Welcome Autumn!

Its the Autumnal Equinox, and time to get ready for fall colors

There is something about fall colors that take my mind off everything else and leave me mesmerized.

I like the longer nights and the cooler weather . . .

Its the only season that I wish would last longer

DXpeditions and Cycle 25: Last Man Standing?

I recently read a comment by several DXpeditioners who have said they either have or will retire after Cycle 24. There is no doubt that the pool of those capable and willing to pull off a Mega DXpedition will start to diminish – and I’m talking now – if it hasn’t already happened.

Looking at the best site for DXpedition listings:


There are still teams going places – mostly smaller teams – and if someone were just starting DXing – the list isn’t too bad. No really great Top 10 DXpeditions planned – but still – a pretty good set of varied DX.

Conditions will suck for 2 – 4 years, so that will be a problem for many – but its part of the game. Maybe FT8 will help this time at the bottom of the ionospheric trough.

There are several potential DXpedition leaders who have gone on mega’s put on by those now retiring – who are 70 years old – or older. These younger potential DXpedition leaders are in their late 50’s and early 60’s – so even they have about 10 years to put on such projects. This means we will most likely see the last of the mega’s in Cycle 25 – and after that – I’m guessing its all over but the shouting.

I hate to admit – I’m really glad I started my pursuit in 2001 – with the last two to go (3Y0/B and FT/G) – I feel like I am the last person who has a fighting chance to make #1 Honor Roll. There just aren’t enough DXpedition leaders in the pool – especially after Cycle 25.

Hopefully I am wrong – but this is all based on actuarial statistics and the fact that Ham Radio just hasn’t brought in enough young people – and I am sure it won’t either.

Its the most wonderful – but one of the most anachronistic – hobbies (still) going.

The DXCC Sleuth is a Bust

Click on image for best view . . .

I’ve tried to do the DXCC Sleuth twice now – and after about 30 entities, just lost interest. The number of people interested in it is so low – its not even worth the $100 a year I pay for the WordPress site – so I am going to deep six it.

One take away is that no one really cares about your DX Awards – its a highly personal thing – and now I realize that no digital format can replace the QSL Binder book that sits on my shelf.

The same goes for DX Award Plaques or other such items – they are great on your own wall – but not so much to make you feel like a big shot – but as a reminder of the fun you had along the way earning it.

Luckily, this blog – The Top Band Chordal Hopper has exceeded my expectations on daily views – and it jives with the fact that I have given more than 10 years of antenna presentations. It seems that people really like reading about the trials and tribulations of trying whatever antenna will fit in a small suburban back yard.

Its kind of fun to have used WordPress as a sort of marketing test platform – to see what the average Ham is most interested in as far as DXing and “Making” are concerned.

ZS6CCY is Back!

ZS6CCY – Bill – the South African “Beacon” is back on 40M nightly . . .

I have to admit – I missed Bill working his daily pileups – but he is back. His signal was an S9 – but the band isn’t as great as it usually is during the Autumnal Equinox.

Anyway – while its really obvious that we are really at the bottom of the cycle – hearing half way around the world does remind me of better condition times.

Green Insulator

Old Green Insulator

You know that day you get to where you just need a vacation? That’s where I am at. There hasn’t been any one bad thing in my life (as long as I don’t watch the news), but there have been a string of frustrating “administrative” tasks at work (renewing a contractors contract, trying to get that contractor an FTE position, implementing a new and better big data management policy, etc).

All of this feels like walking with cement shoes – but I always win in the end – because I’ve been around the block enough to have all the patience and persistence required. But it is tiring . . .

Oh well, luckily I only go through this once or twice a year. My wife’s job is like this daily – I honestly have no idea how she puts up with it. I know I couldn’t – I’d be in a padded room by now.

The Coffee Shop

The Coffee Shop, Lafayette, CA

I lived in Lafayette between 1994 and 2006, and when we moved there from San Francisco, the downtown wasn’t much to speak of.

Since then, the town has done a lot to bring in really decent business, mostly cafes and restaurants, but that works well. They also have built housing close to BART, and so it all makes great sense.

The Coffee Shop has been open for a few years, but besides going grocery shopping at Diablo Foods, I haven’t tried The Coffee Shop until today.

It’s a great little place, reminds me of my favorite places in Bend, Oregon – hip and relaxed with good quality offerings.

They have coffee, pastries and beer and wine. I didn’t see if they also have a food menu, but the out door seating is especially nice.

Detritus of Autumn


With Halloween just over a month away, its time again kids, for CREEPY ART!


Feast your eyes on detritus – and mildly freaky “junk art”, aka Assemblage.

I wanted to see what would happen to the Colorado abandoned house as it is, and then with some effects – to make it more “Halloweeny”:

Detritus is the word that comes to mind. And old abandoned toy re-purposed – or an old house seemingly being swallowed by a grove of aspens. This is the ongoing process of life – old things fall by the wayside – young things keep it alive – the Aspens almost give some hope next to that old house that has seen better days. For me – with color – the house looks almost nice – a little sad that it fell into disrepair. In black and white with some vignetting – it looks more ominous and more like a Halloween Haunted House. One thing for sure – photography is a unique art in that it can be an artistic pursuit – but it is always a form of documentation that is unique in the way it presents its information. Questions like “Did I really look like that when I was 23 years old?” . . . spring to mind.

There is a part of Autumn that is the Fall Harvest – a time of abundance and reaping what you have sowed. For me, its been a very good year at work- in spite of the very worst year of my life as far as politics go. The Data Explorer Project at Credit Karma has been quite possibly the best thing I have ever built at work.

. . . “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” . . .

I actually have run into something I did not expect – the product is so good – a few people were jealous. Their response was so weird, it took me weeks to try to understand what they were grumbling and why. This same exact thing happened with VK0EK – there were just a few people who seemed to be jealous because we actually pulled off quite a few interesting, if not innovative sub projects within the big project. We also got great press – just as I have with the Data Explorer (I was interviewed and recorded for the companies video program in the Engineering department and the CTO has propped it up as one of a two pronged approach to Credit Karma’s first real Data Governance Program) – which is what I was hired to build.

But therein lies the rub – I remember the first time growing up in NJ – where after the beautiful fall colored leaves fell from the trees – the weather turned towards winter and it was grey and there were no leaves left on the trees. It was early November, and I clearly remember for the first time in my early life the metaphor of the turning of the seasons – Fall to Winter. I guess its never all good or all bad . . .

Just like VK0EK – after the rush of success – or making Honor Roll – you get that sad feeling that the ride to success is over, and you are back to where you were before – three miles east of Nowheresville – and out of gas. Maybe a good time to take a week off? But I digress . . .

Here in Northern California, we will have landscape trees that offer beautiful color all the way up until Christmas or so – and the weather never turns like it does in the Northeast.

But I do like the dichotomy of the harvest and then the Detritus of Autumn – its one part thought provoking with a pinch of melancholy thrown in.