I worked Paul, K3STX twice throughout the ongoing Northern California Contest Club NS Sprint. We were licensed about the same time in the late 1970s. Perhaps we chatted on one of those long Pennsylvania winter nights during Christmas break as novices. Who can forget the crowd of Morse code operators between 7.100 and 7.150 pounding brass beyond midnight. A new generation of operators emerged from the 70s and let's chat with Paul, K3STX whose one of them.
You were first licensed at the age of fifteen. Tell us about that?
I got my ticket in 1978, I think it was pretty common to get your ticket when you were young back then. All the other novices were young, so it was not like we were hanging out with 60 year old guys. The novice bands were also crowded, so there were always guys to talk to (by talk I mean Morse code, of course). I had a big ol’transmitter, a Heathkit DX-100, and a Hallicrafters S20R general coverage receiver. I really did not do much contesting then, I was involved in those days in traffic nets like PTTN, EPA, and 3RN.
Share with us a favorite operating moment and contest while you operated as a novice?
To be honest, I really don’t remember much. I was only a novice for about 4 months. I have in my old log book that I entered the ARRL 10 meter contest. But my favorite operating moment EVER came in the first year I was a ham (1979), I was chasing the U0Y DXpedition in Tuva, USSR (in rare zone 23) every single night on 20 meter CW with no luck (with a dipole and a Kenwood TS-520S). Then after a week, they heard me, and I logged the contact. But could NOT get the QSL card. I sent to the manager over and over through the years. Finally, in 2005 I got in touch with UA9AB who got me in contact with the QSL manager and I got my card!! 26 years later!!
Why did you decide to re-enter amateur radio after a 10-year absence?
I think it’s a fairly typical story. I was on the air all through high school, then dropped out during college, graduate school, and post-graduate research. I was on the air for about one year in 1990, then off again getting married, moving to Maryland for more post-graduate research, and then had kids. After 9/11/2001 all the talk of hiding in our basements and hoarding food and water made me think about the safety of my family, so I got out the old Kenwood TS-520S and threw up a wire. The rest is history. My poor XYL, she had no idea.
Tell us the story about your callsign K3STX?
I am the director of a biomedical research laboratory at the National Cancer Institute. My lab was cloning some human genes involved in intracellular protein transport called syntaxins, and the abbreviation for the syntaxin protein is “STX”. I thought it would be cool to have it in my call and it sounds good and is easy to send on CW, so I snatched it up.
Your QRZ dot com biography mentioned using wire antennas for contesting and DXing. Why the use of wire antennas?
Wire antennas are cheap, relatively low profile, and effective. I would love a tower, but with a small lot and limited money to blow on Ham radio (and kids ages 2, 8, and 10) I am much more in the “taking care of kids” mode than “taking care of Ham radio” mode. So for now its wires. For domestic contesting they work pretty well, I do fine in domestic contests when I calculate QSO/hour. I just don’t put in a lot of hours since I really do not operate much when the kids are awake (they tend to demand attention!). In the past year I bought an Ameritron AL-811 amp, and with the 500 watts of power on CW if I can hear them I can work them. I did not work the BS7H DXpedition, but there were very very difficult to even hear with my modest antennas.
Your working on your 5-Band DX Century Club award and run 100-watts into wire antennas. What suggestions do you have for entry-level operators pursuing the same goal?
I have now confirmed over 100 countries on 40, 20, and 15 meters, worked about 120 countries on 80 meters (80 confirmed thus far), but only worked 50 countries on 10 (all using Morse code, I choose not to use a microphone for DXing). I just never got into 10 meters when we had sunspots, and now I will have to wait. But this will be easy. I am certain the hardest part was 80 meters, over the past two winters I really worked hard on 80 meter DXing. My antenna for 80 is a wire vertical: it goes about 65 feet straight up the base of a tree into the canopy and then a rope goes over a branch and back down to earth. I have about 12 radials, each is 33 feet long. This antenna BLOWS AWAY my 80 meter dipole fed with ladder-line that is only up 60 feet. I use the dipole and a tuner for every thing else, but also have a fan dipole for 40/20 meters. I used to have a wire vertical for 40 (into the same tree) with 8 elevated radials, but the support rope broke and I have never replaced it. But it too worked great.
The #1 thing I did the achieve this goal was upgrade to Extra. It would have been extremely difficult on 80 to work 100 counties in the General portion of the bands, all the DX hangs out between 3.500-3.520 MHz.
Morse code what about that?
I operate CW almost exclusively and have done so my whole Ham life. I do some SSB for contesting to contribute points to my contest club (Potomac Valley Radio Club), but I don’t really enjoy it. Not only do I like CW and have some talent for it, but I think Ham radio IS communication via Morse code. I have now gotten into using semi-automatic “bugs”, to learn how to use these beasts will talk some time, but it is important to preserve the tradition of using a Vibroplex bug for the next generation. I am not very good at using the bugs yet and get frustrated by not being able to send as fast as I can receive (I can copy over 60 wpm but can only send about 20 wpm using a bug).
Any favorite contests?
