April 17, 2014
DX-ing can become an all consuming hobby. It is highly addictive – and if you are working on DXCC Honor Roll, 9BDXCC, Challenge, and the “countless” other awards out there – you might get stuck in your operating chair.
I gained 50 pounds while working toward DXCC Honor Roll, and that was only between 2005 (when I was still cycling and weighed 185 pounds), and 2013 – when I had ballooned to 235 pounds!
As soon as I made Honor Roll, I decided to do something about this – and got back into exercise and started doing the Weight Watchers Point System. I am now down to 208, and I have doubled my cycling while cutting my portion sizes food wise in half.
My new goal is NOT Honor Roll #1 as much as it is to get to 185 pounds by the end of summer. I will be under 200 pounds sometime in May – because after being on a bad “plateau” – I just started losing 2 pounds a week as soon as I increased my cycling mileage from 40 miles a week to 85 miles a week.
I still might end up going to Heard Island – in 2016, and my goal is to be in GREAT shape. I’m sorry to say – I cringe when I look at some photo’s of Ham Radio Operators at conventions – and especially cringe at pictures of myself.
The good news? I already feel more energy, my appetite is in check, my knees don’t hurt as much, I sleep better and my clothes are getting so lose, I will soon go from XL down to L.
Hey – I need to live long enough to make Honor Roll #1, right?
April 14, 2014
I asked this question a while back, and have had some time to think about this quite a bit more. The answer is “probably yes”, but that there will be several entities that may or may not be activated again – more due to cost than even access. Of course, there are people who will take bigger safety risks – and maybe there will be some surprises (i.e. scientists visiting an entity that you have both access as well as cost issues).
What I need to make HR #1 . .
Because entities like Kingman Reef will no doubt stay on the list with the US F&W claiming that it is “awash at high tide” and not issuing SUP’s (Supplemental Use Permits), its hard to say if it will ever be activated – or deleted. To keep from becoming frustrated – as I have in the past, the smarter approach is to change my expectations – to just keep on the HR list – and to add as many ATNO’s as possible.
HR #1 may or may not be possible, but I know Honor Roll – and staying on that list IS very much possible – so that is what I will do.
If I do ever end up on the HR #1 list – it will be a nice surprise – not something I will kill myself trying to do. I busted my butt getting on regular HR – and that allowed me to prove to myself that I could “make the grade”. This new approach is a heck of a lot more realistic, and probably healthier!
April 10, 2014
Since putting up the 20M 3 element yagi, I have been able to work anything and everything in Africa and the Middle East that used to be a big deal. It has been very consistent – no big solar flares knocking out radio, and the signals are S9 +. It also is substantially better than the wire Moxon, and my new AB-577 offers a sturdier platform to handle the yagi and rotator. So – big progress is being made.
We are in the second peak of Cycle 24, and its better than the first peak – which was superb, and lasted about 6 weeks or so – where every morning I could work lots of band fills on any of the high bands.
I’m not interested in band fills any more – but have been having a blast just having nice QSO’s with an antenna that lets me have Q5 copy with distant stations.
I’ve also upgraded my low band antennas and now have something really decent (gain and directivity) on 40, 30 and 20M. My 160/80M setup is also good.
It looks like we could even have another peak after this second peak – and that would extend the top of this cycle to 5 years – meaning we could have decent propagation through 2016.
This means VK0EK might have better propagation than I had been expecting, which would be just super. Time will tell.
April 8, 2014
Here is a status update from the Visalia DXCC Forum. This is my interpretation of what I heard – not an official line from the ARRL or the DXAC.
The panel basically said that Kosovo calls into question what defines an “entity”. They admitted that this is an imperfect situation, and that if we just reverted back to using real “countries”, somewhere around 50 entities would have to be completely removed from the list. The audience did not like that. But they also mentioned that adding Kosovo opens up a real can of worms – so IMHO – don’t expect it to be added any time soon. Changing the definition of what an entity is to add in one entity like Kosovo would really cause a ripple effect.
