DXCC and Ham Radio “Epoch”

Autumn colors are fleeting . . . as is life . . . 

It was fun presenting at Pacificon in the Antenna Seminar, and for the first time in more than 10 years of presenting there, I arrived early and stayed for the entire seminar. Its always interesting to see how we all just keep aging – at Pacificon and at Visalia.

The presenters included several people whom I’ve presented with over many years, the one I miss is Dean Straw, N6BV, and who has been a real mentor – from when I first got back into ham radio in 2001 until the last time I saw Dean – a few years ago at Visalia. I haven’t seen Dean in person for a while.

This was a “tongue in cheek” photo op – where I had special “Team HFTA” caps made for Dean and I – Visalia 2013

I staged a photo of Dean and I – with Dean “presenting” my Honor Roll plaque to me. The “inside joke” was that Dean’s fantastic HFTA program was the software and technique that helped me (literally) get “over the hump” and make Honor Roll from my Orinda QTH – and where my station and antennas are down in a bowl. Dean appreciated the gesture, and we had fun staging this. It ended up in QST and on several DX web sites.

Carl Smith, N4AA just passed at age 77, and I had been a long time subscriber to his wonderful DX Magazine. VK0EK had an issue dedicated to our DX-pedition, and now that Carl is SK, I reflect on my DX-ing years going back 16 years. It has made me think of all of the characters who made DX-ing what it was along those years. I remember working Chuck Brady, N4BQW on many semi rare and even rare locations.

VK0EK at the 2017 Dayton DX Dinner

Rather than get morose about how time marches forward and how things have changed (for better or worse), I’ve been thinking that there are “eras” that occur with anything that you participate in for any length of time. When I was WN2QHN and WA2QHN, I was only active from 1973 – 1977, and so being a ham as a teen was a real little “blip” in time – so much so it was almost inconsequential.

When I got back into ham radio in 2001 – I picked up an Icom 756ProII, which was a revolutionary new rig. I then moved to a Ten Tec Orion I and then II:

Ten Tec is pretty much dead, but in their zenith, they created one of my very favorite rigs. There are days I still wish I had mine.

Elecraft beat Ten Tec at its own game, and I switched back in 2008 if I remember right

I have an Elecraft KPA-500 in the closet and use my new SPE Expert 1.3K FA amplifier instead. It will be the very last amplifier that I own – once I work the last 12 on 160M and last 2 for Top of DXCC Honor Roll – I will sell the SPE and go back to the KPA-500

There are several threads in my ham radio epoch. There was the WA2QHN years, and now the more modern 2001 – 2017 period. This more modern period started when my oldest boy was 10 and youngest was 6. They are now 26 and 22, which is hard to believe.

The thing that helps me still feel young at heart is that technology keeps changing – and I am already behind. Flex Radio is the new shiny penny, but since I am at the end of my DXCC chase, I am not motivated to jump to the new shiny penny. In fact, I am much more likely to head backward to simpler home brewed rigs – especially if they are Arduino and or Raspberry Pi based. I am sure that soon enough, we will be assembling radios from such boards and they will be very configurable and customiz-able. With FT8, and whatever follows it – we also will no longer need 1500 watts.

There are DX-pedition teams that will come and go – some mega DX-peditioners will retire soon – ending that thread in my “epoch”, and I guess my epoch will be defined as closed when I finish my DXCC counters. I expect that will be around 2020, so I will have worked 19 years on it. That’s how long the activations were between Heard Island – VK0IR and VK0EK, and while it was theoretically possible for me to have completed DXCC Top of Honor Roll in 2016 – with VK0EK (because I missed the two that I need), if I make Top of Honor Roll by 2020 I will feel like that is well within “fast”. For some its a lifetime pursuit.

There is overlap – the end of my DXCC epoch is so slow – almost painfully so – that I’ve taken up with the new Maker Ham stuff – and at Pacificon, that went over VERY well. It was encouraging to see that so many old dawgs are as interested in the new tricks that we have at our fingertips.

Time waits for no man – onward!

Autumn in Orinda

Fall colors are only now just starting to show – its at least 1 month later than last year, which after 5 years of drought offered some spectacular colors. Its too early to tell – our peak is at Thanksgiving.

There is a scraggly Liquidamber on the side of our house that ends up having some of the most interesting multi colored leaves.

The best thing about riding my bike to and from BART each day is that I get to see some nice fall colors along the San Pablo creek. The creek also has a very cool “draw” – that you can feel as you ride alongside it. Last night we received almost 1/4″ of rain, which is a huge relief, because I live in an area that could have easily burned like the Napa and Sonoma areas did up in wine country – about 1 hour north of here. We also had strong and hot dry “diablo” winds, but I think the difference is that they had some gusts up to 75 mph and that knocked over power poles which triggered fires. The wind then carried burning embers all over the place. I’m hoping last nights rain really marks the beginning of our Fall and Winter rains – and as I understand it – the long range forecast is for average rainfall – which would be perfect. I’d rather not have the deluge we did last year, or the drought we had for so many years leading up to that. Average would be just right!

