New Key

•April 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Where No Men Go . . .

•April 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment


The DX Elmer

•April 23, 2017 • 2 Comments

When my oldest boy was 10 years old, I taught a ham radio class for kids through the Lafayette Community Center. All three kids who signed up passed their Tech test, but none went much further. I guess I kind of thought – oh, well, I tried.

A few years back, someone mentioned that DX-ing is a hobby for older people – who have already hit their stride career wise, and maybe even have had kids already. VOILA! That was me – I was mostly off the air from when I started college until my oldest son was 10 years old. I started DX-ing when I was 42, and now I’m 58. Yeah – that’s right – DX-ing is really great for those who have the time and money to partake in the silly DX Rituals that we all have imbibed in.

Some may disagree – and for me – its a mystery how to get young people to be interested in DX-ing. I tried – but there were way too many other things that kids seem interested in that compete with ham radio. When I was a teen, ham radio was it – front and center. It was my internet. Heck – there weren’t even home computers quite yet (a few years later and the MITS Altair arrived on the scene.

I am now a mentor to TWO hams who just passed their test and they want to become DX-ers.

Holy Shit Batman – its time for me to step up and get these guys into their (XYL Hating) Addictions and Stat!

Just kidding! I’m very, very happy that there are still a few wayward souls looking for redemption at the doorsteps of the Church of DX.

Wellbrook ALA1530LNP, Palstar R30A and Becoming an Elmer

•April 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The Wellbrook ALA1530LNP will be here this week and I will get it hooked up very soon. Today I prepped the site, which used to have a home brewed loop. This site is literally over the water table of the creek that is next to my house. I had to weed whack there today – because the tall grass at this time of the year is full of deer ticks. Having grown up not too far from Lyme Connecticut – I take “tick control” very seriously. BTW – the creek is still flowing very nicely – and just sounds wonderful.

In about 1 month or maybe 6 weeks, all of the green grass will turn “golden” (my wife told me only people who didn’t grow up in California call it “brown” – guilty as charged!). Yesterday I took down the KY6R EWE and the parts are going to be given to a new friend who just got his license this past year and who has a KX3 an wants to do some SOTA activations. I’m giving him a 2016 ARRL Handbook, Antenna Book and a big tub of wire, rope, insulators, a 4:1 balun and a couple Jackite poles.

Next weekend I will teach him how to put crimp on connectors and make a ladder line fed doublet for his SOTA work.

I also received an email this week from a fellow I knew in High School who said when he went to a club in his new home state of Tennessee, no one seemed to be interested in being his elmer. So – I am via email and Skype.

I like this elmer business, especially when almost all of the talk is about antennas and ways to operate given whatever your restrictions or challenges are.

This week the Wellbrook and the R30A will be in line and I’ll see what I can hear on the new lower ham band that we just received. That will be a blast.

Felt eCargo Bikes

•April 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I ride my bike to BART every work day and have been doing this for more than 2 years now. In just this past year I have seen more and more people zoom past me on “eBikes”. An eBike is the battery powered equivalent of the goofy “Mopeds” that were popular in the 1970’s – but those were gas powered. Back then I’d rather have a Vespa if it were gas powered – but I never could bring myself to actually buying a Vespa.

Ham Radio Operators have been using solar trickle charged batteries for many years. In fact, when I used to go back packing in the Sierras, I’d bring a K1 or SST and a key and a solar panel that I bought from a Marine store – a canvas one used on sailboats – where they were waterproof and flexible. I’d bring a small motocycle battery and it was fun (but added to my pack).

I looked up Felt bicycles and its an American company that reminds me of Cannondale – which is the bike I have. Its another example of where I did “Buy American” not because it was American so much as it was the best quality at the best price point. I’m interweaving several themes here:

  1. Do what’s good for the environment (Earth Day)
  2. Do what’s best given my political “bent” – have no part in things I don’t believe in – use my wallet as my vote
  3. Treat everyone with the golden rule – as a way to fight the mean spirited nature of how some pockets of this world have become. Double down on the old “Kill Them WIth Kindness” approach – which always was the right way to go. Channel any angst I have toward good – and not contribute to the “woe”

Anyway – I’m starting to really think about what can I do positively from now on in this uncertain world – and it sure is a better approach than what I had been doing since November. There is a lot of good out there – and that’s where I am headed now.

