The Value of Recreation

Whirlygig

First of all – Happy Veterans Day – to all of you who have served. You didn’t run away when your country needed you (no “bone spurs”), and you never sold your country out for your personal gain.

I have today off because of you – and it follows a “whirlwind” week where I need some time off from work. I have several hobbies, and I participate in them after taking care of my family first – going to work, spending time with loved ones, doing plenty of household chores, etc, etc. I took care of my kids and aging parents for many years – my parents have passed and my kids are grown adults.

My recreation and hobby time is valuable – it gives me balance and education – all of my hobbies let me use a different part of my brain than what I use for work. In fact, I find the “switching of gears” is very refreshing – re-creating is a better term.

My pass times offer me a world where – for just a few hours a day – I can dream, fantasize, do nothing or do something. Its all valuable and all contributes to a balanced life. I would go as far as saying that my non work time enables my work time – and that I do a better job because of it. And vice versa of course.

You can’t put a price on that!

Beautiful Fall Day

Apples at Harvest Time

The weather today was about as good as it gets in November – cool air, warm sun, bright sparkly blue sky – and lots of fall color. I prepared several planting areas by tilling the soil – its more to level the ground – we pulled out old plants and cleaned up the yard so we can do some re-landscaping.

Tobacco Colored Leaves – Reminding me of a Tobacco Sunburst Guitar or Mandolin

After an intense 3 day weekend last weekend of painting our Oakland rental house – this weekend its DXing, Cycling and playing guitar. I totally forgot that I have a 3 day weekend this weekend – and only saw the HR announcement Thursday or Friday – so talk about perfect timing – ah yes.

 

FREQ 300 #25: TX7T – Marquesas – First Big Milestone

TX7T was strong for the first time since they have been on the air, and it was an easy Q

I’m still amazed at how easy most of my QRP QSO’s have been. Sure – there are stations that didn’t hear me at all or tried hard to get my full call and didn’t – but I expected a much higher “frustration level”. It has not been frustrating at all. I have even competed successfully in quite a few pileups – nothing like if it was a Top 10 DXCC entity – but DX IS DX.

I’ve even had a few nights now where whatever was causing all bands to get wiped out – stopped, and I have been able to use the rig. Luckily, there are enough hours during the day and here in the wee hours of the morning – where DXing is possible.

Optibeam OB2-40M-P 40M Moxon – 77 pounds and only ~35′ wide

Its funny, I keep looking at the various gear – like I used to – and while there are several things that look nice, the cost for these things are too high as far as “bang for the buck” goes. I have never had a problem spending money on ham gear – in the past – but all of a sudden, the high price of the new gear is just too high for what I do ham radio and DX wise. The Free Range QRP DX 300 Challenge was created so I would have a very interesting and fun challenge – and it is really paying off – both figuratively and literally. My Elecraft KX-3 and SteppIR UrbanBeam are just PERFECT for the FREQ 300.

The Yaesu FT101MP 200 watt transceiver – great ratings and nice ergonomics

The nicest laid out transceiver I ever had was also the worst performer – the Yaesu FT-2000D. I was so angry because of that PEP upgrade bullshit – all of the advertised “QRM fighting features” just didn’t work. Having to modify the rig with that AC0C mod made me angry since I feel I was duped into buying a rig that was flawed in its design from the get go. But I will say – the Yaesu heavy weighted tuning knobs in their newer gear are the best. Much better than the Elecraft gear – which have always felt “plasticky”. The problem – when you need those “QRM fighting features” – they trump nicer ergonomics.

My favorite camera is a “New Old Stock” Lumix GX-85 – sold for a song

After our Colorado trip in September, I got back into photography big time. I had a couple of digital cameras – one from about 5 years ago, and the other 9 years ago (yikes!). Since I have had no desire to make large photo prints for more than 10 years, and since I only use photos in my blog, I realized I could skip the expensive larger sensor “new” cameras and buy something new that has been discontinued for years now – and also concentrate on a really good lens (also on a bargain basement sale). You could say that this is the photography “QRP Equivalent” – just like purchasing a QRP rig like the KX-3 and the SteppIR UrbanBeam – the combo cost me a LOT less than other options, and I am getting all of the fun and a great value – or bang for the buck. Gone are the days where I “clamored” for the latest and greatest – in fact – I now see what a trap that is (was). BTW – my Lumix GX-85 plus the 20MM prime lens is way more fun than the bigger sensor Sony A6000 that I have. I really should sell the A6000 . . . I use the GX-85 all the time now.

The Elecraft K4 – great looking rig – I am sure a great performer

Its still fun to drool anyway – and doesn’t cost anything – heh heh. I had that weird nostalgia “jag” last year and while I still love my National SW-3, I guess the Gold Dust Twins were a “bridge too far”. They were fun to get up and running – and I learned how to use test equipment – especially my oscilloscope – but beyond that – I guess I’m not as nostalgic as I thought I was – that was a passing phase. Oh well – the money I have in these is the same as one of the 1500 watt amp’s I have owned over the years. And the value proposition is about the same – I can only recoup about 50% of what I put in them. I do have have one person very interested in the Twins – and fairly close to what I paid for them – so they might be gone by the end of the year.

