Posted on November 29, 2017
I was going to wait until the end of December to write this, but know enough about how this year is likely to end to write this now.
The year started out with the cloud of the election hanging over me. I grew up in the New York / New Jersey / Connecticut tri-state area, and knew all about Donald Trump when I was growing up in New Jersey. All of my friends – Democrat and Republican – always thought he was a shyster, a joke and a schmuck. We had a name for such a person – “Showboat” or “Blabbermouth”:
Even my Republican New Yorker friends jokingly said “We warned you!”. Politically, the year seemed very, very grim, but I took big solace in Stephen Colbert’s Late Show but this one segment by Bill Maher (fellow New Jersyian) is and will always be a (telling) masterpiece:
Trump has made comedy great again, and there are two things that strike me as critical in the US:
- Screw the allegiance to either political party – remember how both parties have their Billionaire Donors and how our government is truly a Plutocracy or an Oligarchy. Our government is more “bought” than ever. Pick your billionaire – that’s who you are really voting for
- There are the 99% and the 1% with a dwindling Middle Class. The Middle Class has always been the back bone of this country, and I fear as we continue to marginalize the Middle Class that something has to give. I do fear where this is headed
Forget about politics – Trump is exactly the person I taught my children not to be. I was taught The Golden Rule above all else – both in Church and at school. My rant is much more about Civility rather than Politics. This is because I’ve lived long enough to have been under both parties almost equally, and I’m still alive to talk about it. We will always switch back and forth – but we at least always had a modicum of civility – and that has gone AWOL the last several years. Its a really bad omen. I feel like we have hit full on “Idiocracy” in the USA.
In time – Trump will only be a historical bookmark, and he and his family will be viewed as the political bottom feeders and history will be terribly unkind to them and their “brand”. But even when we are finally flushed of the nasty “Twitler” and his bullying (and way too much daily news about this epic Pathological Narcissist) – we will still have the problems we have today.
As a result of the nastiness, I gave Facebook and Twitter the big boot, and not only do I not miss them, it has given me great relief. At some point I got overloaded by commiserating with friends about the current administration. I also realized that we get the administration we deserve and that if people want change – we the people will have to make it so. Trump’s core is aging and will become a minority both as they rapidly start going SK, and as younger generations pick up the mantle. Demographics will create a new world – but I don’t know exactly what that will be – but I expect there will be a yuge bigly shift to a very progressive society. Its not going to be nirvana though – the problems will just be a different shade of grey. I will be retired by then, so my station in life will be quite different. I will be far away from a major metropolitan area.
As always, a very bright side of life is Ham Radio and getting into the 90’s toward 160M DXCC and 9BDXCC. At this writing I’m at 91, and after hoping for a boost from the CQ WW CW contest and it being a total bust, I realize that my new goal is to make 100 by the end of next year. A miracle could happen, but the “cadence” suggests otherwise.
In the spring I re-landscaped a chunk of our front yard, and the last plantings were in the fall, and were two trees that will replace two that are about to fade and die.
Shortly after the March re-landcaping, I started work at Credit Karma in San Francisco. It has hands down been the best company I have ever worked for since I graduated college with a comp sci degree in 1981.
Antennas are a big part of my life, and there were three I worked on. This one is the “Mod Bob” or Modified Bobtail. It is a great lowband antenna, that when coupled with a Palstar BT1500A at the base / feedpoint, is something to consider. That antenna led me to my first big “Ham Maker” project, the URAT (Universal Remote Antenna Tuner):
I have never learned more than what I did from the Mod Bob plus URAT – at least not in Ham Radio Landia.
In a surprise move, with only 3 weeks before Dayton Hamvention, I booked a trip at Bob, KK6EK’s urging, and was very proud to be on hand to receive the DXpedition of the Year award sponsored by SWODXA. That seemed like the icing on the cake – but we then won DX Coffees “Best Communication Award”. I was honored for my behind the scenes work, and it was really nice to have been recognized as the DXpeditions “5th Beatle” so to speak.
During the summer, I built a small “maker space” to the right of my ham shack radio operating desk, and I have built a couple of small projects just for fun – like this Field Strength Meter:
We went to Montana for a very nice late summer / early fall trip:
I also tried FT8 – which is the only digital mode I like:
I did later realize just how much more I like CW than any other mode . .
After a fall firestorm scare that took place up in Napa and Sonoma counties – and where we had some of their same weird weather for those 2 weeks or so, things calmed down and we had our super display of autumn leaves, and we even started to get rain
I had a couple of late year antenna projects – replacing the Mod Bob with an Inverted L:
and moving my home brewed 20M yagi:
But more than anything that has happened this year, we had just the best Thanksgiving, and more than anything else in my life, my family is and always will be the most important thing in my life:
So, what’s up for 2018:
3Y0Z is the only thing on the Ham Radio calendar. I do expect to work them and then being only 1 away from Top of the Honor Roll. I plan on “puttering” more in the ham maker space and learning how to use my Oscilloscope and Signal generator. I’ll continue my “living history” pursuit in my reading and visiting museums, and I have some really great projects lining up at work. My Data Dictionary project is really taking off.