As I have done all year – I start writing a diatribe about politics and then delete those posts. I have never witnessed the decline of the USA as I have seen it since the current administration took over. Its very, very dark and dystopian. It literally is the junction of Brave New World, Animal Farm, A Clockwork Orange and 1984. I am hating ALL politicians – they are ALL less than useless. So many are already writing about this – I will again refrain except to say thank God for the comedians. I think my favorite piece so far is this one:

Usually Stephen Colbert gives me the last best hope for America these days, but this is an amazing masterpiece . . . And the ONLY other hope I have is this administrations incompetence. Our government is truly the worst reality show ever. We are getting close to the end of the year, and I’m starting to reflect on the year. The worst of times has been the politics and the natural disasters. Its just been so sad and bad. Tragic is an understatement.

But on the positive side, this year has been the absolute best year for me professionally. Credit Karma is the best place I have ever worked in my 36 year IT career. I’ll get into this more at the end of the year when the year digits change.

The Maker and Ham Maker / Hobby aspect of my life has been one of the best years. DX-ing has been a total bust, but my antenna farm and getting ready for the low bands has been superb – I just need more opportunities on Top Band, but I guess this is how it goes when you are 12 away from DXCC and 9BDXCC. It just takes a lot more time than even 80M DXCC – which previously took the most time. 3Y0Z is the big excitement – so there is something very big that I am looking forward to.

Selling my car and using my bike commute – and yoga has been fantastic. We have yoga right at work, and I started going twice a week, which between that and the cycling, I’m back on track exercise wise. The family is doing well, and my younger son started his last few years at UC Santa Cruz, so that makes me feel great.

Montana was great.

Gardening has been great this year too – so it truly has been the best of times and the worst of times. I’ll do a full on year in review later, but today I am looking forward to Pacificon and I have several people who are attending today’s Antenna Forum – and there is a LOT of interest in the Mod Bob. I’m psyched and report on how it goes.

Shout out to Tom – K8BKM – thanks for the Radiogram!





Pacificon 2017: Antenna Forum – Friday, October 20

I will be giving my “Lowband DXing Antennas” presentation this Friday at Pacificon’s Antenna Seminar at 3:30. I will cover an overview of quite a few antennas that I have used successfully on the low bands and then segue into the Mod Bob, Palstar BT1500A and u.RAT.

from the pacificon 2017 web site . . . 

Hope to see you there!

DX or Bust!

Its half way through October and I’m not too encouraged regarding 160M DX. I feel like I’m on my way to the DX Abyss . . .

I guess I need to dial my expectations back, and now I just hope I can work 2 ATNO’s on 160M to get to 90 by end of the year. It seems reasonable, even though the T88 and others I had hoped for would have been easier to work. Alas – such is life on Top Band . . .

A New Man

I mentioned a while back that I was starting a new regimen to lose weight which will take the weight off my knees.

I more than double my cycling mileage to 60 – 70 miles a week, and have switched to a mostly Paleo diet.

I lost 8 pounds then hit the plateau.

So, I’ll kick it up a notch and lose the beer and start yoga on Monday.

I’ve learned that once we get past a certain age, you have to work extra hard to try to stay near your weight and fitness level.

I pretty much knew I’d have to go this route, and I’m staying honest with my self and going to kick it up a big notch.

RI1ANO and 3Y0Z

RI1ANO has been tearing up 30M tonight – solid 599+ and working the entire US. 3Y0Z is 2000 miles farther and more SE, but since its a water path, I doubt that will be a big deal. We were both right in the grey line when I worked him, and it sure was a major pipeline.

SSN = ZERO, K = 4, A = 4 with some solar storm

South Shetland is almost 100% water path – I am only about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean, so I will bet the first hop hits salt water and that’s how it goes all the way along the path – crossing the terminator as well.

With 3Y0Z, the path will go over part of CE and LU, but it also will be mostly a water path. ZS8M was tricky, and VP8’s were easy, so with Bouvet being in between – but with 3Y0Z in the terminator the same time the West Coast is – I am getting pretty happy about the possibilities.

Top Band Halloween Altar

The KY6R Top Band Halloween Altar

Pumptallica seemed to be a good “starter” course, but I figure I might need something a bit more “substantial” for the repast, so I am bringing out an old Assemblage – one of my first and a series of fantasy radios using old radio parts that were headed for the trash heap.

I’m hearing W1AW very, very well, and so here’s to that EU and Scandinavian path dropping down several hundred miles to spotlight the SF Bay Area.