FREQ 300 #19: Tokelau – ZK3A

ZK3A was very easy on 17M – I even heard them on 12 and 15M today

I guess with just one sunspot group, the higher bands opened nicely. Combine this with Tokelau only being about 4500 miles away and an all salt water path – and it was a nice day for DXing. I had been away for 10 days, so my last “new one” QRP wise was about a month ago. That’s just fine – I like the zero pressure pursuit that I am now engaged in. I’ve already done the “Big Deal” Honor Roll and 8BDXCC thing – so its nice to be a very “Casual DXer” these days.

I do still get a kick out of DXpeditions and hearing the “clamor” of those who need such and such entity for an ATNO – I hope they are having as much fun as I used to in that regard.

I almost gave the bands up for dead tonight – at 7 PM all of a sudden – every band was wiped out. I am sure it was man made noise. My QSO on 17M was nice a and quiet – his signal was strong and the KX-3 can be eerily quiet sometimes – with signals just popping up out of the din.

[UPDATE – 0418z – just worked them on 30M – also easily]

[UPDATE – 0923 – just worked them on 40M – they are 20 over S9, but because they aren’t much farther than Hawaii, this is normal – but with QRP its special]


A Way of Seeing | A Way of Hearing

Theatre Square, Orinda – “Green”

Yeas ago, I read a great photography book called “Photography and the Art of Seeing” by Freeman Patterson. He challenged the reader to just photograph something in your own home and yard for one year. He challenged us to look for interesting things in what we previously would have expected to be the mundane – or at least what is taken for granted.

Republic of Cake, Theatre Square, Orinda

I pass by Theatre Square every day on my way to and from work. I’m usually in a hurry to get to work or come home. Late May I joined a new gym at Theatre Square, so it forces me to stop twice a day. The light during the morning and night are so different that you would easily miss the “interesting in the mundane”. At night there are shadows and while there is a Grill and Taproom called The Fourth Bore (named after the 4th tunnel that they bored in the Caldecott Tunnel a few years back), the place has always seemed like a quiet place with not much going on.

Theatre Square, Orinda

Theatre Square is on the “Village” side of Route 24 (Orinda is bisected by Highway 24), and it is very easy access from BART. It has always seemed like it wanted to be like Market Hall in Rockridge – which is the next BART stop toward Oakland and San Francisco, but the Rockridge clientele is more “Urbane” and is different than in Orinda – which is more young family. This has led to Theatre Square never really taking off like Market Hall did. However, there are a few restaurants and other businesses like Starbucks that are doing great business.

Detritus in the exit stairwell of the Orinda Theatre

The Orinda Theatre has been there the longest – and it has some nice deco features and a big neon sign. They built a modern shopping “galleria” around the theatre and while its no icon of architecture, its also more pleasant and nicer than I had originally thought. It is very functional, and The Fourth Bore is owned by a fellow who has had two other themed restaurants that have always been packed. Between his businesses and a handful of others, there is life there – but it could be more if they keep tweaking their formula.

However, being that its a kind of hidden away place – when I go to and from the gym twice a day – it gives me pause and makes me look around more. The more I look, the more I find. Recently – with the light changing, when I started going to the gym before and after work – I found that the morning light has shifted and all of a sudden I am seeing things that I have walked past for years. The quietness of the place means I can take photos without getting in the way or with too many people passing by – as would be the case at Market Hall in Rockridge. Of course, Market Hall would be a better place to capture the vibrancy of people walking in and out, but Theatre Square does offer “something” of its own.

I’ve also had some experience with other senses, especially hearing as far as “discovery” goes. On the radio, and at home and at work – sometimes I have heard something and instantly thought I “knew what someone or something meant”. Then, later on, I would realize I might have been too quick to “tag” that sound. Many times, someone might start a conversation and not give enough context or background, and I would misinterpret what that person was trying to ask or say. Its very similar to photography – where you are recording what you think is “the truth”. My early opinion that Theatre Square was boring, devoid of life and a place to just pass by was wrong – it was my fault and problem that I had such an opinion. I also realize that I probably can always strive to do better when I listen to others. We are all in such a hurry these days – and I’ve noticed we have moved our attentions from listening or seeing to our little Smart Phones – as if the worlds truths are contained on that little screen. I’m learning just how limiting those little screens are.

I’ve started carrying my camera daily to work, and my hope is I can start finding new things on my way to and from work and share them in my blog.