We will visit Bend, Oregon, but besides these things, I do expect to make 9BDXCC and DXCC on 160M – but at this point it could be the end of 2018.
I used to like to try to guess what might happen – but – besides the DXCC and work stuff – I have no big prognostications – although there will be high drama politically – but even that has “ho hum” in a way since all of the “sensationalization” of the last couple of years has left me numb. And in 3 years it won’t matter much anyway. It will be interesting what happens in the 2018 elections – will there be a “Blue Wave?” I say yes – but the Democrats better put up a 2020 candidate who is the counter to the mess in office we have now.
Family health, happiness and well being is really the only thing that matters, and I always pray we continue to do well in this regard.
Cheers to you and yours – I wish you all the best in 2018!
Posted on November 28, 2017
Posted on November 27, 2017
I’m going to wax philosophical today, hopefully in a practical and pragmatic way.
Yesterday I watched the wind blow many of the last colored leaves off the trees. I’ve always been a little sad to see the beautiful leaves go, but they turn into mulch for the garden. The circle of life.
Since I just planted quite a few new plants and three new trees, and since two old trees in my garden suffered from the drought and won’t last much longer, I realized that in a way, it’s never the end as much as a beginning. The new (young) replaces the old.
I think it has to do with man being a wanting animal, we seem to be more inclined to wonder what’s next and only lament about the past for a relatively short time.
I feel sorry for anyone who dwells on one snapshot moment in time – the “Make America Great” idea that is absurd since as long as America continues to be the “An experiment in democracy” we will be as great as we always have been. There was NEVER any one point in time where we were great(est), in fact, we have always been striving to be great – try to define when we were great to the extent its a time period where you’d want it to be just like that now. See – its really a silly notion – great marketing slogan – Nixon used it. It’s always been a work in progress, and I hope this continues.
The key to advancement is our ability to ask “What’s next?”.
In my own little life, since VK0EK, I’ve been wondering “What’s Next?”. I’m pretty sure the answer is “experimentation and education”. I say this because I realize that there is so much I don’t know, in fact there are more world’s in the remainder of my life that I will not even scratch the surface.
Ham Radio is a great part of “living history”. This was my great summer read.
The main reason I got back into Ham Radio is because I was “sequestered” at home in 2001 with kids that were old enough to keep themselves happily busy, but young enough where I had to be home a lot. My ex wife travelled, so Ham Radio just fit like a glove.
In the 90’s I built QRP rigs and tried to get back into the hobby, but I was much too into cycling and QRP CW rag chews did not pique my interest.
When my kids were young, I took them to the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco. It’s an amazing gem of one of the best living history museums I have ever been to. The other is the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
In the 80’s and 90’s I travelled and visited art museums and Beat Generation hang outs. I was into photography and even had a Graphic View, Hasselblad and Leica camera. I had my own darkroom. I fashioned my work after Man Ray, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier Bresson and Atget. It was living history.
I also was in a folk rock band and played all of the dives in San Francisco. By far, my favorite place was the Hotel Utah, which is still there. It was a turn off the century one act playhouse and bar. Rumors have it that it was also a brothel.
A few years ago I got into Assemblage art, stoked by Aria in Grant Street and by Jack Howe, Man Ray and Ed Kienholz.
This is all making sense now. When I was in 4th Grade, Ms. Gooden spent pretty much most of the year on physical science and we went on field trips to the Franklin Mineral Dump in Sussex County, NJ. We then had a series on inventors and visited Thomas Edison’s lab in Menlo Park, NJ
My friend (and now Bay Area Artist Mark Grey) and I started The Monster Club and Drew pictures of Monsters.
That was the beginning of my life long interest in inventions, discovery, art and science. I was hooked.
As an adult, I have a chance to really dig deeper and learn ” the rest of the story” – and I have recently read a living history book about solar research and discovery, and have just ordered a book on Samuel FB Morse.
These books read more like dramatic novels because they go into the details of the subjects life that fills in so many details that would never be presented to a grade school kid.
The thread that ties all of this is that I have been amazed at how the human mind can conceive of a photo, painting, poem, book, telegraph, radio or theory of sunspots and magnetism. How man invented so many things. It’s a world of wonder that has never stopped still, there was and never will be a MAGA. It’s more like:
“Keep America in Flux as Always”
Posted on November 26, 2017
I don’t know if there are more than one French team that could possibly activate Glorioso, but if the team that is activating St. Brandon – 3B7 – does try to activate Glorioso (right now its #12 on the list), then it would be activated at the earliest in 2020. I say this because its nearly impossible to activate an expensive place in any less time than 2 years in between. The other big issue is that Crozet will be #2 on the list after 3Y0Z, so you better believe that there will be interest in activating that. I am sure P5 will have no big activation in the near or even medium future – that will stay #1 for a long time – sure glad I have that one.