I’m probably not going to help the DX ham radio market much any more – as I have in the past. QRP rigs are very cost effective – I can do all the DXing on the cheap (the KX-3 was $900 used) – and even the UrbanBeam – which I purchased for $1700 has turned out to have great bang for the buck. I also am not donating to DXpeditions any more – I have even been having a hard time opening my wallet for the 3Y0I – I guess I really don’t care much any more – even the little voice in my head that says “follow through and finish DXCC #1” has faded almost into oblivion. I guess once someone say they really are going to Bouvet or Glorioso – my wallet will creak back open. But I won’t be buying new gear for these last two – I will go to a neighbors house. Yes – I’m at that point now . . .

I noticed that the Yaesu FT101MP has had a price drop (already). I am wondering if the market for high end rigs will start dwindling. I have found out that the Gold Dust Twins market has dropped out – there just aren’t many who cherish these old rigs any more. The ham radio population continues to age – and these “niche” aspects of the hobby seem to have fewer and fewer hams interested.

I wonder if the high end DX rig market is on the wane. I kind of think so. There are so many used K3’s and even older Ten Tec rigs – all still very good rigs in their own right – that it almost seems like we are saturated with high end gear.

I think watching prices will tell the story – when prices drop significantly, that will be a clue and a marker.

Tin Rooster Knows . . .

Rooster One

The late afternoon shadows in my shack are awesome, and all year round, but especially this time of the year.

He knows when you are sleeping – he knows when you are awake . . .

I have a tin rooster who guards over the gear and the small collection of very nice colored insulators.

My shack is my playground, which adds to the balance in my life, and keeps things playful and fun.

FREQ 300: #23 (BG2AUE) and #24 (PJ2ND)

BG2UE on 30M

I worked BG2AUE on 30M where we were both in daylight. 30M is a strange band – most of the year I think it behaves like 40M, but today – as we get closer to the Winter Solstice – it behaved a lot more like 20M. All of this with zero sunspots, at the bottom of the cycle, and me with 5 watts QRP. He has very good ears – I could not believe when he came back to me on my first call. Big fun – that.

10 minutes later I cracked a big JA pileup calling PJ2ND – a contest station on 20M

This one is to be expected – QRP into the Caribbean – especially during contest “season” and with contest super stations is easy on any band and pretty much any time of day or during any point in the sunspot cycle. HOWEVER – with 5 watts I did have to compete with lots of JA’s calling, so because it was QRP – it was a fun challenge.

Pretty good DX now that we are near the Winter Stolstice. The bands have also been quiet – signals just popping out from little noise. That’s been great today.

 

il est temps gingko à ky6r

This is what I have been greeted to as I leave my house this week

Things seem to have calmed down now after what felt like a “disheveled” couple of weeks. During the power outage, our tenant of 9 years left and literally gave us notice as she left the country to go to Australia.

A “peak moment” with our Chinese Pistachio tree

So, last weekend and Monday, I painted an entire house in Oakland. My brother in law was staying with us, but luckily, he is Handy and helped out a lot.

Last fleeting moment of 2019 for this beautiful old tree

Add in that massacre in the next neighborhood, and Jesus, what else? Oh yeah Impeachment…

I’m glad I have a bizarre sense of humor, even dark sometimes. And I started this blog post with a French title – both because I love the French language, but also because of Jean Paul Sartre and others who wrote about existentialism – and the absurdity of life.

The last couple of weeks were quite bizarre.

Now, to make things even more interesting, I was asked to write two Patent applications, and today I designed our next Data Warehouse. My ex VP at Credit Karma wrote a glowing review of me, and I feel like the stable genius that is Donald Trump.

Just kidding of course ….

Did Cycle 25 Just Start? (and LA1MFA on 40M!)

Possibly exciting news, that Cycle 25 may have just started. We won’t really know for a while – but it sure would be nice if we didn’t have to wait another year.

From SpaceWeather.com (Friday, November 8, 2019) – https://www.spaceweather.com/

SIGNS OF LIFE FROM SOLAR CYCLE 25: Big things have small beginnings. Years from now, observers may look back from the perch of a new Solar Maximum and realize that the action began on Nov. 5, 2019, with a very small solar flare.

I’ve been working DX even with QRP and because I am no longer tied to DXCC like a ball and chain – but am pursuing my Free Range QRP DX Challenge – I’m in fine shape. In fact, I will say that the UrbanBeam has been an awesome antenna for QRP – and even though I really don’t like motors in my antenna – there really is nothing else that comes close to the versatility of the UrbanBeam. I have been “plagued” by months of wanting to replace it with a 2 element “shorty forty” yagi for 40M – but the recent fierce winds wiped that thought out of my mind.

WOW – I am hearing LA1MFA making JA contacts during his (almost) noon!

LA1MFA, Kjell, was coming in Q5, but my 5 watts did not seem to cut it. He did come back with a QRZ? AGN, but just couldn’t pull me out.

His signal was Q5 and totally workable – but not with QRP. In any case, it just goes to show you how fantastic 40M is – even at the bottom of the cycle. I did work him with 100 watts using my IC-7300, and quite easily. I cannot use it as a counter, but as always – I am so amazed at 40M and how it “saves” DXing at the bottom of a solar cycle.

So – who needs sunspots anyway, right?