Chasing Venus

I’ve been reading this book, and it’s in the same highly rated “science adventure” category that my favorite read from last year was, “The Sun Kings”.

Chasing Venus Chronicles the many international scientists who participated in science expeditions traversing all four “corners” of the globe to witness and record the transit of Venus, which happens twice a century.

The story includes national pride, astronomers who were able to get funding based on national pride or the promise of providing their trade route ship captains with better navigational aids.

The ultimate goal was by having so many participants involved triangulate so they could calculate the distance between the Sun and Earth.

The story takes place in 1761 and 1769.

What I especially liked was the different exciting story threads that Andrea Wulf intertwines – expedition, scientific pursuit and discovery, and national pride. During 1761, the expeditioners had to avoid military battles during the 7 Years War!

This is a wonderful escape from the political lunacy I try so desperately to avoid, but man, it really has gotten batshit insane.

Credit Karma: The Best Place I Have Ever Worked

I have enjoyed an absolutely wonderful 37 year career in IT – which took off and has never stopped since I went to work for Oracle in 1984 and entered the “modern era” of computing – which started with the SQL Relational Database. I was the 127th employee – before Oracle went public and when Larry Ellison interviewed everyone. I was the Oracle DBA on the first system that Marc Benioff used at Oracle – and knew him then – (Marc later went on to build Salesforce), and I also worked with all of the original Oracle Kernel developers. After Oracle I worked for Gupta Technologies (SQLWindows and SQLBase) and lived in London and taught classes all over EU – Helsinki and Nokia many times, but also in London, Nante, Paris, Berne, Geneva, Zurich (actually Zug), Amsterdam, Munich and Augsburg (Siemens). I also worked for PeopleSoft and after that had my own contracting business for many years). Before the “modern era” – I worked at Kodak (Octal Assembler programmer on the Kodak Park OS) and Lockheed – COBOL on LOSS – Lockheed Online Storage System (what a great name for a disk operating system).

But I have never worked for a company that truly cares like it does for its people like Credit Karma does. I also have never been so motivated to do good things for the company in return. This is a story about my first “product” that I have developed as opposed to the hundreds of “apps” that I have designed and built.

Without going into details – this week I demoed a product that I designed and coded using MySQL, Google BigQuery and GCS, Flask (Python REST API), and React – my first Web App front end written using that Javascript Library. Its an Enterprise Data Dictionary that includes support for Data Security, Data Quality and Data Lineage. It competes with products that sell for several hundred thousand dollars and competes very well. I built it in one quarter, and when I hit the wall with React (this was my first React app), I hired a young React expert – and my oh my – did the product take off. While designing the UX and UI and coding in React, I met another fellow who also had lived in Rochester, NY and who was a Ham Radio Operator when he was a teenager. He is just a few years older than me and he is also a Javascript expert (Jim), and so in my efforts I certainly did not build this by myself, and I had wonderful support from my immediate managers. As the song goes “I got a little help from my friends”.

The big news is that I had to demo the product to two of CK’s founders, and the demos went exceedingly well. There has been talk of CK Open Sourcing this product – so the future looks bright indeed.

This project is right up there with making Honor Roll and being a co-organizer on VK0EK. Its one of those “milestones” in your life that if you are lucky, you get to experience. For me personally, this is the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest, or say doing a DXpedition on Bouvet Island – where after all odds you finally make it.

In fact, it’s clear to me that this accomplishment is an order magnitude bigger and more important than DXCC Honor Roll or VK0EK.

Perspective.

I’m “experienced” enough to know how to enjoy this moment – its wonderful.

ZS Long Path Opening Again

It seems like the 40M Long Path and even Short Path has been weaker than normal over the past month or so – but this morning I did start hearing them better. Last night I also heard DF2BO on 40M SP – which is another indicator.

We have had 15 straight days of blank sun – no sunspots, so this probably has a lot more to do with the angle of entering the grey line than anything else:

I know that my beam heading to ZS is pretty much due West. Besides the angle going into the grey line – the fact that the days have been the longest of the year for the last month also is part of this I am sure.

Anyway – I never get tired of the wonder of point to point HF communication between the US West Coast and stations near our antipode – and ZS is close enough.

I actually think Glorioso will be work able – even at the bottom of the cycle. I also have a strong gut feeling that the French Team will get permission for Glorioso – and if they do (and it isn’t usurped by a Crozet surprise), I think Glorioso in the next 5 – 6 years can be expected. Glorioso would be much cheaper and easier than Crozet – but there is no doubt the demand for Crozet is higher.

Gee whiz – I kind of think I will get to HR #1 just before I retire in 8 or so years. I think I will be here in Orinda when this happens.

DXCC in the 90’s ….

While doing research on my other blog, The DXCC Sleuth:

https://dxccsleuth.blog/

I noticed that there was a trend where several clubs and DXpeditioners seemed to almost be competing to see who could be the first to activate an entity, and they lobbied the ARRL DXCC desk to do so.

The refrain I’ve heard from someone in the know was “good grief, another reef!”

At the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was quite a bit of change to the DXCC list. This was at the end of the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s. In the 80’s, a mini trend of adding silly buildings in cities was happening, and so these were Bullshit Entities added by gerrymandering. I can only guess that some lobbied to change the separate administration rules, or something like that.

The 90’s theme did seem to be islands and did seem to be gerrymandering by futzing with the distance rule.

