September 18, 2015

My favorite season of the year is just about here. We’ve already had a couple mornings with lows in the 40s. Right now, we are still seeing highs in the 80s but the humidity is fairly low.

A couple new Low-Power FM stations are coming on the air here. I got a chance to tour their facilities a couple weeks ago. Congratulations to all involved.

I still operate a lot of digital modes, especially JT65 which I have discussed before. Another mode that Joe Taylor invented is JT9. It works quite well, and uses a smaller bandwidth than JT65. A fairly new digital mode described in the September issue of QST is called FSQ “Fast Simple QSO”. It is sort of like an IRC chat room on the air. It also shows promise for public service work. Learn more and download the software here:

Shortwave band conditions have not been very good lately, but I think things will improve as we head into autumn. Tamitha Skov is an astrophysicist who periodically  publishes an excellent video about solar conditions. It is well worth subscribing to her reports:

I had a bunch of QSL cards checked by ARRL card checkers at the Lexington Hamfest. I have now completed Worked All States (WAS) on 30, 17 and 12 meters. That gives me WAS on 8 different bands. I now have over 300 grid squares confirmed on six meters. For DX Century Club (DXCC) I added a couple of 150 endorsements, 10 meters and 20 meters.

I continue to review recordings I made of the AM broadcast band back in March using my Perseus Software-Defined Receiver. I’m still finding stations I’ve never logged before. You can see the results on my YouTube page.

Trying For A Repeat

September 17, 2015

Ohio State was a consensus #1 to start the season, as the Buckeyes look to be loaded with more than enough talent to repeat as national champions. The first two games came out OK, but one could nit pick if so inclined.

The Bucks came flying out of the gate in the opener at Virginia Tech, taking a quick 14-0 lead. But the Hokies stormed back to go up 17-14 at halftime. OSU scored on the first possession of the second half to go back up 21-17. VT quarterback Michael Brewer then broke his collar bone. The Hokies’ offense was never the same after that, and the Bucks won 42-24. I think the result could have been a lot different if Brewer hadn’t gone down. He had a great game last year in beating Ohio State, and had no fear of the Buckeyes.

Ohio State fans expected total domination of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the defense was indeed superb in a 38-0 win. So, there is plenty of second-guessing about the offensive play calling and performance. Only time will tell if there are major issues to be resolved.

The headline game of the weekend was Oregon at Michigan State, won by the Spartans 31-28 in a good game.

First SEC Road Win Since 2009

September 16, 2015

Kentucky’s third season under Coach Mark Stoops has begun, and so far it looks like the years of good recruiting are starting to pay off. After a close home opener against a good Louisiana-Lafayette team, the Wildcats went to South Carolina and held on for a 26-22 win. It was Kentucky’s first conference road win since November of 2009 at Georgia.

UK’s offense looks pretty good, and the defense is better. So far I have seen fewer missed tackles. But more work needs to be done. After taking a 24-7 halftime lead on ULL, and later a 23-point lead, the Ragin’ Cajuns came back to tie the game before the Wildcats scored a game-winning touchdown. In Columbia, the Cats once again took at 24-7 halftime lead. But their offense completely disappeared in the second half. Kentucky’s defense saved them, several times holding the Gamecocks to a field goal after they had driven deep into UK territory. Kentucky ran back a muffed two-point conversion attempt to take a four-point lead in what could have been a tie game had South Carolina completed the conversion.

So, the Wildcats need to develop more consistency if they want to win games against the SEC elite. With the strength of the conference being down a bit this year, some more SEC wins are a possibility. This Saturday Florida visits Lexington. The Gators have a multi-decade win streak over the Cats, one of the longest streaks in Division 1.

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet

July 17, 2015

I had never heard of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet until a couple weeks ago, when their initial public stock offering was announced. I was shut out of the IPO, but I was curious about the company and so decided to do some research.

The company was started and is based in Pennsylvania and has grown from there. It is pretty much all east of the Mississippi River right now, but there are plans to expand.

There is no Ollie’s in Lexington. There are two in Louisville and one in Richmond. I’m always interested in a “bargain” so decided to check out the Richmond location. It is on the Eastern Bypass just off I-75 from exit 87.

Ollie’s advertising emphasizes that they buy odd lots of name-brand merchandise and resell at significant savings in their stores.

While there are many “name brand” items in the store, I also found tons of “generic” stuff with brands I had never heard of.

I also was not impressed with the pricing. Items for sale did not appear to be at a significant discount from what they are available at elsewhere. Most items are listed with an “our” and “their” price. Ollie’s prices are often 50% less than the “their” price. In the cases I looked at, the “their” price was more than what a particular item would sell for elsewhere.

Without going to other locations I have no idea whether or not the inventory in all stores is about the same, or if there is a lot of variation. The Richmond store had a very large book section. Since I don’t buy books in stores, I have no idea how their prices compare. This store also seemed to have a lot of carpeting for sale. The amount of clothing items seemed to be fairly minimal.

Ollie’s has a reward program called “Ollie’s Army”. For every $250 you spend at Ollie’s, you earn a coupon for 10% off a purchase.

Bottom line: if you happen to be near an Ollie’s store it’s worth going in to take a look. I don’t see it being worth a special trip, as it doesn’t appear to be much different from other stores such as dollar, outlet and warehouse clubs.


JT65 Update

July 16, 2015

I’ve written here before about JT65, a fairly new digital mode finding wide usage on the ham radio bands. JT65 has a slow data transfer rate, but gets through in noisy or poor-propagation situations better than other modes.

