Sunday, August 31, 2008

Writer's block?

I haven't published an update in a few weeks, and I can only plead a mild case of writer's block. There are a few things that I though about, but I couldn't seem to get around to actually writing an entry. I figured that I'd just mention a few things quickly for now.

As a follow-up to my QSL Followup posting, I'm sad to report that my emails had a fairly poor result. I sent out about a dozen emails reminding folks of the cards that I'd sent and asking if they'd received my card. Of the dozen, a little more than half of those "bounced" because of an invalid email address. (For the most part, the addresses I found were from, though quite a number of people didn't have any email listed at all.) From the remaining half, I got exactly three replies: I got two from folks in the US, who both pleaded "busy life" (perfectly understandable) and who did indeed have my card (and SASE) and promised to send out a card in reply promptly. I've gotten one back from those two. The other response was from a fairly well-known Italian DXer to whom I'd requested cards from two  DX entities (TY, Benin, and ZP, Paraguy) for new band or mode contacts. He did confirm that he'd received my card and said he would send the requested cards out promptly. I received those two a week or so later, though interestingly they weren't in the Self-Addressed envelope that I'd sent. That's OK, at least he followed though.

I had hoped for a better response, and I must say that I'm pretty disappointed about the lack of response. I don't know if some of the recipients just don't QSL or perhaps have lost interest in the hobby, but I've always felt that even if for whatever reason you don't want to respond with a QSL card, it would be courteous to at least return my card (which won't cost anything; I've already paid the postage) and tell me why.

On another note, I still have not gotten my 6m beam up on the roof yet. I did do a bit more preliminary work, which involved getting some extra feedline up to the attic from my shack on the ground floor of my house, and making sure that I had all the parts and cables that I need. I just sort of never seem to get around to actually getting up on the roof. Hopefully I'll get around to it before it actually starts getting cold.

As for actually using the radio, I haven't made many contacts lately, but despite the just plain awful band conditions, I have managed to pick up some countries on new bands or modes. The most notable is my CW contact with Bruce, XW1B. Bruce and I chat fairly often via an instant messenger on the Internet, and as I mentioned a while back we'd been trying to work on CW for quite some time. Finally, a couple of weeks ago there was some good morning (my time) propagation to that part of the world, and we were able to make a (somewhat shaky, but definitely "good") CW contact. I'll finally get my CW and RTTY confirmation from Laos via Bruce, and I want to say publicly that I really appreciate his patience and help in making those contacts work.

In addition to working Bruce, the only really notable contact was A71A which I worked this afternoon on 20m CW, with CW being a new mode for Qatar for me.

One final note for today: I've had a few folks ask how my son Justin was doing with his recovery from spinal fusion surgery about six weeks ago. I'm happy to say that he's continued to improved, and now no longer needs the cane that he'd been using for almost two years to help him walk. He's got about another six weeks to go until he can stop wearing his back brace, but he's now walking around the neighborhood on a regular basis, which is something that the doctor said was the most important thing he could do for now. Thanks to those of you who've been asking.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More QSL followup

Last week, I received a really amazing card from VP6DX. As I mentioned in a post last March, the primary way that cards were to be requested was via an online system where the postage was paid for via PayPal. This worked out very well, and one of the nice things was that I got confirmation via Logbook of The World several months ago. But as nice as that was, it paled in comparison to receiving the QSL book from VP6DX. Calling it a card really doesn't make sense. This publication is a total of 36 (thirty-six!) pages (eighteen pages printed on two sides), and in addition to all the pictures, there's a lot of information about the dxpedition itself, about the equipment they used, what life was like on the island, and so on. The contacts with VP6DX were not the only ones I'd had with Ducie Island, and I initialy debated whether to actually sent for the card, since I knew that eventually I'd get confirmation via LoTW, but I'm really glad that I got the actual card for this.

While looking back at the post I mentioned, I saw that I'd given an update on the QSLing that I'd done at the end of December 2007. I thought that it might be a good time to do another update.

Unfortunately, things have changed very little. In March, I reported that I had received 67% of the cards back, which translated to 74 cards. Now, after about 32 weeks, I've received back 72%, or 80 cards. I haven't receive anything from that batch since the beginning of July. I did receive a few cards that had notes apologizing for the delay (one person had moved, one found a batch of cards behind a desk, etc.) and I never expected an instantaneous response.

However, as I mentioned previously, it's really disappointing to not get at least the domestic cards back, since I'd send an SASE with those, and generally the mail in the US is pretty reliable. What I decided to do was to write a note to those folks who I sent cards to but never received anything back, asking if they'd received my card and if so, would they mind taking a minute to just send me a return. I tried to be as nice as possible, mentioning that there are all kinds of good reasons why they might have never received or had a chance to respond to my card. I wasn't able to send emails to everyone, since probably 20% didn't have any email address that I could find, and of the ones that did, I got immediate email bounces from a few, and expect to get a few others back as well. I hope that by this time next week, I will have heard back from at least the majority of those, and I'll provide an update.