Given the time frames and the chart that is the header for The DXCC Sleuth, my guess is that the Baby Boom generation is the one that seemed to like this gerrymandering.

I say this because prior to the 80’s, it seemed like the era of vets returning home from WWII (my father’s generation) seemed to be more about building stuff and DXCC had more than enough entities to keep DXers happy. Between 1966 and the late 80’s the DXCC list dropped from 321 entities to 315 in the mid 80’s.

My DXCC Elmer must have made Honor around 1985, and as I said yesterday, he said it was easier then than now. That’s because back then, you could take a cabin cruiser and go to places like Navassa. That ended during the Reagan Administration, when environmental rules got tougher. Few conservatives know that the Reagan Administration started something called NEPA, or the National Environmental Protection Act. Following that, the National Monuments popped up, and we ended up where we are today. GW Bush signed the Pacific monuments that make Baker, Kure, etc much harder to land on.

I was surprised that Republicans were the ones doing what usually you’d assume the Tree Hugging Democrats for doing.

But I digress – this coincides with other countries doing the same thing. France and Australia also gave clamped down access.

The ironic thing about gerrymandering to keep the Older Coots happy – is that more entities are added and with soaring oil prices plus the environmental restrictions in place, you have the one in the one two punch.

The two in the one two punch is that all of a sudden we are all older, and there are hardly any younguns to pick up the demand in the DXCC Supply and Demand Curve.

What this means is that I am not sure that 3Y0Z was the Zenith for expensive DXpeditions. I expect that it will be a very historical marker and turning point in the history of the DXCC program.

While I like the idea of 3Y0I – some are trying new approaches to funding, what I read this week shows that even if you have investors fronting such a project, that Bouvet might just be too expensive, even if you are very good at creative financing.

I still think we will be surprised when another small operation like 3Y0E happens. I’m not all doom and gloom on DXpeditions, but feel megas are at the end of their shelf life.

The DXCC community probably is already past it’s peak, and we are about to see a decline that is tied directly to boomers aging and leaving the game.

Don’t be fooled if someone tells you that LOTW uploads or even DXCC applications pick up, because FT8 has taken DXing by storm and will inflate the numbers like nothing we have seen before.

The DXCC “Canary in the Coalmine”

While writing about BQ9P – Pratas Island on my DXCC Sleuth Blog

https://dxccsleuth.blog

I realized that I often think about DXpedition announcements in terms of Three Tiers:

  1. Very Rare due to remoteness, cost, harsh weather. This includes all of the South Seas entities that do not have a permanent scientific base
  2. Entities that are Remote or have significant Environmental rules that prohibit access to once in a blue moon
  3. Everything Else, with “artificially rare” entities (like BS7H and SV2ASP/A being the lowest of the low, and something I call “bullshit entities”. The worst of these being ones added so someone could then claim they activated it first. But I digress.

Baker, KH1, and Ducie, VP6D are in the Second Tier. I almost remember Ducie being added when someone changed the DXCC Distance Rule (which would qualify it as a bullshit entity), but I just don’t remember. It’s at least much more reasonable than say Scarborough or Mt. Athos. To my surprise, Pratas might have been the first gerrymandered entity due to dropping the distance rule to 200 miles separation from a mainland. It sure was part of a pattern started in the 90’s.

San Felix, Kure, Navassa and Desecheo are examples of Tier 2 entities. Many times, they are as exciting as Tier 1 entities, because while Tier 1 entities might be activated once every 15 – 20 years, Tier 2 might be activated every 10 years. Since I made Honor Roll in 11 years, a 10 year wait is a big deal.

The funny thing about the gerrymandered entities is that one DXCC “Elmer” of mine admitted that he got his Honor Roll plaque when there were only 315 entities on the list. Sure, he had to work new ones to stay on the list, but he admitted that today – given how hard it is to get to all these places that adding more entities might appease those who have already made it (and are “bored”), but that it makes it that much harder for newbies to even qualify for Honor Roll, and that we are now at a point where if you started today, it will be impossible to make HR #1. In his words “Today’s Honor Roll is incrementally harder than when I made it, and I wish they never created #1 HR or The DXCC Challenge”. Me personally – I don’t really care – go after whatever is there – we all get to pick and choose. But I was surprised that he had such candor anyway.

To me, especially after 3Y0Z failing at a cost of $750K, I think that really is the canary in the coalmine – it seems like a turning point of sorts – and bridge too far if you will. Lets see if 3Y0I happens – I thought $400K for VK0EK – Heard Island was extreme . . .

Another Day in Paradise

The bike / hike path on the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge

Kat and I rode our bikes across the Bay Bridge today, and it was stunning. We are doing more and more sightseeing in our own back yard, and it reminds us of how lucky we are to live in the Bay Area.

Hogs Apothecary in the Temescal District in Oakland – great food and great beer selection

We stopped for lunch at Hogs Apothecary, and it was really great – the food and the beer were above average – quite a bit above average I’d say.

It was warm in Orinda, but as we got closer to the bay the weather was perfect. Another great little adventure right in our own back yard.

2018 Summer

This was so much fun. Kat planned this trip where we rode bikes from Orinda to the really gorgeous town of Santa Rosa. I had so much fun.

It was just so cool to hook up with Rick and Katie:

We are about to go on our next cool adventure. I can’t wait. Being with Kat is just too much fun.