Happy Thanksgiving Trails – Ashland, Medford and Bend Oregon

Wagon at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon

Wow – what an amazing week up in Bend.

“Grandma’s House …. In Bend. Before the “Bomb Cyclone”

We arrived in Bend last Monday after spending a great weekend in Medford and Ashland.

The window at Forager Coffee in Medford

We left a very dry Bay Area that had yet another power outage scare

Diablo Market in Lafayette, California, very much like Bends Newport Market one half block away from the house we stayed at in Bend

It was sunny and dry for our drive to Medford. We had a great lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Arbuckle. All of the local farmers and ranchers ate there – so that was a good sign.

We stopped in Ashland and had a nice pint at Caldera Brewing in Ashland. Then on to Medford. We stayed at an old Red Lion now called “The Inn at the Commons” and it’s now been upgraded to be hip but not pretentious or expensive. Their restaurant “Lark” is connected to the very popular Ashland Springs Hotel and Restaurant. It was phenomenal. Truly blew me away.

Forager Coffee in Medford – an old gas station converted to a fantastic coffee shop

We went on a killer hike on the mountains above Ashland and had lunch at “Pie and Vine”. Super good pizza and spaghetti and meatballs.

The drive from Medford to Bend just outside Crater Lake

My years of growing up in the Northeast and driving in snow came in handy as it started snowing on our way to Bend.

The Bomb Cyclone that hit Bend just after we arrived

Bomb Cyclone is a new big deal phrase for what we used to call a Blizzard, but Bomb Cyclone sure sounds more dramatic. OK, yeah, so we survived a Historic Bomb Cyclone!

Tokyo Starfish Dispensary in Bend

We walked everywhere and settled into a wonderful routine – early morning coffee and Ham Radio

Coffee and QRP

We went to the market daily – Newport Market one half block away

The wonderfully festive Newport Market in Bend

We would have lunch (Kat is a gourmet cook so lucky me!) and then go for a walk in the snow. Kat picked up these super cool “Yak Tracks” that you affix to your hiking shoes, and voila! Crampons for Urban Dwellers!

Late afternoon it was drinks and dinner with a little Ham Radio goofing around, then reading by the fireplace.

My latest book

I’ve posted plenty of other pictures, but this truly was one of my all time favorite vacations and little adventures. Our 8 hour drive home was perfect – we were in between storms, and had smooth sailing the entire way. Amazing!

I’m thankful to have a travelling partner whom I can share such wonderful times.

2019: The Year in Review

2019 was a transition year – 2020 will sure be interesting

2019 was a major year of transitions for me – at work, exercise, playing music and even in Ham Radio. The transition from 2018 to 2019 was rough – but I guess in some way it motivated me to keep forging ahead.

Several new significant things happened in 2019

In many ways, as probably is the case every year – what we do sometimes goes through a “gestation period”. At work – it took two years and now I find myself in a new great position with some irony – the new CCPA regulation drives a lot of what I have been doing. It has gone from me working on projects that were more “nice to have” to Priority 1 or being imperative. In this case, I was exactly at the right place at the right time. That’s something that can’t be engineered (per se). Not only did I complete my Data Catalog projects and designs, I’m finishing the year almost done designing the next wave of Data Warehouse – one that is heavily influenced by the Data Catalog and CCPA. This will no doubt keep me a valuable employee and marketable – something you have to always work at in IT.

I started seriously lifting weights, and that has been just wonderful. I find it a partial antidote to aging. Yeah, its been that helpful – physically and mentally.

Playing guitar again has been great – I’m exercising a part of me that has been dormant for almost 30 years. Its a welcome new addition to my life.

After floundering around looking for something to keep me in the Ham Radio hobby – QRP DX is THE winner. I have a great appreciation for Vintage gear – but that wasn’t the thing I was really looking for. I also re-introduced the AB-577 and KX-3 back into my hobby. Finding out that my CW sending is much better with a single lever paddle was really something.

Melting Icicles

I also got back into photography a little more seriously than I had been. I have been finding using different parts of the brain helps the other parts. For example, the creative helps the logical. I’m learning they are not necessarily mutually exclusive – but counter play and counter balance each other.

Politically its been the absolute weirdest year I’ve ever witnessed – but I do believe in Karma and that “Assholes Undo Themselves”. I have also found that while I don’t want to bury my head in the sand – I need to limit my time reading or watching the circus that the clowns are putting on for us in Washington.

Where late 2018 felt like a “tearing down” of many things – this year has felt like a “building up” of many things.

I like this way to end the year much better. Its been a great year, and I look forward to 2020 – its going to be busy and exciting.

KY6R Bench Layout

I will have more room to build and test – one huge advantage to having a QRP station

The toolbox and shelves on the right are my current workbench – but its really small – in fact its a better area to stage stuff that I will work on. Then, where the Gold Dust Twins are – that opens up a nice big area to build kits and test stuff. I can have a shelf that is far back – opening up a nice big area of the table – which is a Scandinavian style dining table. I can also set up a much better AC and DC distribution arrangement.