Kill Them With Kindness. And Bees. Also Kill Them With Bees . . .

•April 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The slogan in this posts title comes from a funny Tee Shirt sold on Etsy – I love it. Its very much like one of a couple Monty Python skits.

I’ve had to work really hard since November to contain my anger about a long list of crap that is going on in the US. I don’t like being political, and maybe I’m getting past one of the first stages of grief? I’ve decided that bitching on social media just won’t help anything. Other countries are experiencing the same BS that we are in the US – it seems like a weird disease.

Besides “Voting with my wallet” as I described in my last post – I have been very much heartened by the marches that we have seen. And you know what – maybe this is a real “unintended consequence” – that we are connected globally as humans – and damn the politicians. When I saw this picture of the German Science Team at the Neumayer Station in Antarctica – who are standing up for science – it reminded me that we humans that are conscientious and well meaning – seek to work together – sometimes in spite of our governments. We the people of all lands are WAY more powerful than any whacko government, and we will prevail.

It also reminded me of the wall coming down in 1987 – walls do not last . . . .

I grew up listening to short wave radio and listened to Radio Tirana, Radio Moscow and other stations that were part of the “Cold War”. But even then – I was always curious about the People in each country. I felt that the People in each country were just like me. In fact, because I work in IT – I have worked with the best and brightest from every country. And when I have had to solve tough problems together with these varied group of people – the fact that they come from a very different background – is amazing – IF you are smart enough to try to understand where they are coming from. Isn’t this interesting – being a SWL and Ham Radio operator gave me a leg up on many other kids – at an early age. Since the US workplace has become so “international”, I have always excelled because of my radio background. Very cool.

Right now I am on a project working with people from different parts of the US, Russia, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Canada and India. Because I am a ham and DXer, I have a lot of patience – well its more than that – its a “curiosity” of how others solve problems when they come from very different cultures. I have learned to really listen to people and not jump to conclusions quickly. I’ve found on several occasions that if you keep your emotions in check – and really listen to others – you might find that they are in concert with you – but have a very different way of expressing this. I’ve even found that someone who seemed very “stern” and almost argumentative ended up being right with me – and that it only was able to show because I have more patience than I used to when I was younger.

Anyway – I will come back and look at this picture because it reminds me that the good in man will always beat the bad. Always. We really all are connected on this planet – one way or another.





Conditions on 20M Sure Remind Me of The Bottom of the Last Cycle

•April 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

During the bottom of Cycle 23, I was still far enough away from DXCC Honor Roll that I needed high band DX since most of the DXpeditions visiting the places I need were mostly on the higher bands.

VU7RG on 40M was the sign of the times – 20M seemed like it was all but closed for almost 3 years, and if you were really serious, you would have worked on a serious 40 and 30M antenna. Even 30M seemed to be closed a lot.

We aren’t quite there yet – a few nights ago I heard quite a few VK/ZL stations booming in off the side of my yagi after sundown and on 20M. But for the most part – even South America and even the Southeast US has been weak here – even in the afternoons, when that path should be very strong.

I think in the last month that path was open one day quite well – but we are now having weeks upon weeks of conditions that really do remind me of the years in around 2008.

As long as we have this – we are actually still on the way down on Cycle 24 – where these disturbances happen like this. I’m seeing 40M getting completely trashed right now – so the high and low bands don’t do well with these conditions.

The good news – 40M has been quite good every morning and evening for long haul – half way around the world DX – like ZS. EU at night has been quite good too – which is a polar path. The other day I heard a T88 on 160M very well – but he did not hear any West Coast that were calling him, so we are most definitely switching gears from high band DX to low band DX. If it weren’t for 40M and 160M I’d be off the air for a while – or switching over completely to AM BCB with my new Palstar R30A and the Wellbrook ALA1530LNP – that I expect will be in line by next weekend.

And I’m more than fine with that.