Weekend Radio

It was a good day to be outdoors. I did not mind sitting on the ground, although I was very stiff when I stood up.
The last few weekends I spent more time outside with The Girl. My weeks are mostly filled with work, either at the trading desk or at the engineering desk. We do get out everyday for some exercise, but there is always the pressure to return to the home office and get things done.

After working a slew of weekends the last quarter of 2021 and into January of 2022, I am at risk of burnout. So I am gave myself permission to take some time off on the weekends, work on some personal projects, and play. Weekend before last was a little Winter Field Day play. After passing the morning at the house waiting for the air to warm, we spent the afternoons in the hills out east of town. We had some great hikes out there, the old man huffing up the hills with The Girl looking over her shoulder or running back to encourage the old man to huff a little harder.

Then we returned to the rig where I put out an old furniture blanket for The Girl while I setup a radio and either chased SOTA and POTA activators or played search-and-pounce after the Winter Field Day runners.

Last weekend we had a friend accompany us on Saturday. She another ham who loves to hike and especially loves The Girl. The Girl begins wiggling before we even get close to our friend’s place. And then she will greet friend with more intense wiggles and lots of love. We drove out to my new favorite spot, parked the rig, and hiked out two more hills. The overlook from there is spectacular, with view of the Carson Range to the west, Carson Valley to the south, and Carson City to the northwest. We paused at the summit to look around, enjoy the view, and enjoy the sun on us.

We returned to the rig for water and a snack. Then I setup the Elecraft KX3 with a magnetic loop antenna. There were plenty of operators running for the three QSO parties in progress. But I did not want to work that hard, so I looked for POTA and SOTA activators. I saw their spots on my phone and listened for them on their spotted frequency. I logged four contacts Saturday. On completing each exchange, I offered our friend the key. But she declined, not feeling quite ready to take to the air.

We had a bit of an adventure on the way home, though. I violated the “first rule of the day” and went north, forgetting I was on the third peak and not the second. It was only about a hundred yards when I realized I was not on the trail I came up and that this one was steeper and more narrow than I preferred.

After a couple of failed attempts to back up the trail, I managed to get mostly turned around. But the ass-end of the rig was still too far off the trail to get squared away. So I stepped out to survey the situation, saw that I was still making progress, and returned to the cabin of the vehicle.

After a couple more tries, I got close enough that I was able to back down the trail about 20 feet. I made a run at the snowfield and made it about halfway. I backed up and made another run and got about three-quarters of the way. The third attempt I made it 90 percent, but had enough traction to continue crawling until the right front hit soil and drug us out of the snow.

It was then easy going back to the correct trail. I was not looking forward to calling another friend for help and having to eat crow.

The Girl and I returned Sunday about noon for more outside time. I parked the rig and we got out to walk to the site of our previous day’s experience so I could make a couple of photographs. Then we turned south and climbed the same route as Saturday. A group of off-road bikers passed us on the way up to the summit in two parts. I saw the first group peel off the trail to some single-track and then turn back south. The second group stopped near where the first dropped over the edge of the ridge, but did not see where their compatriots had gone. One rider returned to our location and to the summit. He then turned around and coasted a bit, calling “Sorry buddy for driving past so many times. I lost the rest of the group.”

“No worries!” I called back. The Girl and I finished our ascent and paused at the top, as I like to do. I heard dirt bikes approach as we headed back down. We walked up to them paused on the slope, chatting. One called to The Girl “here buddy!” and she immediately responded.

I chatted with them a couple of minutes and then we parted ways, The Girl and I returning to the rig. There I setup my table and the KX3, but this time chose a different antenna I wanted to test. The Girl relaxed on her mat while I played a little radio. Again I was chasing SOTA and POTA activators, not wanting to work so hard working the QSO parties.

About mid-afternoon I put everything away, tired, a little cool, and ready to be home for the rest of the day. We crawled back down off the hill and toward the house, listening to some chatter on the local repeaters as we moved.

In the end, it was another good day. I came away with some contacts, knowledge of the antenna under testing, and a couple of nice images. Below is an example of why I love the west and why I love being in the mountains.

Life is good. I am grateful.

The view of Carson City from the third peak south from Sedge Road is startling. This is why I love living in the west.

Steps

When out and about, I’m always looking for an image that might be interesting.

