Keeping balance in our lives…

Posted: August 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

Balance

Keeping balance in our lives….

This Blog topic is a little different than most of my Blogs about amateur radio, a hobby that I have enjoyed for over 30 years.

I am often approached by avid DXers and Contesters when I attend amateur radio conventions and gatherings. I always welcome and enjoy the friendly banter and discussions with the many amateurs throughout the world.

Often times, amateurs like to tell me their DXCC standings, or that they have reached 3,000 in the DXCC Challenge or are in the upper strata of the CQ Marathon. These are all impressive feats and worthy accomplishments for those who enjoy this great hobby.

My life was recently touched by significant family upheaval. My family situation was out of balance and now we are living with significant pain and uncertainty. I thought our lives were balanced but perhaps they were not.

I would just ask those of you who spend considerable time in your shack and away from your family to take time to cherish what you have and enjoy those around you. I’m realizing that maintaining balance in life is more important than that next DXpedition, or the next point or new DXCC entity.

I’ve sincerely enjoyed doing my Blog these past few years. I am going to take a hiatus of unknown duration so that I can find balance and take care of those who love me and need me the most.

I hope to return but if I don’t I am sure you will understand.

Sincerely,

Paul N6PSE

DXpedition ethics…

Posted: August 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

Ethics

There are a number of ethical issues involved in leading and organizing DXpeditions. As the DXpedition collects donations and intends to fill a need, certain “expectations” are made to the DXpedition group.

Some of these are quite normal and to be expected. Almost every DXpedition team intends to do a good job and to fill the need for contacts.

Some DXpedition teams build in various levels of redundancy in their plans to further bolster their pursuit of success. On rare occasions, some DXpedition teams will activate a certain entity mostly paying attention to their “home country” and then they go home barely addressing the needs of others. If such a group has accepted global donations, this kind of practice is highly unethical and should be shunned.

My first ethical quandary came in 2009 when I was fund-raising for our 2010 YI9PSE DXpedition. One of the amateur radio associations offered us a donation with the usual expectations for us to do a good job for their members.

As part of their offer, they asked that we provide them with an electronic copy of our logs and several thousand of our blank QSL cards. They would then provide QSL service to their members. This would create the ability to add or change contacts in the log. Potentially, contacts that were never made could be created and provided to their members. We would have no control or visibility into that.

This request didn’t seem proper and ethical to me and I declined their offer. It seemed so obviously wrong to me almost like it was a “test” of my own ethics.

Communications between the active DXpedition team and their “audience” is best done via HF radio, in the pileups with the intention of making a legitimate contact. We have recently seen a DXpedition where the 160 meter operators were on ON4KST low-band “chat”. The 160 meter operators were communicating in real time with the DXpeditioner and communicating their transmit and receive frequencies to each other. “Good Contact” was often declared over ON4KST chat. While it is not clear if proper contacts were made, prudent DXpeditioners will take steps to avoid the perception of improper or unethical behavior and real time “chat” with the DXpedition operator should not be encouraged.

DXpedition donors have certain expectations of the DXpedition team. There is heightened interest on 160 meters and six meters. If the DXpedition provides details of their plans, these two areas often bring additional support.

“Up front” donations before the DXpedition are very important. This helps the DXpedition organizer budget and know what they can spend before the DXpedition takes place. Many up front donors give freely and generously hoping the DXpedition has good luck and achieves success. Other up front donors have expectations of almost certainty getting into the log.

Then there is the “divine intervention” pleas that we receive. In every single DXpedition that I have organized, I have received various pleas for a contact, when the person pleading to us had no radio or antenna and no hope of making a contact on their own.

Several times, I have received email from a person pleading for our help in placing them in our logs.  They claim that a hurricane took down their antenna or that they are living in a senior center without any radio. They plead that they only need one more contact to achieve some award, usually “Honor Roll”.

We always ignore the “divine intervention” pleas that we receive. After the VP8STI/VP8SGI DXpeditions, I received an email from a prominent amateur. He said that he was unable to make a contact with us and he offered to make a donation of $1000 if I would insert some contacts into our logs for him. Of course, this request was rejected.