If all goes well after 3Y0Z I will only need Glorioso. My predicament is that if it is activated during the bottom of the cycle – or later, I will have two problems. The first is that the reason I missed it last time is at the bottom of the cycle its nearly impossible to work that part of the world – unless they do a bang up job on the Long Path. The French team going to St. Brandon would be the right team with the right know how, but I’ll bet they are more interested in Crozet.
The second issue would be my retirement and move to a place where I won’t have the antennas I do now. Because of this – it makes no sense for me to hold on to my back up station – and after I make 9BDXCC and DXCC on Top Band – there is no reason to keep the SPE 1.3K amplifier. In fact, after 3Y0Z, I doubt I will need the 20M yagi. So, the things I will probably sell by next March are:
- SPE 1.3K FA
- 20M yagi plus a couple Spiderbeam aluminum push up masts
- Palstar AT2K – since I have a KPA500 and KAT500 in the closet ready to resume their “K Line” position on the bench
With 9 more to go on Top Band, the big decision will be how long to hold the SPE amp. Since I only need 9 more, I probably could just use 500 watts to get there, but it would be silly to rush it.
Part of what I have to decide is what will keep my interest in ham radio, and DX-ing in particular. I will need a new challenge, but I also still love just listening as an SWL, so maybe my goal will be just to have fun and do whatever moves me with out chasing after wall paper of DXCC. Some things I know I won’t be interested in:
- Awards chasing
One thing that makes this hobby so unique is CW. I also still have an interest in home brewing. There is a combo that could be fun – maybe building a cool 40M QRP rig and just seeing how low I can go. I also would love to get my CW skills back up to the speed I could send and copy as a teen – which was something like 35 WPM. Of course, I can turn down the power on the K3(+) and just use my favorite key to improve my skill.”
I’m sure 3Y0Z will crystallize my thoughts – I’ve been wondering “what’s next?” ever since VK0EK was over with.
Posted on November 26, 2017
The CQ WW CW Contest has had about the worst conditions that I have seen in years. One thing I have done now for many months is call ZS6CCY who has been on my night time short path – as the best propagation predictor.
Last night was the worst 40M conditions I have seen – but Bill was 59 and I was 55 and had no problem calling him with just one call. This was actually very good news – because if this is the worst it will be, I will have a good chance of getting one Q. The team will have to ask specifically for West Coast, and I probably won’t work them the first day, but I am quite confident.
We are just over two solar rotations away from 3Y0Z. In 54 days it will be January 19, and 3Y0Z will be on the air just after that – so its probably a good idea to monitor solar conditions starting about now and going for the next month or so. The team recently reports that their propagation predictions are still good, which is good news.
The most interesting thing is that 3Y0Z will get the absolute last “gasp” of reasonably good solar conditions – at least as far as sunspots are concerned, but we have to keep our fingers crossed that the solar disturbances don’t hamper things.
This is the team that had the best conditions of this cycle during FT5ZM, and they must have some magic to snag the last of workable world wide conditions – that will be just before we again slide rapidly down to the bottom of the cycle.
My biggest optimism comes from my almost daily “check in” with Bill, ZS6CCY. If I can work him daily – even with the worst of recent conditions on 40M nightly on the SP, then I do hold out hope for working 3Y0Z. I have phased verticals on 40M, so I expect to work 3Y0Z after the 40M yagi guys do.
I’m especially interested in testing my 20M yagi. I’m not hearing V51 right now at 1745z, so the best time to test this path will be late afternoon. In fact, I’ll start monitoring this path most days when I get home from work, since the path will mimic what it will be like when 3Y0Z is on that air:
The 3Y0Z web site propagation predictions confirm that both 40 and 20M won’t be a good path for the West Coast during our mornings. This is most definitely going to be a late afternoon / early evening affair. Same goes for 30M.
The “sleepers” could be 17 and 15 – they seem to offer daytime conditions – so that will be interesting.
Posted on November 26, 2017
Posted on November 25, 2017
On Grant Street, San Francisco, there was one last outpost that had local artists in residence, and my good friend, Jack Howe, had his art there. Aria closed its doors in September. I have to gulp on that – its a sad day for me.
One big patron of Jacks is Tom Waits. You can totally see why Tom Waits would like this eclectic Assemblage art:
Now – tell me this could be a song about a ham radio operator – or an Assemblage artist!
This was my portrait of the store front – with Bills great items, plus Jacks influence. I have been Jacks unofficial under study and friend.
My son, Trevor, is going to UC Santa Cruz, and I fully intend on visiting Trevor and Jack in the next month or so.
Jack inspired me to make this . . .
Art is Life, and Life is Art . . .