Jun 29, 2010

Website and Blog Changes

I'll bet you've noticed some changes going on with our website and blog during the past week or two. Here's the story of what I've been up to.

Over the past 3+ years our website (www.tdhoch.com) has been the focus of our online presence. It included a total of four pages (front page, links page, about us page, and a maps page), and a menu that included links to our online photo albums and our blog -- The RV Sabbatical Journal. It worked well, but the downsides are that it involves a monthly charge for the web-hosting service, and requires a separate software program (an HTML editor) on each computer that I used to update the site.

Our blog, The RV Sabbatical Journal (tdhoch.blogspot.com), has always been generated with simple online blogging software -- which is out there, somewhere, on the internet, on a server owned and operated by somebody else -- which means a lot less work and expense for old Thom when it comes to keeping the software up-to-date and functioning. It also means I can do the blog from any computer that's online since no specialized p.c. software is needed. What's more, the blogging service I use costs us nothing. I don't know how or why they can do it, but it's literally free.

Recently, the blogging software has gotten much better. It now includes features and capabilities that make it a viable alternative to our simple website. Over the past couple weeks I've been adding those functions to the blog with an eye toward eliminating the need for both the website and  the blog. And, as of today, being satisfied with the way it seems to be working out, I'm pulling the plug on the old website. From this point forward the focus of our online presence will be the blog -- The RV Sabbatical Journal.

Functionally the biggest change is the line of tabs that stretch across the page just below the header and title. They include a page "about" us, a photo page, pages for videos, maps, and a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page.

Another thing that's making this change easy for us and our readers is that the old website address (www.tdhoch.com) will now automatically forward to the blog. That is, regardless of which address you use, you'll end up at the blog -- The RV Sabbatical Journal.

Let us know how this change is working for you... if you see any problems... if something isn't clear... or if you like the change.  It's a work in process and will continue to evolve as time goes along.


Jun 25, 2010

Ice for 24 Hours

"Apply ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes every waking hour for the first 24 hours". This was among a series of instructions on a post-operative care sheet provided after my tooth extraction procedure yesterday. Others including "fluids are important", "cool fluids are best", and "take pain medication" indicated to me that perhaps a couple extra "brew-skis", well chilled, would be just what the doctor ordered. When I returned home after my 3pm procedure yesterday, I chilled on the patio while the local anesthetic wore off and reflected on the previous couple hours.

I'm not strong when it comes to anything dental or medical. I've been known to "self-anesthetize" (pass out) before, during, or after procedures that even girls and small children can handle with class and dignity. That's right Bunky... I'm a big wuss.

I had nothing but the best in an oral surgeon. He had more initials after his name than I can remember... DDS, MD, S&M, and DT (Doctor of Torture?). Since he was made clearly aware of my propensity to go off to la-la land at times like this, he made sure I was hooked up to both the oxygen line and the nitrous oxide line and turned the valves to "max".

The tooth in question was deteriorating due to something called resorption -- a process where the tooth structure is eaten away by the activation of the bodies innate ability to remove mineralized tissue. My body was turning on it's own tooth. It's unknown exactly why this happens. Regardless, the tooth has got to go.

After being strapped onto a chair in the torture chamber, having the aforementioned gasses hooked up, and a little weak Novocaine injected here and there for my "comfort", the team went to work.

"You might feel a little pressure now... does it hurt?"

"gahh" (yes!)

"Good. Now more pressure." The vice-grip he had clamped to the tooth was being twisted and strongly wrenched back and forth, to and fro, up and down -- like you do when trying to loosen a tent peg driven deeply in hard soil.. "Now you'll hear and feel a pop any time now..."

"gaahhh" (I can't stand much more of this!)

(Pop?  Crack!... similar to what you'd expect when biting a corner off a china dinner plate. Man-O-man)

"There, we got the crown off... now we'll go after the roots... this is totally expected in cases like this. It's going to come out in pieces. You still OK?"

'gwwahh" (No, I'm NOT OK!)

