I purchased polo shirts for the VK0EK “back office” support team from Astrid’s, one of our sponsors.


We have a team of 10 hard working “staffers” whom I have become good friends with, and whom the DX-pedition will rely on to test all gear and then pack and ship in the next months.

If others really like this shirt – I can have more made, but since I have paid for these, I had to keep the first batch for just the back office team members.  But they are really cool shirts!


I used to have this configuration with the center hanging from my tower, and the two ends on ropes in trees. We have had a pretty windy summer – windier than usual, and I do expect that we will finally get an El Nino rainy season this winter. Both of the trees sway quite a bit – and one is dying – its my neighbors Monterrey Pine. He doesn’t cut anything down – he just lets them fall over (no kidding!). Anyway – the last thing I want is to have a tree pull on the tower via the rope that is attached to this antenna – which is an Extended Double Zepp on 30M, but where I can switch it to be a 30M Bobtail Curtain. My AB-577 Tower handles the N6BT DXU-32 very nicely – but I am sure if it were pulled back and forth in a wind storm up at the top – it would cause a bad situation over time. The added benefit of a coil loaded 160 / 30M antenna means I will have what amounts to 5 guy ropes at the top of the tower instead of 3 – so yet another “incentive” to use the “lowly” inverted vee.

The EDZ (horizontal) config ALWAYS beat the Bobtail config, and there is about 3 dB gain as an EDZ with this 4 leaf clover pattern:


And a really nice take off angle:


Now I have a coil loaded inverted vee – up 45′ fed with ladder line and where I can switch from hatted vertical to inverted vee – the ends are up pretty high – at about 27′, the coils are out at the 30M dipole area – roughly 23′ on each side – and then a piece of wire extends down from the coil to make it resonant on 160M. This means my antenna is a 30M inverted vee – and a hatted and loaded 160M vertical fed against 140 buried radials. Here is the 30M Inverted Vee elevation plot:


The takeoff angle is not nearly as good as the EDZ, and the gain is less than a flat topped dipole. the pattern is like an abbreviated dipole:


Now lets look at how a flat topped dipole would be:


I’m a little surprised that the Inverted Vee doesn’t look much worse than the flat topped dipole. Here is the AZ pattern:


Again – not much different than the dipole. I think its because its up 45′ and that the ends are pretty high off the ground. Since I can also use it as a vertical against 140 buried radials, here is what that would look like:


The take off angle is quite nice – mainly because the ladder line – when switched to make this a vertical acts as a hatted 1/2 wavelength vertical, and there is pretty low loss. But this vertical configuration (so far) never seems to beat the inverted vee – when I switch to that. However – on 160M, the vertical config easily beats the inverted vee.

On 30M, the inverted vee pattern is now East and West instead of the 4 leaf clover. I actually seem to pick up 2 dBi with this configuration – maybe because the pattern is dominant in two directions – not split into 4 azimuthal lobes (??)

Because the antenna is resonant on 30M and 160M and because it doesn’t seem to be nearly as bad as I expected when compared to the EDZ, I think I will be able to work VK0EK and VP8SSI on 30M just fine with this antenna. I seriously doubt I will work either on 160M.

Dry Creek Bridges

July 24, 2015


This mornings album on the ride in. Perfect for the daily bucolic beauty that I find along the trail – and rust! It may be hard to understand for some – but I have an entire universe that is my bike ride to and from work. Some feel the need to travel far from home, and I applaud those who do. I like some travel, but find that I can get plenty of kicks just opening my eyes wider and challenging myself to find something new and interesting right in my own backyard. This takes what I used to think as “mundane” and makes it quite exciting.


Good old “Mr. Thistle”. I guess if there is one “theme” this summer, its how every single day to and from work I check in on the thistle patch next to the bridge over a creek in Alamo.


Today I decided to try to get a picture of the bottom of another dry creek – this one in Danville – the one with the nice “tree tunnel” covering it like a natural covered bridge of sorts. While taking the first photo – my eyes did spy what looked like a fig. And of course, the fig trees distinctive leaves:


On closer inspection, sure enough – it was an eaten fig, with its own “patina” mirroring both the rust patina of the bridge and the paint patina on the wooden parts:



One side of the dry creek bed (“arroyo”) . . .


And the other side . . .


Fig trees grow in this creek bed, and just up the trail I found fig trees in someone’s backyard – which could have been the source – with seeds from fig trees dropped by a squirrel or a bird.


Today’s ride home and into the weekend will be rockin’ for sure. One of the best rock albums of all time.

Rise Above

July 22, 2015

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Every now and then, I’m tested and I’m asked to “Rise Above” in life. Last week an event happened (home robbery) where today we are going to have an alarm system installed. We have also fixed the cause of the security breach – a year ago we had an attempted break in, but they couldn’t get in and just ripped window screens with a knife. What seemed like a terrible thing has now morphed into a new interest in using security cameras as an art form. Besides the alarm system, I have found several systems with wireless cameras that are inexpensive enough, I’m tempted to get into time lapse photographic video art 360 degrees around my house. It just seems like a fun, funny and maybe even cool idea. I’ve also been looking at people driving around the neighborhood a lot more than ever. Funny what you see when you open your eyes. And its time to make lemonade out of the lemons.

