2018: A Great Year / Year of the “Bouvet Bookends”

2018: I started out proclaiming it was “The Year of Karma” – but Bouvet has stolen that thunder . . .

I started the year proclaiming that 2018 would be a “Year of Karma”. Sure, I work for Credit Karma – and while it turned out to be an “Unintended Double Entendre”, my point was that politically, karma would prevail. With the 2018 Blue Wave (Tsunami?), we have the checks and balances in place – and that has restored some hope that we as a nation can fend off the unprecedented treachery and crime infested swamp that is our current administration.

On the home front I got rid of our old kayak and bike shed – which then got rid of the rat problem that I had. Lessons learned – out buildings when you live in a forested area near a creek are “rat magnets”. They have built new homes using brush piles – and are down next to the creek – which is fine by me – when you live near a creek – you will have rats nearby no matter what. I don’t mind them as long as they aren’t in my house – and I feel like I understand them and they understand me – heh heh.

The Ill Fated 3Y0Z Bouvet DXpedition

Ham radio wise, after being pumped up for years, the most spectacular failure of a DXpedition occurred – 3Y0Z. I was a $250 supporter, but there is no other way to call it when a $750,000 DXpedition goes bust. It also was a clear signal (to me at least) that DXpedition’s of this scale to such rare places are not guaranteed, and maybe, a thing of the past.

Credit Karma in the Phelan Building in San Francisco

At work (Credit Karma in San Francisco) I designed (and with a small team), delivered a new “Semantic Data Model” for data scientists – and one which has become quite a success. Its adoption was slow, but the data scientists have confirmed that this data model beats the previous one that we had been using. It was a short project that happened easily in the first quarter.

I also started lifting weights at a great little ActiveSports gym on the other corner of Union Square. That was a surprise this year – and as time has gone on, I’ve ratcheted up my visits to the gym to an average of 3 times a week. I used to hate lifting weights – now I love it – even to the point where I’m a bit addicted to the endorphins or whatever I get from it. The doctor says it stokes the metabolism – which will help me lose weight.

The SteppIR UrbanBeam parts

My ham radio station would start its change drastically from a QRO DXCC station to a “just for fun” or “variety” lower power station. This deal was consummated when I made DXCC on 160M (which was also 9BDXCC) in March. I also received and started building a SteppIR UrbanBeam.

US Towers ALM-31

The UrbanBeam ended up on a new US Towers ALM-31

UrbanBeam on ALM-31

I changed my 160M “Inverted U” out for a Spiderbeam 60′ base loaded vertical for 80M

Fiberglass Spiderbeam with 80M vertical wire taped to it. The Monterrey Pine behind it has been cut down (yay!)

But later in the year turned into a Spiderbeam Aluminum vertical up 40′ and then a wire for the last 30-ish feet – with no base loading. I actually recommend just using a top wire rather than base loading to get resonance – you can just use a tuner in the shack to handle the wide spread from 75 to 80M.

Credit Karma Data Explorer

During the second and third quarters at work – I designed and built an internal Credit Karma product called the Data Dictionary Explorer. I then brought in a contractor who worked with me to turn out one of the most interesting things I’ve built in my career. It forced me to start learning React and JavaScript and more importantly – “Functional Programming”. It got great internal press, and even external press:

https://engineering.creditkarma.com/credit-karma-data-explorer/

At the beginning of the project, Kat and I took a long weekend and rode our bikes to Santa Rosa, by way of mass transit. It was the end of spring and beginning of summer.

Larkspur Ferry leaving San Francisco

Cool bike & hike tunnel that goes from Larkspur Landing to San Rafael

The (relatively) new SMART train that goes from San Rafael to Santa Rosa

We stayed at a hip hotel in Santa Rosa – the Astro

That was a superb “local site seeing” vacation. We live in a world class destination for sure. During the project, Kat and I visited Boise and then the North East portion of Oregon.

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City, Oregon

We loved it there and it has become a serious new part of the state for us – one we could end up retiring to.

Geiser Grande Hotel in Baker City

We did a big loop – from Boise to Baker City, John Day, Pendleton, La Grande, Joseph and back to Boise through some nice back country.