I agree with their assessment.
DXCC Rules Changes
The DXAC praised the previous DXAC members for drafting the 1999 Rules Update. They said it had two typos – but that the team that produced that set of rules designed something that seems to have stood the test of time. And I agree – it has – amazingly so I might add.
Its clear that no matter what is considered, Remote operations rules (like running legal power) simply cannot be enforced, and it is really a matter of whether or not a person has the conscience to follow the rules or not. However, a few rules will most likely be changed – for example – the use of remote where say – you are on business in Beijing, and you remote into your US station to work a DX-pedition. Under a rules change – it would be allowed – currently it is not.
I also agree with this – if we cheat – we only cheat ourselves, and since this is a personal achievement award – we are only competing with ourselves.
Don’t expect it to be Deleted – at least for several years. When I asked about its status, the DXAC said:
- There are no rules that cover what happens when an entity disappears because it is under water, and what “under water” means. They said nothing could happen until and unless they added in a rule to cover this.
- They also said “What if it comes back?” (My response was “What if Maria Teresa Reef comes back?”)
- Finally, they said that they wished that they could convince me to try to activate it. My answer was that it had been rumored that it would be deleted since 2000, and that even though a couple of teams have looked into activating it – one team that estimates it would cost $180K to activate it said it wasn’t worth bothering with – and instead would most likely activate another rare KH based entity.
I agree with everything the DXAC said – and understand and respect their position. But it still is very frustrating nonetheless.
I feel strongly that Kingman Reef will stay on the list but not be Deleted for many years. I also expect this to start becoming an issue that will be paid more attention to when Kingman Reef enters the Top 10 – which will happen maybe in 5 years or so.
Personally, this is fine – it will take me 10 more years to get to HR #1 – and so – I would bet something will happen in 5 – 10 years.
Who knows – maybe someone will convince the US F&W to issue a permit and then have it activated? Or maybe it will eventually be Deleted?
For now, in my mind, its called “Conundrum Reef” . . . .
April 8, 2014
The N6RK Loops are up, and I am very pleased. First of all – while the loops are 40′ around, they don’t seem that big because they are painted black, and the kite and fishing poles that I used are much more “streamlined” than white PVC.
On both 160 and 80M, the loops provide (aurally) the same signal as the TX vertical, but with -30 dBm less noise. This has the same effect as phasing the K9AY with the home made N6RK Loop that I had – and where I phased them through the MFJ-1025.
So – this means I am essentially getting performance that rivals the K9AY Loops – but since they were swamped with noise, these loops are a better option. The loop does seem to have a sharper pattern than the K9AY – meaning its more narrow.
Reclaiming the K9AY Area (they do take up a lot more space than this new loop) is something that lets me put that 30M phased array – so with my small lot – I now have as many antennas as possible where they aren’t too close to each other.
Before – when I phased both RX antennas, I think I lost a lot more signal as I phased out the noise. In the case with this large N6RK Loop – I preserve more of the signal when the noise is knocked down.
So – I think this system is exceeding my expectations.
April 7, 2014
I had to take down my K9AY Loops to make room for this “hidden” 30M Phased Vertical Array:
It is a lot of fun having mono band antennas on 40, 30 and 20M. This will prove to be a great strategy when we start sliding down this cycle – and also – for night time and winter DX-ing – which it seems to be when the ATNO’s that I need will be activated. But it knocked out one 160M RX antenna! Choices, choices . . . .
I did have a home brewed version of the N6RK Improved Feed Loops – the 20′ loop version:
Here is a link to Rick’s web site:
It was good as a second 160M RX antenna – and phased through the MFJ-1025 and used as a directional “noise antenna”. But Now I have to pull back on the 160M RX antennas, and so I am trying a 40′ loop, and with Rick’s remote tuned loop system. Here is the 40′ loop frame:
The frame is made of a fiberglass “kite pole” on the bottom, and I re-cycled the fishing poles from my old 20 – 15M Moxon for the side and top pieces of the frame. It is lightweight, strong, and very sturdy – it will hold the loops shape easily. I can still also use the inexpensive rotator.