This event also reminds me of several other “trials, tests and tribulations” in my life, with the overwhelming response of rising above – and not only learning from the bad experience, but dare I say become a better person?

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Next week will be the tenth anniversary of the beginning of a divorce with children. While I don’t usually blog about this – (except jokingly through my art), or occasionally quoting a song by Blanche – “I hope I never hope again” . . . I thought it was at least worth mentioning since it sure was a fast 10 years – but I can remember the years (at the time) feeling like a real painful crawl. However – those years I filled with the OCD of trying to make DXCC Honor Roll – so this is the real reason HR was important to me – it gave me a silly and fun distraction that got me through a rough period in my life. More lemonade from lemons.

I also remember my senior year in college. I had no money left and had to figure out how to get it (and did) with some really creative thinking and help from the business manager (Mrs. Connie DeVries) at my Mom’s dance studio in Newton, NJ. We figured out that I needed to become a resident of PA and then I would qualify for a Grant based on my income. That and a school loan, and I squeaked by. I paid off my school loan 7 years later. I had to choose a state school that was affordable and not beyond my means – but when you have nothing – everything is beyond your means. I can’t tell you how important it is to be in such a tough situation – and how “victorious” and “appreciative” you feel when you conquer that sort of problem by thinking and being creative. I don’t have an MIT “pedigree”, but am very proud of what I have done in the IT world in the SF Bay Area. My career has been simply wonderful, and I can’t even believe I still like it (as much as you can after doing something for 34 years). Lemonade.

These lessons in life are tough – but how you react is the important thing. In every case – as I went through the “anger” phase, I channeled that energy into a positive approach and response – and that’s when I seemed to grow in leaps and bounds. Anger is a serious blocker – and its easy to succumb to. I have watched so many people just get angry and bitter, and then they get stuck in a rut. Here’s a better metaphor than the lemons to lemonade metaphor – when you are sea kayaking and get stuck in an eddy current – you take a “hard right” or a “hard left”. This is also how you swim out of a very dangerous rip current in the ocean. Anger and frustration represent the eddy or rip current – and as a human being – you can never “power your way out” of such a situation. This is when you need a little “finesse”.

I’ve experienced this at work – building large data warehouses that seemed like they would either never get off the ground or hit a wall. In fact, every single one had its trials and tribulations. I’ve even experienced this with VK0EK, which has had its share of “challenges”, but is about the same level as building a smallish data warehouse system – so that past experience has helped me add value to the project and avoid (or at least react positively) to the pitfalls.

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot this past week . . . I like its wry humor, and it is pretty darned German!



With the two receivers in the Elecraft K3, and with my combination of horizontal and vertical transmit antennas and the K9AY Loops for receive, I can change polarity and direction for the signals on each receiver. The results are what I remembered from the Orion and Orion II rigs I had years ago.


This is the drawing from Fred Cady’s K3 Book – “The Elecraft K3 – Design, Configuration and Operation”, 2nd Edition, page 159 – a book I highly encourage you purchase – its worth every penny.

The K3 controls the reception on both receivers with one VFO – or you can go split – either in the same band or cross-band. You can pipe one receiver and associated antenna to one side of your headphones, and the other headphone can have the other receiver and antenna.

I can switch polarity and direction in many combinations, and I have been listening to this effect on 160M – 40M (so far). It is amazing that when there is deep QSB – even a second antenna on a second receiver that is as simple as the K9AY Loops really does “fill in the gaps” quite well. Also – noise seems to be rejected more because (I think) there is more of a constant signal – which keeps the AGC open in a way that the noise seems to be “pushed down”. I guess the best explanation is that it sounds like the signal to noise ratio is better – with more signal and less noise. This seems to have the effect of greater “intelligibility”.

The antennas that I use are separated about 70 feet apart. That’s not much – especially on 160M, but on a small lot its the best I can do – and it does seem to work quite well – and be worth the cost and effort I put into upgrading the K3 and also adding the K9AY Loops.


End of July

July 20, 2015


Its hard to believe that July is quickly coming to an end. We had a rough week at home – but things seem to be turning around.


Some very pretty Fall colors are popping up as they did a year ago at this time. We will lose quite a bit of time this month – but it will become quite dramatic in August, one of my favorite months. This morning, I heard an amazingly strong HC on 160M, so that was quite encouraging. I hope Top Band will be better this year – last year it was almost a total bust.


Anyway, we will finally be able to report what I’ve been holding in regarding VK0EK, and I should also have better news on the home front very soon as well (I’ll explain what happened soon).

Hope springs eternal . . .

A16 in Rockridge

July 18, 2015


We had a rough week this past week, so one night, after checking in on our rental house in Oakland, we stopped at A16 in beautiful Rockridge. We sat right where they make the pizzas, (I really love the way they make pizzas there) and the wood fired oven from Italy is a pure masterpiece that heats up to 800+ degrees. They cook in minutes – very impressive.




Funghi with prosciutto

Paired with a very unique Italian wine – we were in heaven.


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