The REI ADV 3.1 – my new “car”

We stopped in at the REI in Boise and I found this bike. We ordered it there for pickup in Berkeley – and got it on the way home that day. I got rid of my car a year ago June, and had been using Kat’s Marakesh Bike. It wasn’t really the right size – and that must have been why I only rode it to and from BART. With the new bike, I’ve greatly increased my miles.

During the Summer, I finally realized that my “DXCC Years” were really, in fact over. So I started selling all of my gear with a new idea in my head – to just have fun with these. This became my Fall Project. Kat and I visited our beloved Bend, Oregon – it was time for a break from what had been 7 intense months on the Explorer project.

We spent a night in Medford and visited Jacksonville – where they had a great Oktoberfest – complete with a ska / oom pah pah band

Once we visited Jacksonville – we realized that the combined cities of Ashland, Medford and Jacksonville make it a really nice area. The Rogue River Valley and up the road to Grants Pass combine to make it a place we will consider when we retire.

Fall colors along the Rogue River

We stayed in this nice Craftsman in Bend for a week and rode our bikes 100 miles

Just before we went to Bend, I decided to try something new – an app called “LoseIt!”. It is a calorie counting app (calories in – calories burned). I wanted to see if keeping my calories under the consumption level (including beer) would at least keep my weight the same. Because the exercise burned enough calories – and I watched what I ate – I lost 2 pounds.

Keeping my beer ABV to no more than 8% has turned out to be an epiphany of sorts

Mt. Shasta on the way home

A more “ethereal view” . .

National SW-3 regenerative receiver

While looking for an SW-3 receiver – from the 1930’s (which I did find), I found one plus a “doghouse” power supply, but also this beauty:

Collins 75A-4 receiver – just “fell into my lap”

Awesome Collins 75A-4

After selling my Icom IC-7610, I used the money to subsidize several purchases – vintage radios, an IC-7300, a couple QRP rigs and a couple very interesting keys

Red Hot 40 QRP rig

I toyed with the idea of getting an Elecraft KX-2, but its about the same price as the IC-7300, so its not a great value (unless you go portable, and I don’t). I did find a Red Hot 40 and a Norcal 40A – which are two “vintage” QRP rigs that I know are great fun.

NorCal 40A QRP rig

I also have a few new keys to play with

N3ZN QRP paddles

Begali Intrepid bug / paddle

A super fun and cozy shack – complete with the new Geochron 4K – with 4K big screen TV

I don’t watch TV or even watch movies much. But the $400 Geochron 4K unit and the TCL 43″ 4K TV are just awesome and look great in the shack. I had been bequeathed a mechanical Geochron – but it was a real pain – since if you don’t leave it on 24×7, then you have to reset it every time you turn it on – and I don’t leave anything on in the shack when I am not at home.

The Rebel DX Team announced that they were going to Bouvet for sure and the advance team had just arrived in Cape Town. Then I was called to be the West Coast Pilot, which is an awesome thing – and jives with my desire to work the next to last DXCC entity. At the same time – Elliot, N6PF offered to let me borrow his AL-80B, and I took him up on the offer.

The second time that I shot a 40M dipole up a half wave in trees and then a neighbor then decides to cut down one of the trees!

While waiting for the Rebels to go to Bouvet, I shot a 40M dipole up at about 60′ in the trees (which had to be taken down quickly because my neighbor cut down his big Monterrey Pine tree). I also built a couple of K1EL Keyer kits that go with my new keys

K1EL Winkeyer USB

K1EL CW trainer / keyer

I had tried the Begali CW Machine – but that was a bust and its showing its age. The Visual Basic files it uses are a pain, so I opted for a more modern keyer and trainer. These K1EL units help me realize something I set out to do in the beginning of the year – get back into serious CW and with QRP no less.

Lightning Man – Samuel FB Morse

I read quite a few books, some history / biographical and some technical for work.