I posted this to my IG account a few days ago as part of my Project 365. Pursuing a Project 365 is a good way to motivate me to look for, and make, an image every day. The image does not have to be a great image. The objective is simply to look at the environment with a photographer’s eyes, to be aware of what is about me.

This is a good practice and leads me to be aware, to be present in the place and moment where I am. My proclivity is to be too far up in my head, thinking about whatever is on my mind at the time. Sometimes that is a consulting project, sometimes a personal project, sometimes just a reverie. The better practice is to present, enjoy the outdoors, enjoy my Girl.

Winter Field Day 2022

This was my OP for Winter Field Day 2022.

Work is keeping me busy these days. So, I was not able to make the usual excursion to a remote site in central Nevada. I also did not have time to make a plan for when, where, or how I was going to setup a portable station and operate, if even for a few hours.

Therefore, when Saturday morning arrived, I had only a notion that I would drive up to one of my usual operating points in the Pinion Hills/Pine Nut Mountains, setup one of my portable radios, choose an antenna, and see if I could hear any stations. I knew that The Girl and I both needed a walk/hike as well. So I thought that the higher location I often use would be a good place. There is not much traffic, I could setup just over the hilltop where I might have a little shelter from a northerly wind and get some sun exposure, and there is an old juniper stub that I can strap an antenna mast to.

So, I loaded a few things into the rig, got The Girl fed, added some water and a snack to the mix, and we headed out. As we turned up the road to the public lands, I noticed there was not a lot of activity in the area. That meant it would be quiet on the trail.

Just after arriving at the OP, The Girl and I took a hike along the perimeter and then up to the next hill off to the south. This was our view of Carson City and Slide Mountain.
The trip up to the OP was easy, as usual. The road has not changed much since the last time we were up here. I realized I should drive up here more often on the weekends because there are so many more people out at Silver Saddle Ranch, where we usually walk on the weekends. I prefer to encounter as few two- and four-legged others as I can. In part, that is because I am not very social and in part because there are so many with bad behaviors in the latter.

There are rarely others out in the area where I like to operate. It even occurred to me that if I had a hot-tent, I could camp at the next hill up. I am confident the 4Runner would make it up there with no problem. However, I am just as confident that I could not get the camper up there.

After parking the rig, The Girl and I got out for a hike to warm up and let her burn off some energy. I paused at the overlook to make an image of Carson City, with the Carson Range and Slide Mountain in the background. I love the view from this place. We turned south and climbed part of the hill while I chatted with Older Son. I saw tracks from what was probably a pickup truck on the trail. It was clear they were made when the soil was wet and the drive had slid off into the rut. I saw where the vehicle drug but did not high-center. It looks like it can get pretty sloppy on this trail if it is wet.

Fact noted…

Although the details of the station are not clear, this was my setup for Winter Field Day 2022.
On return to the rig, I started setting up the station. I decided to use a home-built doublet for the antenna. It is a non-resonant antenna that I feed with open wire (not coaxial cable). Older Son and I built this antenna a couple of years ago with some THHN wire I had in the garage and some electric fence standoffs I purchased.

I put a 4:1 BALUN at the end of the open feedline so I can reduce the impedance (by a factor of four) and run a short length of coax to the station. Deploying the antenna took me about 15 minutes.

I initially thought to use a new linear amplifier I bought for portable operations, but after fiddling with it for a few minutes, I realized I need more time with the equipment to become familiar with it. So I retrieved the other amplifier (the KXPA100 matched to my Elecraft KX3 transceiver) and used it for the deployment. I connected a Microsoft Surface Go 2 to the radio for logging. This little computer is nearly a perfect logging machine for these kinds of deployments. It is also easy to power from the station battery.

I briefly considered deploying a second antenna. But, I decided I would operate for only a couple of hours so elected to use just the doublet.

I sat down at the radio about a half-hour after starting the setup. I checked everything, entered the appropriate data into the logging software, confirmed the computer and radio were communicating, and then started listening for calling stations.

Over the next couple of hours, I worked stations from California to Pennsylvania and Florida. I did not make a lot of contacts, probably about 15 of them. Most of the activity was on the 20m band, but I also worked a station on 15m and heard another who could not hear me. About 1530h local, the 40m band came alive, suddenly. That gave me the opportunity to work a few more stations.

Then I got cold as the sun faded toward the mountains. I knew it was time to tear down the station and head back to the house. I let The Girl out of the rig so she could sniff around a bit as I put away the equipment. We then did a short walk around the top of the hill before climbing back in the the rig (which was warmed up) and heading down the hill.

