Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Out of the rat race, bikes, and update

I have been hearing Japanese stations on 6m. Well, most of Europe has been hearing them.

Those that hear them call them, and those that do not hear them call them anyway, just in case.

The pattern here is that I get a decode from one of them, and then nothing more. The path is variable and unpredictable.
JA heard but not worked ...
Sometimes they are quite strong, other times not.

In my book you have to be likely to work a station to justify calling it. So far I have not called any of them.

Of course the path is very critical in these cases. If you are in the right place they are easy to work, if not, all you get is tantalising examples of others calling them for hours at a time and working nobody at all.

On some occasions I have been right along the path of other European stations calling Japan (and China, Korea and Western Russia). The blast is astounding, with my radio going ballistic trying to cope.
Pandemonium breaks out - on this occasion when the 6m path opens between EA8, EA6 and JA (DXMaps)
Added into the mix of stations calling the "Far East" is an equal number of hapless European individuals who are just trying to work other Europeans. This is fun to watch. While listening for weak signals from far away, suddenly a S9 +++ signal plumps itself down 5hz away.

As most of this traffic is on JT65 then all the European local working, and all the DX listening and all the general blasting is all located in the width of a single SSB filter passband. It is possible on CW too, but ....

There is of course a simple answer to fix my difficulty in working Japan. All I need is a 20m+ tower, a rotator to turn it (or maybe just turn lots of antennas), several 8m boom yagis, a 1KW (at least) linear and a top of the range radio. Plus gold plated phono plugs and a nice leather swivel chair for the proud photo in

No. I am not doing it.

There is absolutely NO possibility of me joining the rat race that drives others to spend ££££ on a project to work Japan in defiance of the conditions. Someday I might work Japan with what I have now, and I will feel vindicated. Maybe not, in which case I will go to my grave happy that there is enough money left in my bank account to pay for a good funeral.

I am not going to go through life unhappy just because I cannot work Japan when I want to.

I am not settling for mediocrity either. There are lots of improvements I can make here which will make long distance working better. I can work with what I have, and identify blockages here and there which get in the way. Rather like the "marginal improvement" programme of the Sky cycling team which saw them win the Tour de France three times. Every little bit counts. Add the little bits together and they make a lot of advantage.

So am I suggesting that Team Sky won the Tour de France with a middling rider but lots of attention to detail? Certainly. The first time anyway. They made up for his weaknesses by learning and developing their strategy. It helped that they had a brilliant team to support him, rather like ancillary items in the shack. Just buying in an expensive (better) rider was not what they did and thus no big tower, kilowatt linear or £8,000 rig for me.

I actually like it this way. It seems to me that the amateur radio world is divided into three camps. Category A has those who have a simple set-up, a wire antenna with a "VHF co-linear" vertical and who shun any further development or learning. At the other end of the scale, Category C pursue their hobby with deep pockets, obsession and determination to out-punch the ionosphere and out-buy anyone who dares to challenge them. And in between is Category B, who are the ones who want to learn and progress beyond the simple, but who stop short of relentless pursuit endless contacts.

I know that I am in Category B, but I only know of two other amateurs in the world who think the way I do. So there are only three of us. Only three of us who cannot stick the mundane boring nature of aimless CQs by the unknowing Category As. And the same three of us have no need of "premium brand" radios, huge linears and towers turned from the bottom which the Category C folks think are essential. We just want to learn from our hobby. All three of us.

Of course those in other categories are perfectly entitled to do whatever they want. You can call CQ for 92 minutes if you like (I saw you). You can spend all you like on whatever gear you want. It is a free world (!). But neither of those options appeal to me.

Let us get this perfectly straight. I rely on the expensive super-stations at the other end of DX paths to pull me through. I also rely on the little stations to get me those rare squares. I am in no position to criticise. I am not criticising. I am just pointing out that my own philosophy is different.

All the same, it feels kind of lonely here in Category B.

Thinking further about this, Category B folks might be in another different group entirely. In this other world there are only two groups. Group 1, the ones who feel that turning on the radio should automatically produce contacts, and Group 2 who want to learn rather than just work people.

