In looking at the last few years of my activity, I can see that 2011 was a more active year than the previous year by just about 50%! I think the main driving force behind this is the great propagation experienced on the high bands. Once 10 meters began to open on a regular basis, it was like comparing the few over the air TV channels we get to satellite TV. It just made me sit back in amazement! I would dedicate hours playing on 10 meters, the band that has been so silent for so long. 2011 was all about 10, numerically speaking. The fantastic 10 meter activity led to my inactivity in other areas. My doctor keeps telling me I need to be more active and I took her advice! I made twice as many contacts in 2011 as I did in 2010! Something tells me that is not what she had in mind.
When I sit back and think if there was one moment that stood out amongst all the rest, I can't think of just one. So many great contests, several great DXpeditions worked, lots of repeat QSO's with friends from all over the globe. If there was one DXpedition that stood out I would probably have to say it was T32C. A group of fantastic operators who made lots of DX'ers happy all over the world. In recent years, there have been several "class acts" when it comes to DXpeditions and T32C is right there at the top in my book. Oh, and I'm running out of all space for framed certificates received from contest efforts. I have a small station and remember, you can't win if you don't enter! Send in those logs! I will at least send in a checklog unless of course I totally space sending a log in. It happens.
And in speaking of sending in logs, how bout that LOTW overload which began with what, CQ World Wide SSB? Now if that is not a sign of hot propagation, I don't know what is. I for one am a firm believer in electronic QSL's, specifically LOTW. With another postage increase in our future, I could not afford QSL'ing on my tight budget. I'm thankful these electronic services are available and the only cost is perks or award submissions.
And 2011 saw, what seemed to me, so many references to the DX Code Of Conduct. A good thing yes, especially if an operator takes these to heart. I have them now sitting next to my HF radio and reference them often. If anyone has been on the receiving side of a pile-up, they can appreciate them! Do yourself a favor, if you have not reviewed the DX Code Of Conduct, please do so. Just imagine how civilized the pile-ups would be if everyone followed them! Will that day ever come? I'm not holding my breath but I also want world peace.
2011 to me also saw myself becoming familiar with spots from W3LPL. I only wished I had half the receiving power of that station! You can run but you can't hide! I have run for nearly an hour without being spotted on the "packet cluster" (dating myself), prior to W3LPL. Now when you call CQ, you need to fasten your seatbelt and hang on. The pile-ups can be instantaneous. Yes, Skimmer has been with us for awhile but now DX spots feed directly into the web cluster and it's amazing how quickly you get posted when calling CQ. Depending who you talk to, this is either a bad thing or a good thing. One of the neat ways I like to use this technology is by typing my callsign in the Reverse Beacon Network and this will tell me where and how well I'm being heard after calling CQ. Or even after being on the air in a QSO. I've been in this hobby for 23 years and the advancements I have seen just in my time are crazy. You can now look at a radio and see any activity on a band thanks to a spectrum scope! I no longer have to tune the band by turning my VFO looking for stations! I can just look at my spectrum scope and see it visually! The spectrum scope did for ham radio what remote control did for the television...well, kinda maybe?!
In sticking with my theme (aka: New Years Resolution) as I like to think of it ( maybe if I refer to it as a theme, I may stick to the plan?) I plan on doing something which to me, is as hard as the day I quit smoking. Do less ham radio. I want to focus on high activity times and spend less average operational time in the shack. Seems we are hearing that all the time these days, "Doing more with Less." So, I will try to make more contacts but with less time in the shack. Probably with contests and weekend activities. I figure I can accomplish this theme if I limit my "during the week" shack time. Something I'm sure my family may appreciate and if I actually do something with that time. The fruits of my labor may pay off in more ways than one. Until they come out with the ham radio patch, it's an addiction I find hard to walk away from without having side effects or withdrawal.
Trends or fads are a fact of life. I always wonder how there is still a market for TNC's when we have sound cards which come with most computers and not to mention new TNC's bring some serious coin! In today's economy, how is there a market for a $10,000 radio or a $5,000 dollar antenna? Cell phones are no longer cell phones and these funny square boxes keep showing up all over the place which tell our cell phones were to go! Go ahead, click on this one, I know you want to just to see where it takes you! If you don't know what this is, don't worry as you probably lead a simpler life and I'm envious. Just like the hair styles of the 80's, these will probably be a thing of the past in a few years. But wait, look how many things we grew up with that are making a come back!
So, I'm not sure if my ham radio diet will be successful but a leaner and more productive station is the plan. There were times I was thankful when I turned the radio on and heard nothing but static. It allowed me to give a large sigh and go do something that needed to be done around the house. But now I turn on the radio and I hear stuff on 10 meters, so it's so tough to just say no and walk away! I'm still trying to get it in my mind that we are already in 2012 and I'm writing about my 2011 reflections. But hold the phone!!!! The end of the world is 12/12/12, right? Or according to some anyhow. Forget it, I'm gonna play radio as much as possible! Come on sunspots, let's see days when 10 meters is open all day and all night long! I want to enjoy this great propagation as much as possible! If you lead this camel to water, it will drink! Pour me a glass of rare DX and I will sip it all night long! The sweet taste of DX success.
Ham radio, like a fine wine, is good in moderation. I've been DX drunk thanks to 10 meters for the last few months and I have enjoyed every opening. I appreciate all who read this blog and for those ham operators out there, I honestly hope that 2012 is a DX successful year for you. May your country (Entity) count increase twofold and may your bureau envelopes be bursting at the seams. I hope your LOTW and E-QSL totals climb each and every time you log into your account. Let's hope that your neighbors decide to do the right thing and donate their HDTV's to third world countries and replace them with LED and RFI friendly versions. Yeah, okay...remember what I said about world peace? I'm not giving up hope.
Happy New Year and all kidding aside, I hope it's one for your record books. I'm not sure if we will experience an all night 10 meter opening but if so, I'm crashing my ham radio diet. Until we can control propagation, I gotta do what I gotta do. I wonder if there is an app for that?