My 2018 “Summer Cocoon”

While I usually come up with one big “summer project” each year – and mainly to ward off the “Summer DX Doldrums” – this year I entered a “Summer Consuming” project at work – an Enterprise Data Dictionary “Explorer”. Halfway through the second quarter, and on the heels of developing a semantic data warehouse data model for Credit Karma, I found myself without a React developer that I badly needed to create a web app front end to the back end data “plumbing” that I had in place.

So, I rolled up my sleeves and learned React. I also had to build the data REST API – and that was built using Python and Flask. I was able to get the app designed and built to the point where I was querying the database, but was stuck as far as doing updates (actually “Upserts”). Luckily, I hired a really great contractor, and we delivered all code last Tuesday.

Add in a week vacation in Northeastern Oregon, and you end up with a summer that has flown by. I have to rely on several people to take care of the infrastructure where this application / system will run, and so I’m guessing the “heat and steam” that we experienced getting the code ready will be replaced with some “hurry up and wait” infrastructure building. There are a lot of dependencies, and I have to basically “ride herd” to follow through and make it happen. Shades of VK0EK abound!

We will no doubt go live in August – my big hope is this coming Friday, but having been through many such go lives, I am braced for some infrastructure bits and pieces that could cause some delays.

One thing I do know – it will be Autumn in a blink of an eye – and this Summer will have been the “Data Explorer Summer of 2018” when all is said and done – and it is already a very fond memory – even more fun than say the u.Rat (hi hi).

R.I.P. Cycle 24

Conditions this summer remind me of the two years centered on 2008 where even 20M barely opened.

The good news? This seems to be hitting sooner than anticipated. We might even get lucky and get a fast turnaround to the start of Cycle 25. I’ve seen some early prognostication that Cycle 25 will be the same as Cycle 24, which is an improvement over previous predictions, where Cycle 25 is supposed to be half as strong as Cycle 24.

Time will tell, but lately, 20M sure feels as bad as back then, and even 40M is really bad.

At the bottom of the cycle, 40M opened up for me to work VU7RG in 2007 on CW and SSB but it was only open a Max of 10 – 20 minutes, and at sunset. I think after sunrise 40M on the long path stayed open longer. You have to monitor the bands more closely – and paradoxically – when they seem the most dead in a cycle . . .

This was a distinctive time for me. I was going through a rough spot with my divorce, but was about to be remarried. The Decemberists had a very interesting album out – The Crane Wife, and I think I was working at Wells Fargo.

I only remember the good times, and that VU7 was in the Top 10, and I felt very lucky to work them. I had phased vertical arrays and full power.

So, even at the bottom of the cycle, you can work DX on the other side of the planet, and on SP and LP.

Will 3Y0I Happen This Fall?

An unscientific “poll” was conducted at KY6R this morning, and apparently, 3Y0I will happen in 2018.

I’m guessing that if it does, we will hear soon that gear has been shipped – or will be shipping soon. Since its wise to give a month or two to ship such gear to Cape Town (where VK0EK shipped its gear) – shipping in August would mean they could activate in October, November or December this year.

I’ve worked ZS on 40M almost year round – even with SSN = Zero. This summer 40M has been lousy – and I wonder if we are already at the bottom of this cycle – it sure smells like it.

In any case, VOACAP Online does predict half way decent odds that I can work them this year – if they go. I’ll bet if we don’t hear anything in August news wise from this team that 2018 will be very unlikely. I know they are trying to obtain the last $95K in funding – so that will be a big indicator – if they land a set of grants that get them closer – then I would be more confident that this will actually happen.

I do wish them luck – this is one tough nut to crack.

Sony SEL35F18 35mm f/1.8 Prime Fixed Lens

I have a Sony A6000 camera that I really like. Its an APS-C based camera and has 24 mp. The newer versions have added 4K video, but I could care a less – since the latest version is twice what I paid for this camera.

Since I work in San Francisco and have enjoyed photography in the past – and since this nice camera has not had much action, I have decided to get a Prime lens that I can use for every day commuting to SF and walking around the City at lunch – to and from the gym. I work right next to Union Square – and its a very lively and “colorful” part of town.

