 extra bend in it. It goes up from the tuner, bends to the eave, and chicanes out of the soffit into the sky at about a 60-70 degree angle. The EW antenna only has one chicane out of the soffit, and goes up at about a 60-70 degree angle.
  • The EW runs flattish (sag in the middle, but not enough to count) at height. See My "Yearly W3EDP Antenna Post" for a diagram of the shape of the antenna. The NS gets to a little below the height of the EW and slopes up to significantly higher than the EW antenna. I'm not able to precisely determine the difference as the far end of the NS antenna isn't very accessable.
  • The NS antenna touches the tree it's mounted in at the far end. This probably plays the single biggest role in changing the impedance of the antenna. I tried to keep it off the limb, but can't because of where I can mount it. It was pull the far end over a limb, or cause the feedline and antenna to orient at an acute angle.
Some beauty shots:
Sighting up the Wire

Close on the feedline

Transition from Feedline to Antenna

The Thin White Line about midframe is the Antenna
 Of course, now I must confess to being the worst ham in the world, because while I've deployed this antenna, and I've tuned it up, I've yet to sit down, focus, and make a QSO using it and comparing it to the EW.


construction notes:
both EW and NS are exactly alike, the wire came from the same length of Wireman #523 ("Silky" see, the "Feedline" section came from the same roll of Wireman #553, both antennas use banana plugs from the same Radio Shack, and they both use Army pants buttons for the end insulators. I made them both the same night, to sell at a conference. The EW has been deployed longer, but the wire is still bright and has weathered well.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mrs. Happy

I was sitting there in Church wondering what the scene must have been like in the Lord's presence Saturday morning. Jesus is there, and a sizable crowd has gathered some sitting and some standing, at the "pearly gates" awaiting something. I imagine that many of the faces I see are familar to me, maybe not as I knew them, but I know who they are, I've known some of these people all my life.
  Suddenly, a voice comes up from the edge of the crowd closest to the gate, "Here she comes!" As one, a great chord is struck, and crowd stands stands, faces the gates, and the crowd sings as one:

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creates here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Know that song? I've sung it after communion service in churches all over the place, even sung it in Haitian Kreyol. The first time I remember hearing it though, has been at First Christian Church of Cheneyville, La. Mrs Margaret "Happy" Tanner struck the chord every week, we all stood, and all sang it together after communion service every week. Today however, Mrs Happy is the one coming thru "the gates", she's being welcomed into the Lord's Presence. I'm so glad to have known her, and I'm on the edge of tears thinking about her.

There's no tears left for her though. She won't cry, nor does she feel pain. Her arms are better, and her heart is healed. She doesn't look the same, but we will know who she is, and as she looks around, she sees many faces she knows.

I imagine the first person she recognizes is Jesus. I imagine the embrace, and the thunder in his voice "Welcome home, my good and faithful servant". I imagine she'll see Mr Buster, big happy grin on his face. She'll see other friends, some family, and faces from the far away places, people who were saved because of the time, money, and prayers she put into the Lord's work.

It's great there.

Here we mourn.

Not as others mourn, though.
Even now, our mourning becomes a song:

Praise God from whom all blessing flow...

Edit to add, Mrs Happy's obituary can be found here:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hamstyle Recycle

Much of Amateur Radio relies on using, or reusing things in ways which the equipment designer didn't intend. I've seen rectifier diodes used as variable capacitors, small signal diodes used as voltage doublers, high speed switching transistors used as buffer amps, and oscillators. I've even used flourescent light bulbs to test for Radio Signals emminating from my antenna. That's where this piece of Vintage Junque comes into play:
I got this for free when visiting a fellow ham, and he said "It might work..." I plugged it in and PPPPBBBBXXXZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT! went some electrolytic capacitor in it.

Ok by me, it has tubes and sockets, and a power transformer inside! I decided to dismantle this stately relic from bygone days in between QSO's while hangin' out in "The Shack in the Back". If I can't bust the pile up, might as well bust up a pile of junk!
Once upon a time Heathkit was a company that "Made builders out of ordinary people" and I've got to admit, most of the time, I'm pretty ordinary. Looking inside the monitor, we see a plethora of old mil surplus parts. That is correct, one of the things that made Heathkit possible in the era of time in which it existed was the presence of a large and cheap supply of surplus parts.
Nothing like that exists today.
I suppose that's why Elecraft costs so much.
 Inside this station monitor you find several interesting things, notice how big the carbon composition resistors are, and how they are %10 tolerance resistors. Don't find them in Radio shack these days! No sir! they have them fancy pants %5 parts. High tolerance that is.
Cleaned out some.
Cleaned out the chassis some in this pic, let's take a closer look at the sockets I removed:

Socket to me!
Once I'm done cleaning this thing out, it will be perferct to serve as a test bed for all sorts of MOPA's, VFO's, Regen RX's, or whatever I think to stick in it!
Let's just hope it survives the rain we will be getting over the next couple of days.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More on the W3EDP

The original post I made on the W3EDP antenna I use for field use and as my main antenna is by far the most popular post I have made on this blog. I did some digging and it seems that every May since 2011 I tend to right some article about the W3EDP. I have covered how I make mine, and how I deploy it. Currently, it is the only antenna I have deployed on HF. Originally, I had intended to deploy it in a temporary fashion, but the antenna just seems to like being there. I've created a Picture of how the antenna looks as viewed from the side, sorry if my artistry leaves something to be desired.