I used a PVC fitting – with aluminum sleeves for reinforcing the “hub”:
Then I painted the hub using “Plasti-dip” and so it will be as unobtrusive as a frame this size can be:
I purchased the N6RK boxes from Rick at Visalia. Here is the control box:
(photo courtesy of Rick, N6RK)
And here is the mast mounted remote tuning box:
(photo courtesy of Rick, N6RK)
Inside the control box:
(photo courtesy of Rick, N6RK)
Inside the remote tuning box:
(photo courtesy of Rick, N6RK)
I will be putting this new system up today, and will take a picture of the completed antenna up – and write about its performance. I don’t expect K9AY performance, but I do expect it will be useful and fun to play with.
March 27, 2014
He used an SSN of 85, although the prediction is for an SSN of 65. Lets look at what VOACAP suggests – first SSN = 85:
So – they are “close enough”, but Stu’s takes in account the actual antennas that FT4TA will have – so my prediction might be a little stronger than his – since I used 3 element triband yagi at 33′ – and FT4TA will have something more equivalent to 2 element yagi’s (phased vertical arrays). Curiously – VOACAP online completely misses the low bands, and I know for a fact that they will actually be the most important. I’ve noticed that VOACAP Online is not all that accurate.
Here is the SSN=65 prediction:
Not much different. Stu’s prediction seems more in line – since I am sure 80 – 30M will be hot – and my prediction seems to only show that the higher bands will be open. In any case, I think as long as they look for us in the morning grey line, the West Coast will be good for FT4TA.
VOACAP online had ZL9HR predicted as a virtual cakewalk for the West Coast – and it was not – at least the first 3 days. In fact, I remember it took me until almost when they shut down to work them on 30M – which should have been childs play – at least as predicted by VOACAP Online.
VOACAP Online also had FT5ZM predicted as very difficult from the West Coast – and it turned out to be a cake walk.
So much for predictions!
March 25, 2014
Its amazing how much I love the low bands as opposed to the higher bands. Of course, for an ATNO, any band is “my favorite band”!
But having coffee and listening to the radio in the morning is my favorite – a really nice way to wake up, and if there is something on – I just love the morning grey line. We also have less competition on the West Coast, so a lot of great memories come back when I think of this time of DX-ing.
I also have loved how the low bands saved DX-ing for me during the bottom of the sunspot cycle.
I define the low bands as 160 – 20M. It seems 20M does not belong, but I think it does, sort of. I think 30M is much more like 40M than 20M, but it all depends on the time of year and where we are in the cycle. This makes for variety and excitement. Anything can happen at any time it seems.
I love my 40M phased array so much that I will build another where the K9AY loops are – and will move the K9AY loops to the front yard that has nothing but bark chips there now.
I have ordered another Array Solutions Stackmatch II switch – which will get here Thursday.
These boxes work very well with phased arrays when you use the Christman Method. The verticals will fit in amongst the trees and I already have the control and coax going out there – buried, and already have one support for one of the two verticals – so only have to get one bag of cement. I will set up the radials in a similar fashion as the 40M array – probably also about 44 radials.
It will be nice to have really good antennas between 160 – 20M. This sunspot cycle still has a couple good years left – but its great to now move to something I like best – now that I have broken the chains of chasing awards off my back.
March 24, 2014
The middle east has been booming in here lately on several bands, as have the South Africans. The Autumnal equinox looks exactly the same, so, lets compare this with when FT4TA will be on Tromelin:
Well, it seems like the FT4TA team is going at a perfect time for the West Coast. What other DX-peditions have gone during that time of year – where it resulted in good West Coast propagation:
Mayotte, Yemen, South Sudan, Iran, and many more. As long as the guys have their stuff all set up right, there should be no problem working them. They will have to pay special attention to the West Coast though . . .