My Year With Antique Wireless Gear

The Fabulous National SW-3

A year ago, I set out to purchase one antique wireless receiver – a Regenerative National SW-3. I found one and love it and will keep it. Accidentally, I then “fell into” the Collins Gold Dust Twins. That was a bridge too far as far as “having stuff” – but it was a good experience – I learned how to use test gear – and now fully understand the “hubbub” about Collins gear. There are features today that started with the Gold Dust Twins.

As far as “bang for the buck” is concerned, the SW-3 has been by far a better deal – I was able to get a read on history and what it was like in 1931 with a tube radio that had coils to change bands, and also that crazy “swooping” Regenerative tuning and sound. That alone exudes history like nothing else. I was very surprised to learn more about receivers reading a 1931 October QST article by James Millen – the designer of the SW-3 than just about any other article. Now that surprised me – and it was a pleasant surprised.

I also tried to get back into a “bug” for keying. That was another big FAIL – however – when I tried the oddball – but very cool – Begali Intrepid Bug – I accidentally stumbled on its ability to be a single lever (Mono) key. WOW – that was priceless – my sending is better than all of my years in Ham Radio – going back to 1973.

None of this has been bad – because its all a learning experience. There have been many times in my life where I took things “one step over the line” and then had to pull back on the reigns, and this was one of them. Also – all of this has been me searching for the “next chapter” after my 2001 – 2016 years as a serious “true blue” DXer. I’m still a DXer, but what has stuck more than Vintage Gear is QRP DXing.

I have found the “next chapter” after trying Vintage, Maker and QRP projects. Its all good – and shows just a few of the many facets of this great hobby of Ham Radio.

CCPA: “GAME ON” in One Month

The California Consumer Protection Act is good for everyone, albeit painful at first. It is historic in the USA

On January 1, in just one month, a new sweeping data protection and privacy regulation goes into effect. If you have become increasingly annoyed that you can’t use your smart phone as a phone (I get non stop spam calls), or if you are constantly annoyed by increasingly large pop up advertisements that make the internet almost unusable, or most importantly, if you are tired of having your personal identification data exposed via breaches and hacks by large financial institutions – you now will have some “digital rights”.

The big losers will be “Marcomm” – Marketing Communication and Digital Marketers – who sell your personal information without you even knowing it, and social media companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and even Amazon – all of which you don’t even know what they do with your data. If you are a resident of Califonia, you will now have 5 major “rights”:

  • Know what personal information is being collected about you
  • Access that information
  • Know if your personal information is disclosed, and with whom
  • Know if your personal information is sold and the right to opt out of the sale
  • Receive equal service and price whether or not you exercise their privacy rights

I can hear some whine that its just more “stupid regulation” and some derogatory BS about California. People like that will change their tune if their personal identity is hacked – like most of us have experienced.

There is a really wonderful side of this new regulation – companies that process data will FINALLY have to get their shit together. You would be amazed to know that most corporations – who moved off of mainframes to more distributed systems (which is pretty much every company in the world), and those who moved to the cloud, do not even know what data they have and where. These companies didn’t have to – there was zero legislation or regulations that forced what is now being called “Good Data Hygiene”.

There are some industries that are very much regulated – banks, loan companies, basically companies who move money around. There are state and federal laws. I don’t think online retail has been regulated nearly as much, and know Social Media is unregulated.

Way back in the late 1970’s – mainframes ruled the day – and IBM had a data catalog built in – which means you couldn’t load or share data without it being HEAVILY audited and tracked. As soon as we started going “distributed” – with systems interconnected and all over the place (in the 1980’s), we lost sight of where all of our data was – at least from a “single view” perspective.

I am sure someone will come up with a “CCPA Certified” icon for those who are certified and compliant

Our elections were hacked due to sleazy and sloppy data operations at many social media companies. I deep sixed all of my Social Media accounts after the 2016 Election – because I really do think our democracy has been compromised. So – when you combined that with several data breaches (Wells Fargo, Experian) – where my personal data was compromised – you start feeling vulnerable, and you start wanting these “data rights”.

Getting back to the “Good Data Hygiene” aspect – I have been in database development work for 40 years – I started out as Oracle’s 127th employee. As a DBA (Database Administrator), and now Data Architect, I have been appalled at how data is stashed on so many company data resources – and now mostly in the cloud – and how companies haven’t even known how much data they have and where it is. I won’t name names – but even trusted large corporations have this problem. Startups are steeped in this problem – the “data discipline” is horrible because IT management generally sucks. Its all about “Agile” – and “Continuous Code Delivery”. After about 10 years of Cloud Computing – I could scare the living shit out of you if you knew how data is slung around.

Starting about 2 years ago I designed a distributed Data Catalog:

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

and then I had the pleasure of working with a great product called Collibra (at Twitter) – which has become a #1 Data Catalog solution – and which started in Belgium and “caught fire” after GDPR – the forerunner to CCPA, but for EU. In fact, I was the person who gave the final OK on Collibra at Twitter.