This antenna gets the QSOs

Every now and then I tweak it a lil to make sure the wire isn't rubbing the bottom of a tree limb or something. Notes on this configuration: The antenna runs due east west. The east side is the far end, and the west side is where I feed the antenna. I seem to get a lot of contacts into Europe, and into the north east, especially on 40 and 20. Contacts to the west are iffy. I would like to put a similar antenna up that runs north south in pretty much the same configuration. It would be doable, but tricky. it's easy to install a Sloper North South, but not so easy to put up an antenna in a "Trapezoid" configuration as I have it installed. I may decide to go ahead and slope out the east west antenna, but we shall see.

I don't know if it's the water in the ground because of recent rains, or if it's that the trees are growing, but I notice that the tuning has been a bit touchy, and inconsistent. I seem to recall having to do very little tweaking all winter, when the tree may be green, but fairly dormant (no new growth, and little rain). Now I have to hunt for a sweet spot on the tuner a lil harder, and the knobs seem to be sharp tuning. I'll try to make and keep a chart for next years post, and publish the boring data :)
May update this post (or just make a new one) in a week or two if I decide to put up a North/South W3EDP. I also have to plan for the skeeter sprint, so tweakin' out my setup for that will consume my ham radio time.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why Was I in A Hurry Again?

Globe moves us around
I know we are all moving
Fast enough for now

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Fields of flowers wave
Transient as the white clouds
Or cars on the road

these are purple

Yellow, I love you won't you tell me your name?

Get closer and you will see...

...if it's not interesting, you aren't close enough.
Rise up!
I took time to see
Flowers growing on roadside
They die too quick not to

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Holy Cow. Thanks to The Gravy for sharing this with me. I has a waaaaaaaaant! I wonder how it would be to make a custom lean sausage blend, like venison, or grind up some sirloin w fresh herbs. Hmmmmmm yum.

Bacon Explosion: The BBQ Sausage Recipe of all Recipes - BBQ Addicts - BBQ Blog

Will this work with my diet? or will this only make me die?

Brief Reflections on What I've Been Thinking About

TL/DR types Skip to the text between the line of ='s.

Once upon a time, I had an email signature that read in part:
"Philosopher, Photographer, Preacher, Pirate, Poet"
seems as if I've been doing very little of the above except for maybe the Philosopher bit, and a few haikus that turn up in strange places. My years of "Piracy" have prepared me for a life as a protector now, and that's primarily what I do. I've always been less of a  "Shiver me timbers" type pirate, and more of a "TCB baby, all day, in any way" kind of pirate. Preaching still happens from time to time, I use words when necessary. It seems that people are far more interested in Radio than Religion when it comes to this bit of meandering I call a blog, but then again, most people have no idea what religion really is. The philosopher in me has been disturbed recently at how everyone talks about "Getting rid of the religion in their lives", "It's all about a relationship!", and they treat religion as if it is a word that has taken on a fresh meaning of negativity. They believe that The Church as an institution has lost it's fresh grip on reality.
Fools, the lot of them. They are utterly bereft of the benefit of perspective. They can't see the nothing new under the sun they have discovered. Or maybe they are feigning ignorance for the sake of the uninformed. Perhaps I will give "Them" the benefit of a doubt!

This could rapidly devolve into a rant against the dispermanence that has infiltrated our subconscious. (creed: I believe humans are accepting that they are dispermanent apparitions content to exist for a short while as replicating glyphs of coalesced energy. Some of them are right, I, however, plan to be around for a long time) I didn't set out to outline the disparity between action and thought, and the hypocrisy of recording the most precious of our intimations within a medium as malleable and dispermanent as something we have ironically termed "The Cloud" (are you kidding me? Clouds disappear when it gets hot, or after a rain! watch a storm progress, as powerful as it may get, they don't take long to peter out into nothing. when a cloud is gone, there is nothing left.) What I do intend is to display how dispermanence has affected the ability of humanity to record events in a static medium that adequately captures the essence of the moment.

The short version:

The worse thing to happen to the art/science of photography is the digital camera.
The best thing to happen to the art/science of photography is the digital camera.