My favorite contests are the NA Sprints. I used to do them when I was a kid and loved them back then too. I got into contesting the help my DXCC total, but now I really enjoy them for what they are. I still enter the major DX contests, but the domestic contests (the Sprints, NA QSO Parties, and Sweepstakes) are where I can be somewhat competitive. With wire antennas you can make real headway in these contests, for DX contests it is hard to maintain a run frequency using 100 watts and wires.
Do you have any suggestions for entry-level contesters?
I would say to get in there and have fun and set reasonable goals for yourself. You’re not going to win, so set a goal like “top three in low power in my section” or something like that. All the pro’s also tell you to “stay in the chair”, but sometimes family commitments don’t allow that. Don’t be intimidated by the high-speed CW operators, if they are any good they will slow down for you. They want YOUR contact too. But practice is how you get better, right?
Tell us about your number one Grateful Dead song?
Like all Dead Heads, my number one song changes every few months or so. One thing they all have in common is that my kids always hate my #1 song. I prefer the songs with lots of improvisation and jamming. Currently I am hooked on Dark Star, for a while it was Playing in the Band, before that The Other One. They can each be 30 minute long “suites”, you just get lost in the music.
Thank you Paul for answering my questions and all the best to you and yours.
73 from the shack.
New developments while Sol builds anticipation going into its 24th cycle. My operating theme through the weekend? Listen, listen, and listen. I worked a station in Arizona on 30-meters Saturday afternoon. Our signal reports were 569 respectively. Band conditions did not stop the show either. His signal faded into the ionosphere just as the QSO ender "dit dit" flew off my keyer. Slowly, ever so slowly upwards and onwards to the propagation summit.
Bill, N6ZFO author of Northern California Contest Club (NCCC) Sprint Ladder - Ultimate Radiosport published his first post. One will get an inside look into the fastest growing event in amateur radio contesting. Likewise, insightful commentary is available from many of the hardcore participants. Great read and more is forthcoming in the very near future. Please check KA3DRR's link section for N6ZFO's NCCC Sprint Ladder - Ultimate Radiosport.
A newline of blog articles is in the works at KA3DRR. The title is Amazing Operators. My first featured operator is Paul, K3STX who lives in Maryland. He runs wire antennas and re-entered our hobby after college, graduate, and post-graduate school. Paul is a dedicated family man and he enjoys contesting. He likes to chase DX after the kids are tucked in for the evening. In addition, Paul is working on his 5-Band DX Century Club Award and 10-meters is the last band standing. His vanity callsign is interesting as well. Stay tuned as Paul discusses his days as a novice, the vibroplex learning curve, and his number one Grateful Dead song.
This weekend the IARU High Frequency (HF) World Championship event takes place beneath the ionospheric dome of stadium Earth. I downloaded EI5DI's contesting freeware for this event and look forward to its learning curve. This is my first-ever, at least to my recollection, IARU HF World Championship. The event is mixed-mode or one can choose to operate either CW or SSB exclusively. The buzz is building and one can earn at least 1-point when contacting their own ITU zone. Personally, I favor this type of scoring format as it benefits every participant involved in the event.
N6ZFO's NCCC Sprint Ladder - Ultimate Radiosport debuted and a newline of articles called "Amazing Operators" is forthcoming featuring Paul, K3STX. This weekend the IARU HF World Championship event will surly thrill fans in stadium Earth. Do not miss the action and its operating challenge at the bottom of the sunspot cycle. Hope to see you in the EI5DI contesting freeware log this weekend.
73 from the shack.
Dale Carnegie said, "Flaming enthusiasm, backed by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success."
K9BGL a team member of the Society of Midwest Contesters (SMC) maintained his numero uno position on the Leader Board. BGL scored 1250. K5NZ a team member of the Central Texas DX and Contest Club (CTDXCC) keyed to a tenacious 1224 finish and second place. The friendly rivalry between SMC and CTDXCC continues developing as NZ'd is poised for a potential first place finish in the sweet 16th. Will propagation cooperate? Can BGL four-peat for Team SMC? Stay tuned fans and groupies of the NS Sprint.
Meanwhile, W7OM from the state of Washington posted 1170 on the board notching a third hertz finish in the division. W1UE keyed his way to fourth scoring 858 from the East coast. K0XP scored 630 points remaining on the division leader board for the second consecutive week. N9FC returned scoring 204 for the SMC team.
Newcomer's Division Leader's Week 15
1. K9BGL, SMC, 1250
2. K5NZ, CTDXCC, 1224
3. W7OM, 1170
4. W1UE, 858
5. K0XP, 630
Newcomer Sprint Records
1. N6TV, NCCC, 1682 4th consecutive week
2. K9BGL, SMC, 1568 4th consecutive week
3. K5NZ, CTDXCC, 1560 4th consective week
Northern California Contest Club (n.d.) NS Results Retrieved on July 8, 2007 from http://www.ncccsprint.com/results.htm.
Success Quotes (n.d.). Retrieved on July 8, 2007 from http://www.famous-quotes-and-quotations.com/success-quotes.html.