Adjustments to the DXpedition log are a sensitive subject with certain ethical concerns. Typically, the DXpedition considers the master copy of their log as “sacred” and only the QSL Manager is empowered to investigate and resolve log issues and errors. These “busted call” and logging error investigations are typically done after the DXpedition has concluded.

Recently, we have seen on a major DXpedition where the “back office” team was making daily log changes and corrections in almost real time while the DXpedition was still taking place. This opens up a literal “Pandora’s box” of ethical concerns.

There is some debate currently about the ethics of various teams QSL policies. Some “old school” proponents feel that all DXpeditions must provide some free means of obtaining a QSL card, such as the “bureau card” approach.

As DXpedition leaders try to address ever increasing costs to carry out DXpeditions, they are looking at non typical ways to cover DXpedition costs. Some groups wish to charge a fee for the convenience of OQRS (online QSL Request System) or a OQRS bureau card. Some funding organizations are balking at changes in this area. I feel that it is appropriately ethical to announce your need to recover your costs by asking for a $1.00 for a bureau card or other such convenience.

We have recently seen some DXpeditions use ploys or schemes to raise money for their DXpedition. When DXpeditions use schemes, gimmicks and ploys to bolster their success, I feel that extra scrutiny by the major funding organizations is needed.

Organizing major DXpeditions is fraught with risk. DXpedition organizers need to find new and better ways to obtain funding. Ethics should always be considered when trying various approaches. The DXpedition leader needs to be empowered to do what is needed within ethical boundaries to achieve success. The DX community also needs to examine the various methods used and make note of who follows proper ethical considerations and who does not.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A visit to Elecraft…

Posted: July 26, 2016 in Uncategorized
At a time in our hobby where many businesses are consolidating, closing their doors or failing to innovate, Elecraft is one of the few bright and innovative companies in our hobby. Elecraft is located in Watsonville, California and today, Ned Sterns AA7A and I had the pleasure to visit the factory and take a tour.
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The Elecraft Headquarters in Watsonville, California.
Elecraft was formed in 1998 by Eric Swartz-WA6HQQ and Wayne Burdick-N6KR.
Since that time, they have brought well engineered and highly successful products to market year after year. Elecraft is most known for their fabulous customer support and their ethic to “get it right” As an Elecraft product owner, you do not feel like a beta tester finding their bugs for them. Their products are available in either kit-form at a reduced price or fresh from the factory.
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You know you are getting close when you see the cars in the lot with the big antennas.
Their first products were the QRP ready K2 and the K2/100 watt model. In 2008 they brought to market their highly successful K3 transceiver. Last year, the K3 was upgraded to the K3S. Elecraft also has a highly respected amplifier (KPA500) and tuner (KAT500).
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Ned-AA7A discusses upgrades to his K3 with David Shoaf of Elecraft.
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The magic happens behind these walls.
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KPA-500 amplifiers going through the “burn in” process.
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Elecraft KX2s in the burn in process. Everything is thoroughly tested before being shipped to the customer.
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Elecraft P3 Panadapters in the production process.
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David shows completed products ready to ship.
The tour of Elecraft was fascinating. This is a small, highly efficient operation. Some components such as cables are manufactured in house, while some boards and other components are built by contract manufacturers. Much of the Engineering also takes place offsite with Engineers working from home and collaborating together to design and implement new products.
I have always been very impressed with Elecraft and my tour of their factory today only served to increase my appreciation for what they do and how they do it.
What do you think?

 

South Sudan 2011 115

Jun (in red) makes some of the first contacts from the new country of Southern Sudan-ST0R in 2011.

Jun Tanaka-JH4RHF is one of the quiet “unsung” heroes of the DXpeditioning realm. He has participated in dozens of important DXpeditions during the past two decades. Jun is a master technical troubleshooter, a superb operator and a very good man. He is happy to be the quiet man working behind the scenes during the DXpedition to ensure success. He is the “MacGyver” of the Intrepid-DX Group and has solved challenging technical issues and saved the day on each of our trips.