I learned a few things from this deployment, as I usually do.

  • It is possible to do a hasty deployment for a field activity without a lot of planning.
  • Such a deployment requires a decent go kit, preferably stored in the vehicle.
  • Never take unproven equipment to the field without a backup.
  • The backup plan has to be proven equipment or there is a risk of complete failure of the mission.
  • A hasty setup can yield a fair number of contacts. I would have had a lot more contacts if I had run a frequency instead of playing search and pounce. I just did not want to work that hard. I wanted a little radio fun for the weekend.
  • Part of the Winter Field Day experience is to get out of the house and operate portable in more difficult weather. It was not cold, but it was cool and I got cold by the end of the day.
  • A longer deployment would require additional personal equipment than I carried in the 4Runner. But I was fine for the afternoon.

In all, I had some fun, made some contacts, and practiced my Morse Code. All of my contacts were Morse Code. I had a microphone with me, but did not use it.

That was my Winter Field Day 2022 experience. It was good. And then, I was treated to a beautiful view of Carson City and the Carson Range on the way back home.

As we left the OP, the sun was setting over the Carson Range. This was our view of Carson City and Slide Mountain.

Sunday Operations

While hiking and operating a radio in the Pinion Hills east from Carson City, I came across a Gadsden Flag posted above Carson City.

After working Winter Field Day 2022 on Saturday (post to come), I decided to get out again Sunday for some outdoor time and maybe to run the radio a little.

Much of Sunday morning was spent working on a variety of chores. Besides, it was cold in the morning (maybe 18°F) and I did not want to get myself out in that, much less The Girl. Therefore, about noon we loaded up a couple of things and headed out east from Carson City.

As I expected, the Silver Saddle Ranch parking areas had many vehicles. I was right in my assessment that the open space areas would be busy. So we continued on east then turned east onto Brunswick Canyon Road and then south to where I like to operate portable in the Pinion Hills/Pine Nut Mountains.

I bypassed the first to locations I use to operate and continued south and up to a new location I scouted several times over the last couple of years. I was sure the 4Runner would have little trouble traversing the trail, now that the mud has dried. And, I was correct.

I parked the rig, got my sling pack out, and got The Girl out, who was quite excited. We hiked the trail south through a saddle, a hill, and another saddle to climb the next hill. I think that the 4Runner will traverse this trail, too. There were quad tracks and the trail was wide enough, mostly. There were a couple of icy patches that might be a challenge and a couple of steep sections that might also be a challenge.

I will walk it again another time. It also occurred to me that a quad might be in my future for such outings. I could even add a trailer to the quad to carry camping gear and supplies, should I elect to do some tent camping at these more remote areas.

It was a good hum up the trail to the top of the hill. I paused to drink a little water. The Girl ate snow. Then I made a few images and we headed back north to the rig.

What a gorgeous day it was! The air was cool, in the mid-40°F range. But there was plenty of sun to keep me warm.

Back at the rig I put out some water for The Girl and then setup my portable station. For this outing I used the Elecraft K1 and a random wire antenna strung from a 10m SOTAbeams Travel Mast. Deployment took only a few minutes. I also connected the PowerFilm 30w foldable solar panel to the battery to continue recharging it after using it for WFD.

I made two contacts, one SOTA activator and one POTA activator. I heard a Japan station calling, but decided I did not want a ragchew. So I just listened on the bands for a bit, soaking up some sun while The Girl also sunned herself on the mat I laid out for her.

As the sun fell towards the Carson Range, the breeze come up a little — enough to make me chilly. So, I decided to pack the station and walk a little more. The Girl jumped up to go hunt critters as we walked.

I found a Gadsden Flag on a short poles with a solar-powered lamp a dozens steps from the OP. I stopped to make a few more images and give The Girl a chance to play. Then we headed back down the hill toward home, a big drink of water, kibbles for The Girl and hot chow for me.

What a beautiful day and what a great day. I am grateful.

A Jumble

I found this mess on daily walkies and decided to make the capture.

One day this week, while The Girl and I were walking out at Silver Saddle Ranch, I noticed this jumble along the fence. I decided it would make a good entry for my Project 365.

Monday Radio Play

I needed a little radio play on Monday, so I took the Elecraft K1 for a spin.