Autumn Chill

October 2 in the Bay Area – its getting chilly!

Up at Lake Tahoe its in the 20’s already, and we are now in the 40’s at night – with some pockets of 30’s in the Bay Area. That’s a bit early – and a big change since just last week we had a couple days in the 90’s and evenings were warm and full of crickets chirping away. That chirp has turned completely off.

The Jetstream seems to be the reason for the cooler than usual weather pattern

The snow that hit Montana last weekend seemed to be caused by a double whammy – a storm descending from the north combined with a Jetstream that swooped down into the Bay Area and then back up into Nevada, Idaho and parts of Oregon, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and even Colorado. This is especially interesting since our recent trip followed the path of where the jetstream seems to be flowing. Guess we were in Colorado during its very last warm weather week.

In the Bay Area – this has made for absolutely clear blue skies and daily temperatures about 70 degrees – which has been perfect for cycling. Come to think about it – this entire year has been cooler than normal – we only hit 100 degrees once here in Orinda – we usually have about 3 weeks worth of 100 degree plus temperatures. We also usually get “Diablo Winds” – which have caused fires such as the Oakland Firestorm way back in 1991 – and the Paradise Fire last year. Fingers crossed that we have a strong Jetstream instead – the smoke last year was awful and it lasted many weeks. This year, many locals have cleared out their underbrush and chopped down many, many old crummy trees – especially those awful Monterrey Pines – which never should have been planted in this area.

I’ve been the leader on the gym leader board for three months now – July, August and September, so that is great, work is great – I am annotating all of our database tables and views using the Data Discoverer tool that I built with my small team this summer – and its a GREAT app – I love using it. LendUp will be ready for CCPA – all this while other Bay Area companies are panicking. Mark Zuckerberg certainly doesn’t like regulation – but his company is one of the main reasons for CCPA – as is all of the many companies that have your personal database leaked and compromised.

Radio has been a bust here lately – just way too much noise – I’m guessing its man made as well as atmospheric – as one coronal hole after another has been hitting us. No problem – I will switch to photography for a while – so the blog will reflect that. I think we will start seeing some improvement this winter – but if what I have is man made noise (I’ll have to walk around with an AM radio in the neighborhood soon), then maybe my hamming days will become limited here.

OK – onward with the things I CAN do – not the things I can’t do . . . .

Oh yeah – that spy radio – and OH – fixing that slug rack band in the KWS-1. Guess I have more projects than time these days.

Photography Redux

The Panasonic Lumix GX85 Kit

After having a blast in Colorado and getting back into my old photographic hobby, I decided to upgrade to a newer camera – since my old cameras were pre touch screen and all that jazz that goes with the new feature set.

I was intent on getting a Lumix LX100ii, but reports of dust issues were rampant, and so I opted for a removable lens point and shoot. Its 3 years old, but the feature list is amazing – and better yet – it comes with two decent Leica designed lenses – but all of this gear in made in China. Hence a killer price ($597) – and this is new – not used.

There were many reviews and they were all good – and its short comings are none of the things I even care about. The price was half of when it was new in 2016. I already love this camera – the touch screen really is like a whole new world – I learned the Zone System many years ago – and have always used a spot meter – a 2 degree hand held Pentax back in the day – and when digital cameras were viable (starting with 2 MP – heh heh – I started using in camera spot meters where you hold the shutter control down half way once you decide on where you want to both focus and set the lighting.

Ansel Adams would approve!

With the GX85 touch screen and its controls – I have way more control over light and focus than I had expected. Its similar to the ICOM IC-7300 – at first I thought a touch screen was a gimmick – then you start being able to do more and faster, so now I am loving the touch screen – its more than a gimmick.

Lumix (Leica designed) 20mm F1.7 “pancake” lens

I also ordered a 20MM 1.7 Lumix Prime lens – also a Leica design, and expect to use that lens as my “everyday” lens. It also was priced in the “no way” category (under $300).

I have a Sony A6000 – and still love it – and even an old Lumix LX-5 from way back in 2011 – and still love it. I carry the LX-5 in my bag wherever I go – its way more fun than the camera on my Moto Droid phone. While smart phones do have nice cameras – I still like the ergonomics and options of a regular hand held camera.

I only shoot for my blog – I don’t print anymore – so MP and even sensor size doesn’t matter much. I want to get back into street photography, and hope to share some photos in my blog soon with the GX85.

Its a good thing to have another hobby at the bottom of the sunspot cycle!