Jun is 52 years of age and was born near Hiroshima Japan.

Paul-N6PSE: Jun when did you become interested in amateur radio?

Jun-JH4RHF: I first became interested in amateur radio at age 10 when I listened to shortwave radio. I enjoyed listening to stations in Australia and in Beijing. This was before the Internet was very attractive to kids. When I was 9 or 10 years old, my Father bought a shortwave radio for us to enjoy. When I was in Grade 4, my friend got his license and encouraged me to do so. I obtained my Novice license at age 12. This is my 40th year in ham radio.

JH4RHF contesting at highschool (2)

Jun active as a young ham.

Paul-N6PSE: Jun tell us about your first station? What was your equipment?

Jun-JH4RHF: I started out with a Kenwood TS-520 radio and a dipole antenna which worked on 15 and 40 meters. It was great fun!

JH4RHF at Fieldday (2)

Jun and his ham friend.

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, I know that you have an interesting education and career, can you please tell us about it?

Jun-JH4RHF: I went to school in Japan and obtained a Ph.D in Experimental Nuclear Physics. After graduation, I worked at the school for four years. In 1999, I moved to Vienna, Austria to work for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). My job there is complimentary to supporting the Complementary Test Ban Organization (CTBO). I now work for IAEA in nuclear safeguards.

ta7-3

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, what does the CTBO do?

Jun-JH4RHF: The CTBO is monitoring nuclear weapons tests by conducting radiation and seismic measurement. We gather evidence of such tests and prepare reports. We also conduct field exercises to discover future or potential nuclear test sites. We have been measuring the Chernobyl site by using Gamma Rad detection by Helicopter, flying over the area. I have also visited the former Russian nuclear test sites in Kazakhstan. Its a remote six-hour drive from the nearest village. We stayed there for a month. The CTBTO is also monitoring the DPRK (North Korea) for unnatural seismic events.

I am now working as a Nuclear Inspector at IAEA. I regularly travel to India and Pakistan to inspect facilities. I have also travelled to Iran occasionally.

JH4RHF shack (2)

Jun’s early home station.

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, you have participated in many important DXpeditions, can you tell us about them?

Jun-JH4RHF: My first DXpedition was during a 1983 contest. We went to JD1-Ogasawara. This was very exciting and I wanted to make more of these activations. Up until then, My activity was limited to when I was a University student, we did multi-multi from the top of a hill with a 5Kw generator. In 1986 I participated in an activation of T32-E. Kiribati. My first real DXpedition was in 1989 to Revilla Gigedo as XF4L with N7NG, OH2BH, XE1L and others. This was a great experience with an international team.

In 1991, I was a member of the ZL9DX team to Auckland Island. This was a small team with two Japanese team members and three New Zealanders. In 1993 I went to KP1-Navassa Island with W5IJU, (K5VL). We had about ten team members. In 1995, I was a member of the D22CT/3D2CU DXpedition to Conway Reef. The Leaders were OH1RY, SM7PKK and we had five team members. In 1995, I was a member of the BV9P Pratas DXpedition team.

In 1996, I went to the DPRK with Zorro-JH1AJT. We met with the government and we brought one Icom IC-706 with us. Our antenna was a Cushcraft R7 vertical. We were unable to get permission to make any contacts. The DPRK government kept the IC-706 for other purposes.

qsls

QSL cards from just some of Jun’s many activations.

Paul-N6PSE: You were a member of the 1999 ZL9CI team, can you tell us about that DXpedition?

Jun-JH4RHF: Yes, this was the first DXpedition for the Braveheart. Nigel Jolly and his crew brought us to Campbell Island. It was a three-week trip. Very enjoyable and here 17 years later I find myself on the Braveheart with Nigel again.

xf4l_f

Jun was a member of the 1989 XF4L DXpedition Team.

