Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy . . .

The Armchair DXer

From July 2001 – December 2012, I was in “Honor Roll OCD Mode“. The DXCC Force Was With Me!

From January 2013 – March 2016, I was in “Top of Honor Roll” and “Top Band” OCD Mode(s). These were not nearly as bad (I mean good!) as Honor Roll OCD Mode – there is something about Honor Roll and nothing else compares. HOWEVER, my three years from 2013 – 2016 with the TX5K and VK0EK DXpeditions were almost like a highly condensed version of the Honor Roll OCD years – another intense set of years – that happened on the heels of earning Honor Roll. TX5K paled in comparison to VK0EK as far as my involvement goes.

While I never gave up my other hobbies, duties or relationships in life – I can say those OCD years were a central theme in my life – and as I had mentioned before – turned out to be the healthiest time to be buried in such a venture – with two parents passing and a divorce with children thrown in. There never had been – or (hopefully) will be, a time like that again.

Cozy and fun new shack – my favorite shack yet . . . 

We are at the bottom of the sunspot cycle, and this time – unlike late 2008 or so – I am not caring what conditions are like since I don’t have anything I’m chasing, and the last two I need may or may not happen. I also just don’t have the Top of Honor Roll OCD any more.

Other things in life have taken full center stage – and my ham radio time on the air is 98% SWL. I expect to chase Baker and ducie on 160M – only because if I don’t I will all but have ended my DXCC chase, and I guess I want to keep at least my pinky toe in the DXCC Pool.

I’ve been having the best time bike commuting and travelling with Kat, and doing home improvement projects, and I have been at my pinnacle work wise at Credit Karma. Throw in a little Maker play – and life is well balanced and not fraught with any major OCD’s.

Its a relaxing and rewarding time that I am enjoying – I guess the best explanation for how I feel is:

Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy

When Bottom of the Sunspot Cycle Isn’t a Bad Thing

Baker and Ducie are going to be activated during the bottom of this cycle . . . and its not bad if:

  1. You live fairly close to those entities
  2. You have low band capabilities

Baker and Ducie are “chip shots” for VK/ZL, OC, South and Central America and the US West Coast.

Other parts of the world won’t fare so well, and that even adds to what will be an easy chip shot for those that are relatively close. It almost seems like ZL will be in the drivers seat (besides the many OC islands near these islands).

With low sunspots – and hopefully lower noise – 160 – 30M should be great. Even some of the higher bands will open for the close in countries.

The 2018 Top Band “Two-Fer”

Baker and Ducie are on this year, and they will be chip shots from the West Coast on the Low Bands – which is a rare occurrence.

I think I will launch a line back up in my neighbors tree – and use it long enough for these DX-peditions. Turns out – I have both of these entities on 80 – 10M, so only 160 and 6M are left. The UrbanBeam covers 6M, so I’ll put that line up for 160M and do something really lazy – since that’s all I will need. I’ve modeled just unhooking the 80M 60′ vertical I have from its matching box and using it along with another 60′ line up in a tree another 60′ and separated by 5′. Kind of a weird dipole.

The other thing I could do is shoot a line up 60′ and use two top sloping hats – again – easy and lazy.

Bike Travel Weekend

The Ferry from San Francisco to Larkspur Landing

Adventure Cycling Association, from Missoula, Montana, sponsors a great program – to get out on your bike and travel.

I need to keep lifting weights. I can actually see how losing the first 10 pounds has made a difference. Now I’m really motivated. 25 more to go!

Kat and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, close to the world famous Napa and Sonoma Wine Country. We decided to also try the new SMART train from San Rafael to Santa Rosa.

Bikes on the Ferry

Leaving the Ferry Plaza Building in SF

Since I commute to San Francisco every day, I’ve left that out of the adventure as far as this blog goes. Taking the Ferry was fun and exciting, even for locals like us.

The boat is a powerful catamaran that gets you across the bay in 30 minutes

The ferries carry many commuters every day and they plan to expand the system, which is needed

Since it was the first of the month, we got to experience their “man overboard” drill where they throw a life ring overboard and scoop it up with a hook

The San Rafael – Richmond Bridge, which we have kayaked near for many years

The tunnel between Larkspur and San Rafael. SMART is laying the last mile of tracks, so soon, you can get off the ferry and get on a SMART train

The train tracks are on one side and the walking / cycling path on the other side

The SMART train is one of the biggest highlights of this trip. It’s a beautiful train that travels through a beautiful part of our country and the SF Bay Area

Northbound out of San Rafael

Brand New, great color scheme, comfy

When we got to Santa Rosa, we were welcomed by local Flying Goat Coffee in historic Railroad Square

Santa Rosa is Charles Shultz’s home town, and there are statuettes of the Peanuts characters around town

We arrived at our motel, the Astro, which is a mid century motel that has been renovated and is quite hip and fun

We stayed at a similar kind of place in Bozeman last fall – I love these rennovated motels, because growing up in NJ, we had a yearly family vacation to Wildwood at the “Jersey Shore”, and stayed at “The Time and Tide”

Beautifully landscaped and they have a great lounge with cool old stereo equipment that still works and sounds great

On Saturday, we rode our bikes to the Hop Monk Tavern in nearby Sebastopol, about 7 miles away

There was a fun Blue Grass jam going during lunch. It was 92 degrees, so we found a nice place in the shade. Russian River Pliny The Elder and superb Salmon Tacos….