The greatest strength that digital photography gives to the user is that it makes the recording of events very cheap. Being able to record events as they happen use to cost a lot of money. I spent over $200 just on film and processing to develop the pictures I took when I was in Jordan in 2000, and that doesn't include making specialty prints, or making double copies (often I got these for free at Wolf Camera), just the film, and the processing of that film. With a digital camera, you immediately have the final product, and in a media that makes it instantly shareable with anyone who has an internet connection. Regardless of location, from shot to view is as quick as it's taken.
That's incredibly empowering.
Nothing can be hidden.

At the same time, in some ways, it's become a lot easier to create a false reality. Now that the moment has been condensed into math, it's fairly simple to change variables, and therefore inject your subjective take on the situation. Many times this is done benevolently, with the intention being to improve aesthetics or to highlight a particular aspect of a subject for education and illumination. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does make  possibile malevolent subject manipulation, even to the point of completely altering the point in history to reinforce a false narrative.

We all know you can't believe what you see on tv or the internet.
For some reason though, we have no problem trusting the internet to keep our data safe.
This problem and hypocracy needs further exploration and thought.

I want to focus for a brief second on what making something cheap and common does to the psyche of the person using it. What makes a photographer a photographer now that everyone is a photographer? What makes a story teller a story teller now that everyone tells the story?
Here is some truth:
  • If everyone can tell a story, to control the story, one must make sure only one story is told, whether it is the truth or not. Sell the big lie once, to the right voice, and you immediately capture the echochamber, and perpetuate the falsehood to serve your agenda.
  • If the truth escapes, you can generate many other stories, so that the truth is lost in a competing stream of lies.
  • Cynicism becomes the primary lens through which we trust the information we review.
Trust has become a very important commodity, and trust is necessary before something is to be believed.

That's as brief as I can be right now.
Remember the fallen on Memorial Day.

Trio of Venus, Mercury and Jupiter

Western Sky at Sunset
I can see three Wanderers
Together, they dance

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Getting in Shape

In my Constant Battle against Inertia, I have decided to embrace a new diet and exercise routine. The diet part focuses around using fewer carbs, more protein, and raw fruits/veggies. For several meals a week (up to 2 a day) I will be consuming a Nutriblast, made from various fruits/veggies, nuts, etc. I will post my nutriblast recipes, and exerperience with each one. A nutriblast is what the people who made the Nutribullet call the smoothie made by the nutribullet.

I'll also be throwing around a Kettlebell.
Today I am going to take my girls on a run/walk to the park where I will engage in play with them, incorporating several crossfit like activities, like doing laterals while pushing them on the swingset, inclined pushups on various pieces of gear, sprints from one side of the play area to the other, and stretches thrown all about, because I'm not as flexible and spry as I once was.
Don't be afraid to share your experiences with Kettlebell, crossfit, or the nutribullet!
Encouragement is also welcome.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Heathkit + Ten-Tec = AWESOME?!?

... If Heathkit (Yes, they are back from the grave again!) could team with Ten-Tec's line of Rebel XCVRs to produce an expandable line of radios that combine kitbuilding, SDR, and programming?
Think K2, but simpler. Maybe start off with single band dc receiver. The next part of the kit could be an interface that allows you to hook in a computer. So now you've built the basis for an SDR receiver. Then you can add a TX board, and go on from there. By keeping it modular and open source, you can keep cost down. Plan it the right way, and you could even use it in a class to teach radio fundamentals, and licensing that goes beyond the usual "Memorize and regurgitate".
  I think my ham radio generation of operators could really get into something like this. I'll take the Heathkit survey when I get home. I hope you will take it too.


Took the survey, while sitting in my radio shack, with an SW-40+ tuned to a QSO between W9ZN and AA4MC great CW ops those guys! remarkably clean fists.
Took the survey on my cellphone, something I don't think I could solder together myself (but I might be willing to try once!), in front of an old Swan MX100 and a partially disassembled Heathkit station monitor (HO-10).  I told them I had two Heathkits. Sadly both are out of repair at the moment.
I hope they at least offer some spiffy green paint for sale!


This is a Passalid beetle according to my entomologist connection.


Found this sucker in my shoe!
This will be a pic heavy post. I am saving for an entomologist friend of mine.

out my shoe, and on the carport floor
Keys for size comparison

Inside a babyfood jar, wet from the holding jar

Dried it off some.

Give you an idea of size.

belly Shot, squirmin'

closest I could get and still maintain focus

In the Kill Jar

I think it's in denial

finally it embraces the end

Rest in Peace Beetle. Shot at f/7.1 to get all in focus.

More "artsy" shot at f5.6 to soften things up a bit.

After I consult my entomologist friend, I'll have information about specific species, etc. His intial guess was that it is a Carabid beetle, however, as I got better pics, he is leaning toward Passalid.

To be continued!