I use JT65 on the high frequency (shortwave) bands plus six meters. Originally, the best software for JT65 on HF was written by W6CQZ and I used it for a number of years. A ham in Switzerland, HB9HQX took that software and extended it. I think it is now the best program to use to run JT65 on HF. I also use an add-on program called JTAlert which helps me spot specific countries I am interested in working.

KY4K and I gave a presentation on JT65 to the Bluegrass Amateur Radio Society back in May. WA4HBM shot video of it, which you can see here:


July 16, 2015

Our local QRP club continues to roll along, and we have a lot of fun with low-power operation. KY-QRP is a special interest group within the Bluegrass Amateur Radio Club. We have a lot of members who build kits, experiment with antennas and see what can be done with minimalist stations.

We are very big into getting out in the field and operating portable from city parks or other outdoor settings. We got a couple nice outings in this year before the really hot weather arrived. See the following two videos:


July 16, 2015

I’ve had a lot of fun contesting recently.

I always operate the NAQCC (North American QRP CW Club) monthly Sprint. In fact, the July Sprint is coming up tonight. I set a new personal best with 33 QSOs (contacts) in the two-hour sprint in June. Over the last several months I have several times finished second in the US fourth call area (among those who use a keyer rather than a bug or straight key).

Last Saturday I operated the IARU HF World Championship as I have for several years. I always operate this QRP (5 watts). I have several Top-Ten finishes in this contest (US/Canada, in the category of mixed mode (SSB and CW) QRP).

For ARRL Field Day (fourth weekend in June each year) I usually operate from home running QRP on battery power. This year was no exception. I also visited the Bluegrass Amateur Radio Society’s Field Day setup at a city park here in town. Great food and fellowship. The club set up five very nice stations this year.

I’ve had a lot of fun with the CQ WPX contests. These are sponsored by CQ Magazine. “WPX” refers to the fact that you try to work as many prefixes as possible. (My prefix is “KU4”). The voice (single sideband) and Morse Code (CW) contests are run separately. In March of 2014 I finished first in my class and #4 in the world in the SSB contest, as I entered using only the ten-meter band. On the CW weekend in May I finished #1 in North America, #6 in the world also as a 10-meter-only entry.

CQ also sponsors another international contest called “CQ WW” (WW = WorldWide). For the SSB weekend last October, I finished #3 in the US running QRP.

A contest that I try to operate every year without fail is the ARRL Ten-Meter contest, held each December. In this one, I make contacts using both SSB and CW, operating QRP. In 2014 I finished in the US Top Ten.


New Equipment

July 15, 2015

Some new equipment has arrived in the shack recently. Not sure how all this stuff gets in here :-).

I found a great deal on a lightly-used Yaesu FT-950 HF/6-meter transceiver. This rig is not currently in production but is only a few years old. You can read about it on Universal Radio’s web site here:

Late last year a friend of mine noticed that many dealers were having clearance specials on the Yaesu FT1DR digital handheld transceiver. Several of us got them. Plus, KY4K has installed a Yaesu System Fusion repeater here. System Fusion is one of several digital voice protocols currently in use in VHF/UHF amateur radio. But the nice thing about System Fusion equipment is it simultaneously supports both analog and digital voice. You can read about the FT1DR here:

Last but not least, at a nearby flea market I found a Grecom PSR-400 scanner for 10 bucks. The PSR-400 does not support any of the digital modes becoming more-and-more common in public-service communications. But it does support analog trunking, which is still used extensively here. I was able to figure out how to program this scanner with my computer, and it has become a mainstay in my shack. Read about it here:

Medium Wave DXing

July 15, 2015

Over the last couple of years, my medium wave (AM broadcast band) DXing has mostly been by using my Microtelecom Perseus Software-Defined Radio (SDR). I make recordings for a couple minutes at the top of an hour. I can record the entire band (plus some) at one time.

In the last few weeks I have finally gotten a chance to start reviewing some recordings I made back in March. When I log a new (not heard before) station, I make a video which I post on YouTube. What you see in the video is a view of the Perseus software that runs on the computer.

Go here to see my recent loggings:

Plumb Pitiful!

July 12, 2015

Plumb pitiful that I haven’t been able to keep up with this blog! But as we get into football and hockey this fall, perhaps I will get more motivated.

The Blue Jackets finished their season on a high note. Of course, having been already eliminated from the playoffs, there wasn’t much pressure. After the Blackhawks won The Stanley Cup, there was a blockbuster trade between Columbus and Chicago with multiple players moving. Columbus now has the NHL’s highest-paid group of forwards. If they produce significant offense this season, when you consider that Sergei Bobrovsky is a great goaltender, we might be on the verge of a big season. We’ll see.

Ohio State will be the pre-season favorite to repeat as National College Football Champions. The big question (still unresolved) is who will start at quarterback. You can make the case that all three candidates are Heisman caliber. Braxton Miller is the experienced senior. But he may move to more of a running back position and in that case either JT Barrett or Cardale Jones would be the QB.

Our summer so far has been rather stormy, but therefore not too hot. Am having to mow every 4-5 days just like in the Spring.

I am now completely retired. There hadn’t been much work at my contracting job this year, so the planned exit on September 30th got moved up to July 6.

Lots of great radio stuff going on this summer, so stay tuned for more posts in the near future. I promise! :-).


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