Autumn Comes to The SF Bay Area

WOW – what a GREAT weather weekend in the SF Bay Area . . .

I’m used to the Summers here where they linger on through at least half of October. We had our first 49 degree night last night, and during the day it only got up to 70 degrees or so. The Jet Stream has descended over the Bay Area – and its the same weather system that has snow up in Montana.

Leaves turning color in my neighborhood

This was a perfect cycling weekend in my area – warm (enough) sun, but cool air. “Crisp” is the word that best describes it.

Ilse Bing – Self Portrait – 1931

Lately I have been enjoying my photography hobby even more than Ham Radio – and that works just fine given that I’ve been away from the shack and Autumn Calls photographically. I do expect that the radio will call soon as well.

Some news on the photographic front very soon – stay tuned …

A September to Remember . . .

I can’t remember a better August – what a Harvest

The month started by delivering a product at work that will get LendUp to CCPA Complince and much, much more. Not only did we deliver this awesome app – but the company is still considering filing for a patent, which even though I doubt that will happen – its the best work related compliment I have ever had in my 38 year career. Yeah – the app is that good – and I have been blogging about it as it unfolded this summer. I was blessed to have a killer team. We three tore it up this summer.

The bold colors of Autumn are just about here!

I used the app to annotate ALL of the database tables at LendUp, and loved using the tool and am now about a month ahead of schedule. The job was much more fun – and not nearly as tedious as I had expected – so the app that we built is the real deal and passes muster. The greatest part about all of if this is that it then afforded Kat and I a great vacation that we even extended to 10 days.

Compared to a year ago where things at Credit Karma fell into a nightmarish hell, this year seems to be the validation and vindication that I never expected, but am so thankful for. The lesson here is that life is never predictable, and that your have to grit your teeth sometimes – but most importantly, you need to take some time to reap the harvest and never take anything for granted.

If you work hard (and smart), the road might not be as straight and devoid of hills, lumps and bumps, but eventually you will find your way and reap the rewards of your hard labor.

I’m basking in the glow of that now – and am gearing up for October. Bring on the Fall Colors I say!

Panasonic Lumix LX-5 vs. Sony A6000 (and SDR Technology)

Fall Color Near Granby, Colorado – Lumix LX-5

I brought two cameras with me on our Western States adventure and vacation. This first photo was taken with an old Lumix LX-5, which came out in 2010. It is a 10 mp camera, with a fixed Leica 24 – 90 mm lens and a Micro 4/3rds sensor. It was taken with ISO 80 and 1/1000 sec. f/5.6 12.8mm

Fall Color Near Granby, Colorado – Sony A6000

The A6000 came out in 2014, an it is an 24 mp camera with removable lenses and a APS-C sensor. This photo was taken with 1/400 sec. f/9 55mm and ISO 100. I have two Sony lenses – they were not expensive and just OK. I have had better lenses, but the A6000 kit that I purchased was a good deal when I bought it years ago. I did purchase a nicer 35mm fixed “prime” lens – but that is best for close up shots and not landscapes – its better for wider angle city shots.

One thing that is obvious is that for blogging, both cameras work just fine. For that matter, a smart phone camera works well. Some people like to use a camera for “Vlogging” or Video Blogging. I don’t and could care a less about video. I guess its like FT8 – its cool, but not my thing.

One thing that I find interesting is that when you read about the latest cameras in these classes (inexpensive but good bang for the buck) point and shoot cameras for the “enthusiast” – is that not a whole heck of a lot has changed since either of these came out.

It could be like SDR radios – once we get to a certain point – the specs just don’t matter much any more. What you would pay extra for is no longer worth the higher “latest and greatest” prices. Here is an equivalent Ham Radio gear compare – an older Flex radio – like the 6000 would be a step up from my Elecraft KX-3, and you can almost get one for the same price as a new KX-3. Part of this is that I am now enjoying controlling my radio using Win4K3Suite and no longer a slave to knobs on a radio – although for going portable, the KX-3 wins hands down – the Flex does not offer that unless you purchase outboard gear – so I’ll stick with the KX-3.

When you think of it – a lot of the features that they add to electronic toys is nonsense – and “non-features”. Its like software that becomes “bloatware” – more is definitely not better. Less really is more at some point.

If I had my way – I’d go for a digital camera that concentrates on still photography only and shift any savings towards a new lens. With radios – money spent on an antenna trumps buying a radio with features you will never use.