Around the shack

The other day I mentioned to my wife that I’d accomplished many of my ham radio goals this year. Her response: “You can’t stop now!”

She was referring to my irritating ability to completely immerse myself in a hobby, then suddenly drop it and bury myself in something else. Through the years she’s seen me go in and out of several phases of photography. At the most extreme level I went back to school to get a master’s degree in media arts specifically so I’d have access to a traditional darkroom again. In retrospect, I could have done that for much cheaper at home, but it was nice getting the degree all the same, hi hi.

She’s also witnessed my complete immersion in music — at the worst point, I think I owned something like six guitars. I sold most of them to fund the camera obsession! I got interested again recently and started building a kit guitar, then promptly set it aside, nearly complete but unpainted and unstrung. Guess what? I got busy, teaching photography at my alma mater!

Cars? I don’t even want to talk about it. Lets just say my wife has been VERY patient, and I’ve been a fool.

So the other night when I declared I’d accomplished many of my ham radio goals, she thought I was saying I was tired of ham radio. Absolutely not!

Here are a few of my current priorities:

  • Power distribution. The shack is a mess. I have two radios now and one power supply. I should have invested in a Powerpole system a long time ago, but buying power distribution gear just isn’t as fun as buying new radios and antennas. Switching one power supply between two radios REALLY isn’t very fun.
  • Grounding. I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but my shack has no grounding whatsoever. I’ve invested in a nice copper grounding bus bar that I intended to bolt to the rear of my desk. I just haven’t gotten around to it. I realize that operating without a ground is very poor amateur practice, and I’m probably hindering/endangering myself in multiple ways by not having a proper ground system.
  • The 2 meter antenna. Ahhh, the Arrow J-pole. A nice piece of kit that neither offends nor inspires. I wanted to install this on one of the peaks of the house, but once I discovered it worked just fine propped in the corner of the shack, I never bothered getting it up on the roof. Well, I’m sick of seeing it propped in the corner. I don’t get great reception there either. Sure it works, but not well. My current plan is to install this on a long mast and attach the mast to the fence post on the side of the house, which will give me a short run of coax down and right into the shack.
  • The dipole. The Buckmaster OCF has served me well, but it’s time to get it up higher. My QTH is one of the lowest parts of our neighborhood, and I only have the dipole a meager 25 feet up at the center point. I’ve made plenty of contacts, but it is a bit deaf in some directions. I believe there is a tree that may get me close to 50 feet, which should improve my take-off angle a little. I also need to do some routine maintenance — check the coax, check connections, and clear brush around the antenna and coax now that spring and summer have arrived and foliage is trying to overtake the backyard.
  • Operating position. Everything on my desk needs to be rearranged. The computer needs to be front and center for logging. I need a new chair. The equipment needs to be stacked a bit to allow for some extra space. The entire room needs to be cleaned too.
  • Get QSL cards. I can’t believe I haven’t made any QSL cards yet. Slack!

None of this is very fun, but spending a weekend or two working on some of these problems should make operating more enjoyable in the long run.

And speaking of operating, I’d intended to work as many of the “13 Colonies” stations as I could find, but that endeavor has proved to be a challenge. Phone and digital contacts have been unsuccessful, but I also haven’t heard but about three of them. Pile-ups have been severe too. In the meantime, I’ve made some nice contacts elsewhere:

  • On PSK31 I’ve logged QSOs with UR4QX (Ukraine), KF5IRG, F2YT (France), and K4O (Puerto Rico special event station).
  • On JT65 I recently logged KY0R, AA5KK, and KI5PM
  • I logged my first RTTY contact, UR4EWT (Ukraine)

Interesting that these are all QRP contacts. I don’t know what’s going on with the bands, but the phone portions have been utterly dead the last few days.

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