Not having enough radio play on Sunday, I took along my Elecraft K1 radio on our outing Monday. The weather was nicer than Sunday, plenty warm (warm enough for shirtsleeves).

Again, after our walk, I setup a random wire antenna affixed to the 10m mast. The K1 was easy to setup and I found a place to sit on the ground as my table and chair were not in the rig.

The radio matched the antenna readily and I started hunting for SOTA and POTA activators. I worked five stations over an hour and a half, one of them in Florida, all with seven watts of output.

The mental exercise of copying and sending Morse Code is good for me. It provides an excellent change of pace from my normal work, which is highly analytical.

In addition, I get out of the house with The Girl, we have a good time working (I work her when we walk), and I often talk to Older Son or a friend while I walk.

I still have a lot to learn about the K1. It is a capable radio. It is still possible to find one, but that factory stand is nearly unobtanium. I managed to snag a couple of them.

Sunday Radio Play

I took the Elecraft KX1 out to play a little radio. What a great little radio it is.

It has been weeks since I operated one of my radios. Either the weather was not very good, I was too busy with other duties, or I just did not have the energy to take the radio out for a spin.

Almost all of my operations are portable. I have written many times about the noise level at home. Even if I could hear other operators, the constant hash is fatiguing and I cannot deal with it for very long before I have to leave the radio.

Sunday was a pretty day, a little cool, but with plenty of sunshine. So The Girl and I walked our usual route out at Silver Saddle Ranch, then returned to my parking spot at the upper staging area. I decided to get the Elecraft KX1 out of its case and see if I could make any contacts.

I setup a random wire with one end affixed to a 10m telescoping mast and the other to a 9:1 unun. I used a short jumper to the radio. What I learned is that the wire length I am using does not need the unun; the matching network in the radio is sufficient to make the impedance match between the radio and the antenna.

I learned something.

So I set aside the unun and tuned the KX1 to 7.2835MHz for the 40m Noon Net. It is an easy check on whether my radio is working and the net control operators will take check-ins from CW operators. (CW is the official term for Morse Code operations.)

One of my favorite features of the KX1 is that it has an adjustable filter and at the wide setting it is about 2KHz, which is plenty for listening to phone operators. It will also tune the entire 20m, 30m, 40m, and 80m bands, which means I can listen to both code and phone operators on those bands. In addition, it will receive CW, lower sideband, and upper sideband modes (switchable). That is a huge feature for such a small radio.

I was able to check-in to the net with about four watts of output, so the radio was working. I then turned my attention to SOTA (Summits on the Air) and POTA (Parks on the Air) activators to determine if I could hear any of them.

I worked four stations, three POTA activators and one SOTA activator. The setup and teardown of this station takes only about ten minutes each. So, for 20 minutes of work, I played for an hour or so and made a few contacts, all QRP (low power). It was a good day.

Working, Maybe Too Much

Most every morning, I make a cup of coffee… or two… but rarely three.
The year has already been busy. Late last year I was pressing to complete a report for one of my projects. That used a bunch of energy and left me with little motivation to do anything significant over the holidays, except remember why we celebrate them and try to recover a little.

Then the new year happened and work restarted, with me starting out on the backside of the power curve having left other projects languishing while I finished the report. In addition, I want to develop some new habits that are inviolate because they are good for me.

There are three components to this endeavor — The body, the mind, and the soul.

For the first, it includes attention to my body in terms of food and exercise. I injured my right leg last year, being a foolish old man, and am still paying for it. But The Girl needs, actually demands, a daily outing for her exercise and intellectual stimulation. So I continue walking but cannot carry my regular pack for now. I am stretching most days (needs to be every day) as well as getting in a couple of resistance sessions in each week.

My diet needs to change a bit as well. It is time to reduce my poor carbohydrate load and increase my good carbohydrate load, as well as increase my protein intake.

I believe that meditation is good for mind, body, and soul. It is a time to just be for a few minutes, listening to a guided meditation, and letting go of the mental busyness that plagues me daily. I do not need to think all the time. I do not need to be all up-in-my-head when there are other wonderful things to take in. Meditation, even a few minutes every day, helps me be more present when I am out with The Girl (and at other times). An side benefit is that the breathing exercises lower my blood pressure.

I am also committed to praying more. The benefits of prayer are documented in the professional literature. It does not matter whether one believes in God (I do) or a guiding force or whatever. The process of prayer is beneficial in and of itself (although I believe that God hears prayers and answers them). My intention is to spend a few minutes every day talking to God, and not just over meals. I have people and situations on my prayer list (I keep one) and remember them when I sit to pray. I also pray often when I am walking with The Girl. It helps me stay present in the moment when we are out and about.