This lens is a good deal when compared to say a Zeiss or Leica lens, and it fits the budget better – since digital cameras are somewhat “throw away” – they become obsolete about in the same time frame as a laptop – so maybe every 3 years or so. This camera is 3 years old and there is no compelling reason to upgrade – I was surprised to see that the Micro 4/3rd cameras only now have 20 mp – but I like the APS-C larger sensor better. The full frame sensor cameras are much more expensive than the $500 or so that I paid for this camera.

I always use photography as a main driver for my blogs – so I am hoping to step up my photography for this blog.



What DX Will This Autumn Bring?

Autumn in Orinda

Conditions have been pretty crummy this year – even 40M seems to be bad these days. Luckily, working KH1/KH7Z on 160M was a cake walk – so there was some fun and excitement this summer DX wise.

I’ve been so busy at work building – and very soon launching the “Data Explorer” – which is an Enterprise Data Dictionary app that offers descriptions, data quality, security, lineage and several other very cool features, and lets “data workers” find where and what data is available at Credit Karma. There is a push to have this Open Sourced, so maybe at the end of this year – or beginning next.

I noticed last night that the nights are starting to grow a little bit longer – by the end of August it will be quite noticeable. I like the cool nights (and days) – cycling becomes more “invigorating”. DX should be better on the low bands – and I sure hope 40M comes back – I’m surprised its been as bad as its been the last couple of months.

I no longer have any goals DX wise – except working Bouvet and Glorioso. 3Y0I did announce they were shipping gear to Cape Town, South Africa, so who knows – maybe it will actually happen. I am surprised they haven’t produced more news and hype – when you are trying to drum up support – you need to be persistent and also consistent.

For whatever reason (many actually) – Bouvet just seems to elude us DXers . . .

REI ADV 3.1: My New “Car”

REI ADV 3.1 – a fantastic bike at a fantastic price – Shimano Deore, disc brakes, and a great steel frame (for us DXCC chasing fatties)

A year and one month ago, I sold my car and will never buy another again. We became a one car family and will stay that way. First and foremost – the bike is used to commute 2.5 miles to BART, and I have no hassles finding parking or paying for that plus gas and maintenance. Secondly, its my message to politicians who have always favored the oil industry and having us citizen – peons “buy or die”, and then there is the environment – one less car makes me feel like I am helping on my little scale. I whiz by all of the cars stuck in traffic along Moraga Way every morning – its hilarious!


The Topeak MTN rack, and . . .

Amazing and very useful Topeak “trunk bag”

The Topeak “trunk bag” that slides into the rack. I now use this bag to carry my cheapie Wouxun HT, a book I’m reading and anything else I need for work. The sides open up and it becomes a full on double pannier with the top storage area as well. Finally, under the trunk bag is a plastic “fender” so my back won’t get wet in the rain.

I’ll take some pictures of my bike as soon as I’m done outfitting it, but instead of paying $30K for a new car, I paid $1200 for a bike. In gas alone for one year – It will easily pay for itself, and it helps me stay in shape. The ride in the morning is all downhill – and of course all uphill, and so I get about 1/2 hours a day intense cardio (I ride to and from work as fast as I can – as a sprint). Then I walk to and from my gym – a mile each way at lunch and do 1000 reps on weight machines 4 times a week. Finally, I ride between 20 – 30 miles each Sunday.

Its an active life – I’ve always done at least something exercise wise since I was a little kid. The only time I cut back seriously is when I chased DXCC Honor Roll – and yes, that is when I got fat.

DXing can be bad for your health – I have to be honest about that – (“butt in chair time” is really bad for you!), especially if your job is coding and also sitting in a chair all your days.

I’m busy repenting for my “evil DXCC” ways these days . . .


Along The Oregon Trail

We flew into Boise and had a great couple of days there – and happened to run into the “Twilight Criterium” bicycle race while looking for a place for dinner …

The park right near the State Capitol Building had the greatest “Mid Summers Night” feel …

You can see the people at the parking garage watching the race, while others grabbed a beer at the Deschutes Beer Wagon – one of many micro brew vendors in the park. Next stop – Baker City, Oregon

The Geiser Hotel, Baker City, Oregon

My favorite state is Oregon. While Colorado rules the roost with its majestic mountains in the Western part of that state, the people, the use of land and the cafe, brewpub culture, cycling culture and locally grown food in Oregon top my list. We have been to every corner of the state – except the northeast corner – so that was our quest this time . . .