The Santa Rosa Creek Trail was much nicer than the Joe Rodota trail.

We had dinner with our great friends, Rick and Katie… At a superb restaurant, Lecoco’s

Kat on the way home

The hills along the train ride home

Back at Larkspur Landing, waiting for the Ferry …

It was calm in Larkspur and in SF, but holy moly, the wind and chop coming through the gate tells me the fog will be back soon.

It was a warm but excellent long weekend being tourists in our own backyard.

A Full Stack Summer!

The big news this summer will no doubt be my learning React.js at work – and calling REST API’s that I design and build using Python on the back end database layer. The two work like a charm – and I’m not using Redux.js or anything else – in fact I’m going pretty “bare bones” – and with MySQL on the backend, and Airflow to handle ETL between my app and the Data Warehouse – its a really cool ecosystem.

One thing I can do for sure is build a great Web Based Ham Radio Suite – if I wanted to – and I will if the React work at work slows down. I’ve been told that I will become crazy popular – because there are just not enough React.js developers out there – while there are plenty of Python developers.

Learning React.js has had a really steep learning curve, but luckily, a good friend and ex-Ham at work has taken pity on me and is mentoring me. We’ve been having big fun – and he said he has never seen anyone pick up the front end development like I have. Plus – I now can honestly say I’m a full stack developer, and can pretty much do it all – SQL RDBMS, Data Warehouse, ETL, front end, middle REST API layer, etc, etc.

I can already tell that the “trajectory” of this summer is FAST. It will fly by as it always does when I am crazy busy at work – and also that combined with learning something as intense as React.js

I’m looking forward to it – no boredom here.

DXCC and Me: “Multi-Path Fading”

Signal Multi-path Fading . . .

3Y0Z and its demise has had a bigger impact on me than I would have thought. It really felt like the end of an era to me – in several ways – for the DX Community as well as me personally. Around the same time that 3Y0Z announced that it was cancelling the project for good, Seb, F5UFX, from the French Team announced that while they will keep trying to activate Glorioso, that it basically has become the French version of the US F&W “Navassa”. In other words, maybe some day in the future . . .

This means both of these last entities that I need might not be activated for some time – if at all. It was 19 years in between Heard Island activations – and unless some scientific mission goes to Heard Island again – you better not count on it – just like I have decided to no longer count on Bouvet or Glorioso. I really do fear that some entities might not be activated again in my lifetime. Every month and year – the probability of that grows higher. Baker, KH1, at $400K is as expensive as going to Heard Island, which makes no sense to me. And oil prices are something like 30% higher than last summer, so add that in. I think it’s just the ship operators and “supply and demand”.

Make no doubt about it – now that I am reminiscing about my trip to DXCC Honor Roll (chronicled in the DXCC Sleuth Blog), I feel more like I had the right idea to do it as fast as I could back in 2001 – just months before 9/11. Some had criticized me for being in a hurry and not “savoring it” – I say “Bollocks!”. Or is it “Ballocks!” . . .

3Y0I still has an active web site, and while their recent announcements to activate South Pacific entities seems to be on hold for now – the Polish Team did have good news about their budget and the fact that they have a ship for about 1/3rd the cost of 3Y0Z. I’m very cautiously optimistic – I can only imagine that they have hung their shingle out and I hope to hear that new team members are being added to their project.

But my DXCC Sleuth blog is my way of pulling up DXCC stakes – and as each month goes by, I am caring less and less if I ever work these last two. As I said, once 3Y0Z cancelled for good – I went out and completely changed my shack and my antenna farm per my “Post DXCC” plan – it just felt like that was “all she wrote” DXCC wise.

9BDXCC and DXCC on 160M sure feels like the last nail in the DXCC coffin for me – and that these two DXpeditions could be “The one’s that got away”:

One thing for sure – FT8 has ushered in a new era – where most of the band activity in between DXpeditions seem to be on that new mode. There are a few “stalwarts” out there CQ-ing on CW, but the day there is no more CW will be the day I cash in my chips. I don’t expect this at all – anyone alive who learned CW when they were a teenager will still fire up the key from time to time – but in 20 years there might be very little CW left.

Unofficial Summer, on Cue

Today we walked the Lafayette Reservoir, and it’s a pretty hilly walk just under 3 miles, all paved.

The mustard and Queen Annes Lace is between 6 – 8′ tall, which is higher than I remember.

Anyway, this Memorial Day weekend we hit 85 degrees Fahrenheit as if unofficial Summer started right on cue. It had been quite cool and even chilly during the day in the last several weeks barely reaching 60 degrees.

We did quite a bit of gardening and I put together some nice new outdoor furniture. It’s on the deck that overhangs the creek.

The bands have been great too – I’ve been too busy studying up on React.js in my spare time, but heard EU and VK / ZL just like the “good old days” when there were sunspots.