The problem at Credit Karma and Twitter was IT management. On one hand – I was able to influence big decisions and I did deliver. But then IT management basically dropped the ball and it became frustrating. It was typical IT management – “Hurry up and wait”. Its endemic in IT – and I have witnessed this every single place I have ever worked – there is a big rush, then a period where nothing is decided and everything “lolly gags” around. I swear – I’ve had to learn how to deal with getting my energy up to meet a fast and furious challenge – only to then sit around being bored as management doesn’t manage or lead. I know they will eventually get there – but I move fast and furious and take ownership – and do not do well when its “Hurry up and wait”.

Luckily, at LendUp, we have just enough people to get the job done – and because LendUp does Loans – we are already heavily regulated and so CCPA is just more of what we are used to. Also – because we are in one vertical market, we can move faster than say Credit Karma or Twitter – who both have massive amounts of data used for all kinds of different things. These companies have so many people that regardless of what they tell you about “flat orgnaization” – sorry – when you have thousands of employees spread all over the place, things slow down – and even get more political. With CCPA – this gets in the way for sure.

I have 2 patents in review right now – and both are based on the “last mile” of being able to manage data and have good “data hygiene”. They are both related to the “Holy Grail” – or area that my Credit Karma design or even Collibra is missing – and its a huge gaping hole – and that is File management. Everyone does database table management – but I could not find one Open Source or Commercial product that scans files – data and code – and generates meta data for our data catalog. I have FINALLY solved this problem – so now I can manage every data asset in any company. I have moved at lightning speed – and not only designed something much better than what I did at Credit Karma – but even have completely redesigned our Data Warehouse – which like every company I have worked at for the last 10 years – has needed to be done, and badly. In fact – what I have designed makes the data pipelines much simpler and for much less cost. It also has all of the CCPA data management features and data security and data quality baked in. Don’t get me started on Data Science, ML and AI – that whole area is the absolute WORST in Data Management. Data Scientists have been put on a God like pedestal, and I have NEVER seen such bad data hygiene. Here is how to trip up a Data Scientist – ask them if their data sets have a Data Quality Score – that they know what their Data Quality is and if their data quality gives them a “confidence factor” for their data models. They will turn white as a ghost. Data Science is used for “Personalization” – which means they design the algorithms that then push email to you to tell you what you should buy. Amazon is one of the better companies in this regard – they usually recommend something that is based on my likes. Other companies are trying to get as good. It takes tons of data – but that’s only because every data science organization I’ve seen is very sloppy. Good math – poor data hygiene.

This is a new area – but its something companies that process data should have been doing all along. The problem – IT Management did not see “Proper Data Hygiene” as a priority. It always pissed me off – since that has been in my blood since college. I really did believe in my textbooks!

With CCPA, the “Rush” is on – for people like me – its a Gold Rush – and one that I have been wanting to happen ever since we moved off mainframes and went distributed. In fact, I fully expect to ride this wave into my retirement – yeah – this is a new flood gate that opens January 1, and the main reason I wanted this idyllic week in an idyllic place is to get my batteries recharged and ready for what will be one hell of a New Years Onslaught.

New KY6R Shack / Workbench

A very nice workbench idea for my new shack

Since my station will have a lot more space now that the Collins Gold Dust Twins are being sold – I have space to expand my electronics work area (its really tight now). I already have the table and have parts drawers, so I will have one long shelf that runs the length of the bench area (a scandinavian dining room table with two “eaves”). The shelf will hold the oscilloscope and other test equipment, and underneath I will have the QRP rigs and various antenna switch boxes.

One thing I do need to do is set up a better way to mount the AC power strip that I have (a really good one), plus the array of power supplies. The National SW-3 will also be on the top shelf.

This will be fun, and I can set this up before I start on my “Spy Radio”. I guess the order will be:

  1. Move the Collins gear out of the shack
  2. Extend the table eaves
  3. Build one long shelf – perhaps using a nice piece of maple or (?)
  4. Mount the AC and DC power distribution
  5. Set up the radio gear
  6. Set up the test and soldering gear

Then I will start on my kit building. I can keep the QRP DXing station to the left – and the soldering and kit building to the right. Here is how the shack looks now:

As you can see – the Twins take up most of my shack space . . . 

I now have several people interested in the Twins – so I know they will sell for sure. Next chapter is on its way!

“Au Naturel” Tannenbaum

Nature bats first and last

I do like the German Christmas Tree tradition, but haven’t had one in my house for a good 15 years. However, I have looked carefully at trees outdoors and found that they are better than anything I’ve dragged indoors.

Would you look at the “cotton” on this tree!

You just can’t beat Mother Nature . . . photo by Kat

Yesterday on a 2 mile walk around town, we walked past an apple tree that had old rotten apples – but looked really great. I wish I would have taken a picture of it – because against the snow it was quite striking.

Santa at the local Grocery Store . . . 

With so many stores (even grocery stores like this one!) with Christmas decorations – I have more fun taking pictures of how “merchandisers” decorate their trees – they always do a nice job.

One tree in California that looks awesome as a natural Christmas Tree is the Persimmon – or the Pomegranate. The orange and red on a leafless tree just looks like Christmas to me – even without the snow. A few years back I planted 3 redwood trees next to our creek – and they look great now. I do put up lights – but they are solar powered lights that I string up using some of my antenna rope and I go from tree to tree in the front yard.