Actually, Group 2 is pretty small too.

So what is the next step? Well, a drum of Messi and Paolini Hyperflex 10 co-ax arrived this morning.
75m of M+P Hyperflex 10 waiting to be installed

I was aware of M&P but I had never heard of HyperFlex 10 before David GM4JJJ pointed it out on this blog. Thanks David. It will play a part in a general revamp of antennas to look for a few more marginal improvements.

As for Japan, well it would be nice if it happened but I am not too bothered either way.

What have I learned from this then? I would rather be happy than right, any day.
Speaking of bikes, the Giro d'Italia was great this year. That dashing handsome man from Sicily (no, not that dashing handsome man from Sicily, the other dashing handsome man from Sicily) Vincenzo Nibali looked set to pip the grumpy little Colombian rider, Nairo Quintana, on the streets of Milan. But it as not to be, for Dutchman Tom Dumoulin triumphed, and this was despite having stopped for a toilet break in the middle of a mountain stage some days earlier. His attack of the skitters cost him two minutes, but Dumoulin still won in the end.

Three weeks of glorious coverage of Italy, and the final result came down to the last five minutes in a terrific final stage. Fabulous.

After more than 90 hours racing, Dumoulin won by 31 seconds. 0.0008%. That is where marginal advantage comes into play. And marginal gains do not make any difference if you are not in the race. You have to compete to be in with a chance of your strategy winning. Then play to your strengths.

What can I watch now? Well, having finished Masterchef Australia 2014, there is now Masterchef Australia 2015, a thirteen week, 65 episode (all an hour long and often more) marathon. How can I do all this and do radio? And then the Tour de France next month. And the cricket. I must cut back on something. Radio maybe?

Life getting in the way of radio? I wonder if maybe that is how it should be.
You win some and you lose some.

On 6m things looked fairly healthy
50MHz (6m band) contacts at GM4FVM 24 May to 6 June 2017
It was particularly nice to be heard (off the back of my beam) by WP4JCF (FK68 6733km). We then had a QSO and it was great to hear Oscar again. He is the best VHF DX this year. So far.

The ones that got away were two DXCCs I would like to work on 6m, US Virgin Island (WP2B) and Guadeloupe (FG8OJ). I heard both stations quite strongly at different times, but I could not break through the pile ups.

Linears, no thanks, I prefer to deal with the agony.

"Lose some" was particularly noticeable on 70MHz (the 4m band).
70MHz (4m) contacts at GM4FVM 24 May to 6 June 2017
All well and good, but nothing really startling. OH6DX (KP32 1768km) was in a new square for this band. He said I was his first GM on 4m. I remember my first OHs on 4m, seven of them all worked on FM on 15 June 2010.

I also enjoyed working SP4XQS (KO03 1465) on FM on 4 June. I always enjoy FM DX. The idea of working long distance with a simple rig is very appealing, even if (in my opinion) FM in any other situation reduces amateur radio to a very useful telephone service. Where would we be without a telephone service?

Somehow we have so far avoided those ear-bending days on 4m where your head is spinning after working seven or eight DXCC in half-hour whirlwind of broadcast interference and huge signals. Yes, we have had the broadcast stations, but not a full opening. Not so far. Not here.

A possible explanation arose from some details Richard, GI4DOH, sent me about Es. This came via the ARRL and amongst a lot of other information it raised the effect of geomagnetic events on Es. Certainly here for a few days the K number was high and all the Es vanished to points further South. Not that the geomagnetic disturbance stopped it, it just appeared to migrate away from the North. I have noticed this before but maybe there is a link here which needs to be investigated.

I heard that there was a 2m Es opening, which I missed. I must have been doing something else.

Anyway, that is enough for now. There is recorded television to be watched. There is radio to be done.





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  2. I am in Category B, I look down on those in Category A but look up to those in Category C. ;-)

    Category C will have to wait until we move and that won't happen for 15 years and 8 months which is when I retire.

  3. I know my place!

    Seeing the great job Otto did in the movie Airplane, I fear we might all be out of a job before that day arrives.

    73 Cheerful Jim