Don’t get me wrong – California – especially the SF Bay Area is the absolute tops when you are working (I’m in IT – so my Computer Science degree has provided a great career here – probably as good or better than any place else on earth), and San Francisco and the people in the SF Bay Area have been fun to work and play with – but its grown tremendously since my family moved here in 1979, and when I retire, I don’t want all of the throng of people, the traffic and just the intensity of it all.

The Blue Mountains, The Valley and Baker City, Oregon

Baker City is along the Oregon Trail, and the pioneers would tackle the nearby Blue Mountains before ending up at the Columbia River and then making their last push to Portland (it was actually nearby Oregon City). There is a world class brewery called “Barley Browns” in Baker City, and it is only a couple of blocks from the Geiser Hotel. Their “Pallet Jack and double IPA version of that beer are two of the best IPA’s I have had. The Lone Pine Cafe was a wonderful place for breakfast or lunch.

Covered Wagon at the Baker City Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

I watched a wonderful documentary on the push westward from Independence Missouri to Oregon City along the Oregon Trail. Growing up in NJ – I learned about the 13 original colonies, but western history was never covered in any detail. The Oregon Trail is of interest, because there were Holoch’s who ended up in the Portland area- in fact a cluster of them, and I am sure I am somehow connected – and it would have been in and around Missouri or perhaps Nebraska – via Milwaukee. I have yet to connect my part of the tree with this branch – but I am sure we are related because the Holoch name is very small and tribal in Germany.

Church in John Day, Oregon

After Baker City, we drove to the tiny town of John Day, which is part of a network of three very interesting National Parks – we had already been to the Painted Hills – on a trip from Bend, our favorite town in the whole world – but this time we visited the John Day fossil beds – which contain world renowned fossils

The scene along the roads near the John Day Fossil beds and National Park

The rolling hills and wheat fields near Pendleton, Oregon

Pendleton was a great little town – where you could tell that it had its glory years ago – they have a world class woolen mill and a famous rodeo. They also have a big flour mill and other industries connected to other parts of the world by rail, road and the Columbia River. There were very nice old houses on the hills above town. A superb brewpub is “Prodigal Son” – who had the best corned beef and double IPA on the trip – this is  must when you are in Pendleton.

Pendleton Rodeo

There was a big wheat field fire near The Dalles, Oregon, and smoke was blowing in and around Pendleton, Enterprise, Joseph and Hells Canyon – some even made it all the way back down to Baker City.

Wheat Field near La Grande, Oregon

We stopped in La Grande on our way to Enterprise. La Grande is a great little town that has Eastern Oregon University – and were I thought “this would be a great place to semi retire to and teach Computer Science courses, and then finally fully retire some day”.

Next up were the small but beautiful towns of Enterprise and Joseph – they felt like we were in Switzerland

Barn near Enterprise and Joseph, Oregon

After Enterprise and Joseph, we drove through Hells Canyon, and then back to Baker City. The next day we drove back to Idaho crossing the Snake River at Oxbow Dam and ended up in what we thought was like a small South Lake Tahoe – McCall, Idaho. It was so crowded due to its summer time popularity that we were happy to get up and get out early the next day. McCall is probably a lot nicer in the Fall – but Summer and possibly Winter (there is a ski resort nearby) – so high season gets too crowded for our taste.

On the way back down on highway 55 – we drove along the awesome Payette River. WOW – the rafting and rapids were quite amazing.

We ended up back in Boise, and took a late afternoon flight home – mission accomplished – and now we can say we have traveled pretty much the entire state of Oregon. We also love Boise – the downtown is very comfy with its walk and bike-friendly lanes and great restaurants and brew pubs. Boise State University is a great school – and the neighborhoods right down town are very nice. Boise is experiencing a California style boom town – I’m guessing along what had happened in and around Sacramento. In fact, there are some similarities to Sacramento and also Reno with Boise.

(Thanks to my wonderful wife Kat for planning this trip – it was awesome!)