Dave Richards AA7EE

November 11, 2012

S9 +10 QRM Problem Solved and a Cat Adoption From HRO

Shortly after making the last blog-post, my radio operating activities were severely curtailed by QRM that registered well over S9 across all the HF bands. It wasn’t continuous but would come and go seemingly at will throughout the day and night – there was never a time when I could be sure it wasn’t going to obliterate whatever I was listening to.  Several times it would appear while I was in the middle of a QSO, and cause me to QRT prematurely. I hoped that the QRM would disappear as mysteriously as it arrived, but after a few weeks, this “hoping” approach didn’t seem to offer as much, well, hope as it had before.

I live in a 100 year-old house that was converted several decades ago to individual studio apartments.  The first step was to verify that the QRM was coming from my building, so I walked around, both inside and outside, with a small battery-operated portable Grundig shortwave receiver. Inside the house, the QRM had a fairly even signal strength, becoming a little stronger as I got closer to the walls. When walking outside the house, the QRM faded rapidly, only becoming stronger as the radio got closer to the outside walls of the house.  I concluded that the QRM was being carried on the AC wiring of my apartment building and was being generated by something plugged into the AC.

I know all of my neighbors, and relationships with all of them are cordial, except for one. She decided a while back that she just didn’t like me, and I tired of trying to make peace. It seems that wherever I go, there’s always one, but that’s a different story :-)  Even though I get along with nearly all of my neighbors, I wasn’t sure how successful I’d be approaching each one individually and requesting permission to go on an RF snooping exercise inside their apartments. It wasn’t really something I fancied doing.

So what to do? I had no idea, and for the next week or so, had partially resigned myself to the idea that I was just going to have to deal with the fact that I was now living in an environment that made my ham radio and shortwave listening activities much, much more challenging. How very frustrating!  Many times in the last few weeks, I had asked myself if anything in my apartment had changed recently and every time  the answer I came up with was that it hadn’t. Then I remembered something.  Recently, I started fostering a sweet and very shy 10 year-old cat called Chala.  You can see her at the end of this last blog-post.  The foster agency with whom I was working gave me an electric pet heating pad for her – and that was at about the same time the QRM began!  It was like a light-bulb going on in my head and of course, it was too good to be true.  But it wasn’t – I unplugged the heating pad and the QRM disappeared instantly.

The level of QRM was so high and so well distributed throughout the whole house, it was hard to believe that a little 9″ square heating pad could cause so much interference, but it sure did.  Luckily,  I don’t think she really needs it anyway. It’s just as well, because it’s not going to be used at this QTH any more.  Any locals want a pet heating pad for free?

Be warned – this pet heating pad will radiate S9+ QRM from the wiring in your house/apartment on all HF bands!

I have been doing very little radio recently other than checking into the occasional SSB net while doing other things, so there is no news of any new home-brew projects I’m afraid   There is nothing planned either, so I may be posintg even less frequently in the future than I have been doing in the past.  My interests are shifting back towards trying to get as much of my music collection as possible transferred onto hard drive in case I purchase an RV and take to the road in a few years. The other thing that has been on my mind is cats.  I’ve begun the steady inexorable march towards becoming a certifiably crazy old cat guy. My new companion, Chala, is a sweet kitty, but she’s very shy. My last cat, Rug, was a lot more outgoing and I miss that. Chala’s great and I derive a lot of of satisfaction from giving her a safe, comfortable home after her ordeal on the streets, but I have been wanting a little more kitty interactivity.

It was with this general mindset that I made a trip to the Oakland Ham Radio Outlet about a month ago in order to buy an 8-pin mic connector. It was also an excuse to browse the magazines and books. While standing at the counter, the employee who was helping me walked out from the back room and was being followed by a little kitten, who was happily prancing around and generally being very friendly to anyone in the vicinity. HRO wasn’t a place I’d normally expect to see a cat, so I was curious to know why she was there.  It turned out that Nick, one of the employees, had discovered her trying to keep warm that morning by pressing herself up against the engine of his truck in the parking lot. He pulled her out, and she spent the rest of the day in the store happily attaching herself to the employees. When she jumped up on the counter, stood on her back legs, put her two front paws on my shoulders and gazed at me, I was hooked. Then when she curled up on the counter in front of me, pressed her little body up against me and started purring, I was a goner.  I asked Mark WI7YN, the manager, what he was going to do with her. He said that he didn’t want a store cat, so had been thinking of asking the customers if they wanted a kitty. Without giving it a second thought I said that I’d take her, bundled her into my backpack and cycled home with her.  So began a love affair with this fabulous little kitty companion -

What to call her?  I wanted a name that reflected where she was found, but anything too ham radio oriented wouldn’t make sense to my non-ham friends (who are most of the people I know.) In the same way that hams have both a regular “civilian” name and a call-sign, this little kitty has her regular name, which is Sprout – as she’s a cute little Sprout!  Her ham radio name is “Sprat The QRP Cat”. I hope the GQRP Club approves -

Sprat The QRP Cat

I still haven’t used the 8-pin mic connector I bought that day but I’m looking at it this way – I paid an $8 fee to adopt a kitty and had a free mic connector thrown in. Thank you Mark WI7YN and the team at Oakland HRO.

PS – Sprat The QRP Cat was not micro-chipped and not spayed.  The vet estimated her age at 5 months. She has since been micro-chipped, spayed and has had her shots. She’s in fine shape!

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