Staying Sane

Label for Phaser 20 meter Digital Mode Transceiver Kit

Here we are, in the After Times. The Strange Days. As a resident of Gen X, I was promised that the apocalypse would be swift and that there would be an immediate free fall into chaos. As it turns out, the apocalypse we got is more of a slow settling to the bottom of the ocean. Thoughts like these are prompting me to look for ways to fill the hours. Reading is always a good use of time (see also: books I cleared off of the pile last week) but it still brings thoughts with it that might not be the best for the times. What’s a body to do?

If I were so inclined, I’d be working on handicrafts. I’m not very good at that. I’ve done some tree pruning. I’ve installed a bird feeder. I’m poking around at the things in the house that need doing, but that’s not very recreational now, is it? It doesn’t feel like it.

There was a time when I would solder something together at least once a year. Synthesizer kits. Effects pedals. Winding my own pickups for guitars that were never finished. Right now seems to be a renaissance of kits for radio amateurs. Yes, the original “Social Distancers” have a lot to choose from these days. So I threw in and picked up this kit. It only does FT8 and one other mode (I’m going to try JS8 for this one). It only works on 20m. And it looks like it’s fairly simple to assemble, test, and get on the air.

A little time spent staring at tiny parts with a soldering iron in my hand will hopefully bring some much needed mental quiet. That’s the name of the game.

There will be more on this as I build it on The Other Blog That I Don’t Update Much.


A Spread from CQ Magazine

Last night, I was sitting in my Jeep waiting for my son to finish something and I pulled out my CQ Magazine. There was a really great spread on a team that ran a DX expedition to the British Virgin Islands. They were chasing the ghost of an Englishman who fixed up a sailboat and headed out to see the world on his own. He made a lot of contacts as he rounded the islands and was on the air for quite a while.

I’m a sucker for tales of Englishmen who head out into the world to chase something like that. It’s back to being a conquistador of the useless (a reference for those into the climbing scene of which I am decidedly only a spectator). There is no good reason for going out to sea like that. Even less to poke around with a radio. And less still to go to an island with the express purpose of being someone for people who are in their homes to call. But being useful isn’t much of an end, is it? Not most of the time, I don’t think.

I watch these folks go out and try to ship themselves and their gear to all parts of the world to sit on a lonely island in potentially harsh conditions simply to say “I’m here! Can you hear me? I can hear you!”

Living now, in the After (and there are so many things that have ended in the past few years that this is most assuredly an After Time), it’s easy to see why someone would want to drop it all and wander off. There is very little to be seen or gained from the vantage point of a computer screen.

Fishing. Geocaching. Camping. Overlanding. SOTA. POTA. Any kind of field radio, really. All excuses to get outside and check a box on a list you made yourself that is accountable to no one else. And that serves no greater purpose than to be logged in your own, personal journal.

No, I don’t have any maps open on my desk. Why do you ask?


This was a big week for reading. I have to credit the introduction of The Hammock for a good deal of my reading. Something about the view and simply falling back into a reclined position puts the mind in a space to receive a good book.

Finished this week:

  • A Cook’s Tour – Anthony Bourdain
  • Gathering Moss – Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Paradise Lot – Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates 
  • The Tobacconist – Robert Seethaler (translated by Charlotte Collins)

All of these were good books for very different reasons. I enjoyed them all. It’s difficult for me, as I get older, to figure out what I should recommend to a friend and what I enjoy because it resonates with some weird combination of things that might be specific to me. Not to say that I think I’m something unique, but I think there are plenty of things that I enjoy because I do and not because of anything grand or great about the thing itself. I’m more and more that way with books.

Gathering Moss

Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I can’t remember how I found this one. I think it was mentioned in a newsletter I read because that’s really the only place outside of humans I know that I get book recommendations anymore.

This is different. It’s the story of a mother and a lover of moss. A scientist with a deeply spiritual bent. I really enjoyed it. The chapters are compact and move quickly. The author is clearly an expert but it’s the excitement about moss(!) that really pulled me through this book.

I’d definitely recommend it. It’s up there with something by Muir.

Cook’s Tour

A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain

I came to the Bordain game a bit on the late side. I’m not sure what it was that put me off for so long, but I did, eventually, bite in. Sadly, it was after his passing. Having chewed on Kitchen Confidential for as long as I could, I finished it and picked up this one.

It’s a different read. The travel aspect is interesting. But since I’ve seen every episode of Parts Unknown it was nice to get a little bit behind that curtain that exists when building a travel/food program.

What stands out for me more than anything is the depression in his writing. Put aside the 20/20 hindsight for a minute and read the words. In many ways, he’s lost in himself. Some of that resonates with me. And that’s likely his greater appeal. He is a flawed human being who knows it. That weight shows in some of the asides and his typical self-deprecating commentary.

It does make me want to travel. Though I’m not sure I will anytime soon.