If I could have talked I would have. I would have confessed to anything they'd ask me to confess to. Alright, maybe I plotted against the government... OK, I stole the Hope diamond ... and I was responsible for any... no, all, the unsolved murder cases in the file. Anything! Just make this be over.

"Now you'll hear a loud drilling sound as we dig out the roots." A slow whirring, grinding sound accompanied by matching vibrations followed.

"ggraahhaa" (I think I'm dying!)

"Are you still with us Thom?" Long pause... "Thom?"

"ggaah" (I'm goin' fast!)

A series of grinding, drilling, and popping sounds filled the torture chamber for the next few minutes. I don't know if it was the nitrous oxide or being driven to within a millimeter of unconsciousness and death, but I felt like I was outside of my body... a simple distant observer... curious why anyone would actually permit this to be done. I was a happy guy when I walked in the front door just a few minutes earlier... no pain... feelin' good. And now this... just because some people said the tooth had to go. I was thinking the old tooth really wasn't such a bad tooth after all. It had served me well for over 50 years. It wasn't a major problem, was it? Why didn't I just decide to live with it a while longer. I mean, what's the worst that could happen... that it'll eventually fall out by itself?  Since I was already out of my body I thought I'd try to transport myself to the Islands, maybe Aruba, where I could just fall asleep on the sand under an umbrella and wait for this bad dream to be over. Hmmm.

Every "crack" of another small section of well-embedded root brought me back. I sensed both the surgeon and the assistant grimacing and shaking their heads in frustration with each "crack"... like an excavator being frustrated by an immovable boulder... only able to break off chunks but not get the whole thing.

"Just a little more... we're almost done"

"Aarrgh gwaaa" (You better have a good lawyer!!!)

"There! I think that went pretty well. I knew it'd be a tough one"

"Garhh" (dear Lord... did I survive?)

I guess it wasn't so bad after all.

Back home, on the patio,
nursing a bottle of Mr. Daniels Amber Restorative...

Jun 21, 2010

Big Weekend in Beaver Dam

Oh yes! It was quite a weekend here in our little home town of Beaver Dam. And the weather-gods provided nearly perfect early summer conditions for it all.

The local Chamber of Commerce's Taste of Wisconsin was held Saturday afternoon on a blocked-off portion of Spring Street in downtown Beaver Dam. The focus was craft beer and craft cheeses -- dozens and dozens of them, all from the State of Wisconsin. And what an interesting collection of tastes it was. Nothing bland or pedestrian was permitted -- no Velveeta or Cheese Whiz or Bud Lite. From what I could observe, the attendees were mostly daring adventurous types who savor bold gustatory sensations. And they pretty much got what they were looking for. Smiles and good-natured conversations all around. It was a great way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon.

 And Sunday was Father's Day. My Mom & Dad hosted a small family gathering at their home to celebrate a couple birthdays in addition to the father's day thing. Mom prepared a great turkey dinner complete with mash'd potatoes, gravy, veggies, a strawberry-pineapple salad, and a cake for all the honorees. The normal quick banter and laughter that characterizes our family gatherings started before dinner and continued well into the evening. Family gatherings just don't get much better than this.

In the photo above... (left to right) Thom, Dar, brother Bill, Mom, Dad, sister Jan, and brother-in-law Dave.

Other things of note this week:  besides summer solstice, the day with the most daylight during the year, I have an appointment to have a problematic tooth removed -- pulled, yanked, YEOW!  I'm not a strong person when it comes to anything dental or medical, so I'll be real happy when Friday roles around and that's all behind me.

Jun 19, 2010

Bird Shot

I wonder what's going on inside?

Is anybody home?

A family of hungry swallows hamming it up for the camera. Click on 'em for a larger pic.

There's more going on at the farm than one might imagine... if you only look closely.


Jun 18, 2010

Our Little Town

More of the same... that's what's been going on with our anxious explorers the past week or so. Visiting with family, pecking away at projects and to-do's, and generally enjoying the slightly wetter than normal summer so far.