The Telegraph in America

Thunderstruck – History / Drama

The Lunar Men – an Epic read about the Industrial Revolution

A n excellent book about the “Transit of Venus”

This is just a small list of books – I’m surprised at how much I read this year, especially given how busy I was at work. The other thing that was really nice was doing more with the boys – we rode bikes quite a few times, and we visited Trevor at UC Santa Cruz.

The Family

I took the Ancestry DNA Test, and was able to trace the Holoch and East family trees back much further than I had before. This is because Ancestry has all of the old church records online. The DNA test identified quite a few 4th cousins, but what I really enjoyed was finding out that I am more British than German – about 70% British and 30% German. That was a surprise.

Can’t get much “waspier” than this . . .

There is a little Scandinavian influence – too small to even think much of – but I did connect with a Jurgen Holoch on LinkedIn who has turned out to be a 4th cousin – and who lives in Sweden. We also visited with Kat’s sister and her family in Eugene, and Kat’s brother from Idaho – who visited with us in October.

National SW-3 decked out for the Holidays

The holidays were very nice – the first two weeks we had the worst smoke from California’s largest and most devastating fire – the Paradise Fire. Luckily, that cleared up in time for Thanksgiving – when we had clear skies, and several inches of rain – which helped douse the fire and cleaned up the air.

Marx (Unique Art Manufacturing) truck hauling Bouvet sparkling wine

The toy truck you see here was made by the company that my Grandparents worked for in Newark, NJ after arriving in NJ from Germany in the late 1920’s – and when my Grandfather decided to leave because of Hitler and the Nazi’s – whom he hated

Besides one weird thing that happened politically at work (my boss very strangely started to behave as if she was threatened or jealous of my success – so I will leave her team for another after the first quarter of next year), 2018 turned out to be a very, very good year – and on all fronts. But as I started to write this retrospective it really put things in context – that one “glitch” was insignificant when compared to all of the good things that have transpired this year. In fact – if you have reported to one boss for 2 years in my IT field of work – that’s considered a virtual life time. It was a very successful year at work – regardless.

I lost 16 pounds, and will stick with LoseIt! to keep the pounds off. I’m addicted to working out – with weight lifting the surprise. How the shack changed was via serendipity, and it makes sense – why not have several “play centers” with ham radio vs. just being stuck in one DXCC rut?

The Collins KWS-1 transmitter

Just for fun, since I really love my Collins 75A-4, I started looking around for a matching KWS-1 transmitter – so that I woud have the “Gold Dust Twins”. I found one at a really cool Antique radio store called “Sacramento Radio Expo”, run by Doug, WB6LOO. We tested it to make sure the power supply powered up the rig, and it seems OK. The next step will be to send the RF Deck to Howard Mills, W3HM to have it restored. I’ll just clean up the power supply.

[ new shack photo here later today ]

There are still two weeks left to this year, but the year seems just about die cast at this point. My wife Kat gave her 2 week notice and has decided to retire – something that has been coming for years. I’m very happy for her and she seems very happy to now get busy with a list of things she wants to do while we are still (relatively) young. I still love my work and as long as I wake up and want to go to work, I will. I must have chosen the right career because next year will be my 38th year as a “computer programmer” (ye olde school title). Because its tech – and like Kip from Napolean Dynamite – “I Love Technology”, I expect that I can make it to full Social Security age when I retire. Who knows – what will happen will happen – and it will be an adventure.

The Decembersists “Cast Aways and Cut Outs” Album Cover . . .

The Rebel DX Team has been in Cape Town for more than 45 days – which is bizarre – but they will go and make the tricky attempt to activate what might be the toughest place on earth to activate. If they left in a day or two – they would just barely be on the air in 2018 – but my money is on the bet that says it will be the first couple of days of 2019.

I’ll update this last paragraph if anything interesting happens between today and 2019 – but I expect that we will slide into 2019 with Bouvet being a bookend that stretches from January 2018 to January 2019.

Its been a GREAT year, and my only goals for 2019 is to do whatever I can to continue the same things in 2019 s what I have done in 2018. I do expect having the KWS-1 refurbished will be a highlight, and working Bouvet for my next to working all DXCC would sure be sweet. I don’t know if Bouvet will ever be activated again.

Time marches on!

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