Paul-N6PSE: And then you did some exotic Contesting?

Jun-JH4RHF: Yes, I also enjoy Contesting. In 2000 and again in 2002, I enjoyed operating as a member of the big TS7N CQWW CW Contest team from Tunisia.

 

Paul-N6PSE: And then you went to Iraq, South Sudan and other exotic places?

Jun-JH4RHF: Yes, in 2006 I was a member of the 3B9C Rodriguez Island Team. That was a large team, well organized and very enjoyable. Then, in April 2010, I joined your YI9PSE team and operated from Erbil, Iraq. We had a lot of fun didn’t we?   Then there was the new Country of Southern Sudan in September 2011 and I again joined your ST0R team as one of the many operators. What a great adventure. And now here we are on the way home from VP8STI-South Sandwich and VP8SGI-South Georgia. What an amazing experience!

 

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, what was your favorite DXpedition?

Jun-JH4RHF: I like people and culture over big Pileups. YI9PSE, the VP8’s and ZL9 were the best. I enjoyed seeing the nature and the animals. Conway Reef is also a very special place.

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Jun enjoys a stroll on South Georgia Island.

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, where is your “dream place” to operate?

Jun-JH4RHF: I think I would enjoy a warm place such as a Pacific Island or something like that.

 

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, do you have a preference in radios?

Jun-JH4RHF: I’ve used ICOM radios since 1983 and I prefer them very much for their good user interface. I’ve used all radios but I always come back to ICOM.

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Jun operates as a member of the VP8STI/VP8SGI team.

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, do you have a favorite mode or band?

Jun-JH4RHF: I’m happy on any mode, any band, anytime.

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Jun and Roger N4RR make antenna repairs at VP8SGI.

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, what do you think the future is of ham radio?

Jun-JH4RHF: I am very worried about the future of ham radio. The average age of a JARL member is 65 years old or close to that. So each year, the average age is getting older. JARL needs to introduce younger people to the hobby. I fear that 20 years from now, our pileups may be very small.

 

Paul-N6PSE: Jun, thank you for all that you do for the global amateur radio community. Not everyone can or wants to be a leader, but every leader knows that without men such as yourself we will not be successful. I hope that we can do many more fun and successful DXpeditions together in the future.

Jun-JH4RHF: Thank you Paul, yes, lets activate some more rare places together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

alpha9500

The Alpha 9500 is the flagship product of Alpha.

If you have been following all of the changes in the HF Linear Amplifier world, then you know that Alpha Amplifiers has changed hands several times over the years and that key people in development/design, Engineering, Support of these products, namely Molly (W0MOM) and Gordon Hardman (W0RUN) and now Brad Focken (K0HM) have all left the company.

These departures and the changes upon changes has created a lot of undue stress and uncertainty about the future of this company and their products. I have always felt that Alpha amplifiers were superior products however my own experiences owning two Alpha 9500’s left a lot to be desired. I have now sold all of my tube amps and I am enjoying the instant on features of an Expert 1.3 K-FA solid state amplifier.

It will be interesting to see if Alpha Amplifiers can survive all of these changes. Upon learning of Brad-K0HM’s departure, I am certainly glad that I no longer own an Alpha amplifier.

What do you think?

north-korea-radio

3Z9DX, Dom has announced that he will soon return to the DPRK and operate for five days, SSB on one band. That is wonderful news, particularly for all those amateurs still seeking their first P5 contact. I am particularly glad to hear this news as my own “P5 folly” is now over.

I was fortunate to work P5/3Z9DX last December when Dom first came up on 15 meters SSB. I saw him spotted on the DX Cluster and tuned over and sure enough, there he was. He was simplex and I was competing with many “big gun” West Coast stations. It was frustrating to me that many guys in that pileup were “Top of the Honor Roll” members and did not need a P5 contact for their very first time. They were either seeking their annual CQ Marathon point, or as many DXers do, just flexing their muscles and showing what they could accomplish behind the microphone. I feel bad for any operator in that pileup that did not get through because some guy just wanted another P5 contact to add to his collection. There are some aspects of this hobby that I don’t like and the “piggish” nature of some is one of those aspects.