This morning Dar found a strawberry patch and brought home a flat of same. I love eaten' em, not so fond of pickin' em. I thought some of you might enjoy seeing the finished "patio" that we built alongside the bus-house parking pad here at the farm. This is mostly Dar's work... I was employed as grunt labor only and told to get out of the way when artistic or aesthetic decisions were made. Photos can be enlarged by clicking.

On Thursday morning we made our annual visit to Chili John's Cafe in downtown Beaver Dam. I've written about this local institution before so let me just say that it's been in continuous operation since 1920 -- certainly the longest continuous running restaurant in Beaver Dam. It's one of those places that, for me, if it ceased to exist I'd consider the world slightly off-kilter... something just wouldn't be right. Chris Stavropolus, the grand-son of the founder, is the current owner and operator. Much of the time it's a one-man operation -- he cooks, waits tables, does dishes, everything! Our group of 7 enjoyed the ambiance and Chris's efficient movements as he danced from grill to counter to fridge to table and back. It was tough to get him to stand still long enough to get a picture.

Oh, and that's Chris's big Indian motorcycle out front. After breakfast Dar and I strolled through downtown Beaver Dam. Like many small towns in the USA, it's been decimated by the advance of progress, affluence, and the success of free-enterprise. These small multi-storied buildings just don't work economically any more -- they're too small and too cut-up to compete with the huge one-level big box stores that offer an unimaginable range of selection and choices. Thus, they become tattoo parlors, real estate offices, antique shops, martial arts studios, and swinging-door business incubators with a low success rate. It's easy to feel saddened by it all, but it is what it is. Evolution has an ugly side in nature (the death of individuals that can't adapt) and it has an ugly side in our society's economic system too.

That's the news from our little town today.

Jun 8, 2010

A Day Inside

Those of you around Beaver Dam know we're still here. But others could be wondering why we disappeared from cyber-space the past week or more. No excuse... just working on other projects. The Journal and website sit out "there", become over-ripe, or maybe "stale" would be a better word, and readers drop off -- tired of checking and finding the same old stuff day after day. And that's just the way it is when we're at an extended camp and the weather is so conducive to outside projects.

Ah, but today, Tuesday, the weather finally cooperated and we couldn't get outside to do anything if we had wanted. The high temp was in the 50f's, it was windy, rainy, blustery ALL day. The furnace got a good workout, as did all 3 of our PCs. It was an inside day from morning to night.

One of my inside projects is backing up more than 5 years of photos and videos onto a WD Elements 500GB portable external drive. We had photos stored here, there, and elsewhere on our aging and HD-challenged machines (size is important sometimes), and it was becoming a chore to manage the thousands of images and keep them securely backed up.  My intention is to use the external drive as our "primary" central photo/video storage device, and have only recent months "backed up" on our aging PC's for ease of viewing. We also burn a DVD of all these files and ship them off-site every month or two as the last leg of our backup strategy. And, for those thinking that we backup images online... our online Picasa photo gallery contains only a small portion of the pics taken during our travels, and they're not full sized copies... and thus, not really backups.

I also recently had a touch of flu??? or, more likely, a bad cocktail onion in a gin martini the other night. It only lasted a few hours and I was back to near-normal after a day or two. And no knowing snickers from the audience please... it was just one stinkin' drink... OK?

Another outside project that's almost complete is a 100 sq. foot paver patio conveniently placed right next to the RV pad out here at the farm. I don't know why, but Dar has this innate desire to pave things with brick or concrete pavers. She's done it before (remember Rockport?)... she'll do it again. She enlisted my help as a class 3 laborer for this project and I think it's lookin' pretty darned good. We now have a dry place for morning coffee that will also come in handy for happy-hour (but no danged gin or cocktail onions!). One of these days we'll get photos of the project uploaded to our online photo gallery for you to use as procrastination fodder.

More soon....

Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

This past Tuesday, we moved from Branson to a very nice Corps of Engineer’s Park on Wappapello Lake.  We’re in the Redman Creek CG. This fac...