There is one more intention that I have. It is to spend a few minutes each week (at least) putting a few words here on my parcel of the Internet. I have plenty of images that I can post and say a few words about. I like to post some images here. This post is a beginning. It remains to be seen whether I am able to maintain the habit or not.

Finally, I posted an image above. For a fun, creative work, I decided to work on a Project 365 this year. I often have one running on my Instagram account (User @drdbt). But this year I decided to post on the “official” Project 365 web page as well. I enjoy sharing the images I make and hope that others enjoy what I shoot.

New Year 2022

This is a test shot with the new (to me) Sony A7S. I used a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 at f/4 and an ISO of 25k. The test subject was Sera in my backyard, playing in the snow.

In the evening of Christmas Day, Sera needed to go out before we hit the rack. I bought a Sony A7S (first generation) a month or so ago for use as a low-light camera. This Sony model (the A7S and its progenitors) is considered the queen of the low-light cameras. The 12.1MP sensor resolution is fine for most of what I do, plus does not take up so much disk space on the computer and its backup drives.

Work kept me from doing much with the camera and will for awhile yet. But I wanted to do some test shots. So I took it into the backyard with us, with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 mounted to the camera. (Yes, that is a legacy manual focus lens.) I set the ISO to 25k and made a few captures of Sera playing in the snow.

I like this one the best of the lot. There’s a lot of detail in the image. I am impressed.

This week I continued working on my review of 2021. What I came away with is that of the things I should do, my self-care suffered in favor of the work. The work is good too, but I really need to spend some time every day working on myself, including the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects.

Work continues to keep me busy. In fact, I intended to publish this on Christmas, but here we are more than a week later.

Sera and I are walking and enjoying each other quite a lot. She loves our daily walks and the time to work off-lead. I require her to check in every minute or two and do not like her to be out of sight for long. There are coyotes in the field and she would think they were like domestic canines. That could be bad.

Happy New Year, all.

Christmas Reflections 2021

I made this capture in 2006 at the Lubbock Barnes & Noble.

On January 22, 2006, Wife and I drove over to the Lubbock Barnes & Noble for an outing. She was looking for a browse, perhaps to find a new book. I bought a cup of coffee and sat down at a table near the front of the store.

This was the old B&N on the east side of Slide Road in the strip center, before they moved to a new location. It was a store we visited often, before B&N became more of a toy store and less of a bookstore.

I sat there, enjoying my coffee and looking at a book or magazine — I do not recall which. But I had a camera with me and was always looking for a good capture.

Since my 20s (a long time ago) I have almost always had a camera at hand. In the beginning, it was a film camera. All I had at first was a 35mm film camera, so that is what I carried. It usually had black and white film in it, either Tri-X or Plus-X.

Later, the cameras became digital and smaller. On this particular day I am unsure what I was carrying. It might have been an Olympus Camedia, as they were the best prosumer camera at the time.

It doesn’t matter. What mattered was the light coming from behind me and shining on Wife’s face. I saw that light and knew it made for a good image. I grabbed up the camera, turned it on, then quickly pointed, composed, and got the shot.

Wife began her protest about having her photograph made and I just about caught the peak of the action with my informal portrait. Her expression captured (pun intended) her usual reaction to my pointing of a camera at her. (Aside: She had several other reactions as well… some not appropriate for mixed company.)

This image remains another of my favorite captures of Wife. A bit of her personality is caught in the frame and that playful protest was fun. I had a good laugh about it as did she.

I spent a bit of time this morning reflecting on the year. At the end of each year, I like to look back at the year and assess what I did well and what I did not do so well. I want to learn from the experience and make choices about how to spend my time the coming year.

I do not make resolutions. Resolutions fade away without structure to see they are implemented. Instead, I set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. I decided what habits I want to cultivate and those that I want to reduce. I decide how to structure my time so that I can make the changes that will be good for me.

And then I set out to execute those plans. I am not always successful. But I remain mindful of the goals I want to achieve.

With that, I will close this entry with a hearty Merry Christmas. I remember that we celebrate today the birth of the Christ child. It does not matter when Jesus was born; only that he was. And it only matters that what God said about him is true. I am grateful for that gift, the best of all.