I would like to suggest that when P5/3Z9DX comes up on the air in the near future, those of us that now have P5 confirmed ought to QRX and give other guys a chance. This would be a noble gesture and more kindness is sorely needed in this hobby. I for one will not be calling P5/3Z9DX. I am making my station available to any W6 hams that want to come over and give him a call and I encourage others to do the same.

What do you think?

Bouvet…so far away…

Posted: June 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 Bouvet-Island1 (2)

If you follow my Blog, you probably saw Nigel Jolly’s comment that he would like to go to Bouvet. I too would like to go to Bouvet, along with Nigel and his crew.

During our VP8STI/VP8SGI voyage, we had many conversations about going to Bouvet. The VP8STI/VP8SGI DXpeditions would be great practice and preparation for activating Bouvet.

We have a lot of useable equipment and many team members willing to make the trip. So what’s the holdup then?  Why isn’t the Intrepid DX Group announcing plans to activate Bouvet?

It all comes down to money. Lots of money is needed. For the VP8STI/VP8SGI DXpeditions, our total budget was $425,000. We had hoped to raise $215,000 up front of the activation. As hard as we worked and as generous as the Global DX Community was, we were only able to raise $161,000 before our departure.

When we signed our charter contract, the Braveheart charter was $308,000. We were to pay in the equivalent amount in New Zealand Dollars.

Fortunately for us, the exchange rate for the New Zealand Dollar (NZD) against the USD declined dramatically and our charter ended up costing us $259,000. Before this decline, our fundraising was going poorly and we had serious discussions about cancelling our DXpedition. At one point, Nigel even agreed to let us out of our contract without the required $54,000 penalty.

We hung in there and worked hard at our fundraising and due to the decline in the NZD we were able to make it all work. Our efforts were nicely rewarded through the OQRS system after the DXpedition and we are extremely grateful for all of the support we received.

Now then, back to Bouvet. We have the charter cost for Bouvet including the use of a helicopter. That cost is $500,000 or almost twice the cost of the VP8STI/VP8SGI charter. We would also need to hire a helicopter pilot, certified for heavy sling lifts and a helicopter mechanic. We would need to pay them approximately $10,000 a month each for two months. This would require us to bring two less radio operators.

Our total budget to activate Bouvet would be something close to $600,000. We know from recent experience that we can raise $161,000 from the global DX Community, however we know that we would have a significant shortfall required to meet a budget approaching $600,000.

While we thoroughly enjoy leading DXpeditions to rare and remote places, none of us can place our financial well-being in jeopardy by signing contracts that we cannot financially support.

3Y5X_1990

3Y5X DXpedition, December/January 1990. Five men operated for 16 days.

The Norwegian Polar Institute is reasonably willing to allow a DXpedition. The permit process requires a comprehensive plan very similar to what we provided to gain permission for South Sandwich and South Georgia. I have spoken to many DXpeditioners who have activated Bouvet in the past. I’ve explored ways to do it without the benefit of a helicopter and unfortunately my findings are that a helicopter is essential. The NPI will allow a helicopter landing near Cap Lollo and the Eastern slope of the glacier. They will not allow any approach to Nyroysa where the NPI Science Base is located. The NPI is also not interested in sharing passage on their ship.

Nyroysa

The NPI Science base is located in Nyroysa (above) no landing can be made here.

So we have transportation available to us, we have a team and equipment. We have the desire and the experience to pull it off. We lack only the confidence to raise enough funds up front to be successful.

There may be several leaders or groups interested in activating Bouvet. They must have a huge commitment to succeed. In return, the DX Community must reward that commitment with sufficient up front financial support for them to push forward through the many obstacles in order to achieve success.

 Update:

I’m delighted by the news this morning from K0IR, K4UEE and LA6VM of their plans to bring a team to Bouvet in late 2017 or early 2018. This is most welcome news!

What do you think?