• 21 Dec 2005: Far too long between updates, but I've got a bit of an excuse - I'm revamping the Family TreeHouse web site! It'll have an all new look-n-feel, and there'll be new information and new sections, and a (hopefully) better navigation system so you can find things easier. Look for it sometime after the first of the year. In the meantime - HAPPY HOLIDAYS Everyone!!!
30 Oct 2005: The end of October already. Summer is too soon gone. Sigh!  The Boston area got snow yesterday! Enough to cover the grass and stick to the leaves that haven't fallen yet, but only a bit of slush on the road. It worked out perfectly for me, because I short-cut the lawn again yester morning before anything started falling from the sky, and then put down my winterizer lawn fertilizer. An hour or so after that it started snowing, and the grass and new fertilizer got a nice moist covering of snow to help the winterizer seep slowly into the ground to the roots. I couldn't have asked for better timing!

I've begun building a new server for the house. I picked up an MSI (P4MAM2-V) motherboard and a new-style Intel Pentium-4 (2.66 GHz, with a 533 MHz hyper-threading bus) CPU bundled together on sale in September for $80 ($110 off list). A week or so into October I found 1 GB DDR DRAM boards for $119 on-line, so I picked up one of those. I had a spare 200 GB drive, and an old CD-ROM drive that came out of my main machine when I bought the DVD-Writer.  All I needed was a chassis and a power supply, and MicroCenter had them on sale this week ($20 for the mid-tower chassis and $40 for a 450W power supply). So my new 2.66 MHz hyper-threaded P-4 with a Gig of memory and a 200 GB drive cost me about $260 total. I put it together last night and I'm configuring it now.

I've been traveling a lot lately, and more to come in November. I made 2 week-long trips to CD in October, and so far I'm scheduled for 3 more days down there the first full week of November, and then a week down in Fort Walton Beach FL the week after that. The only good part is that I'll easily make my Silver Preferred frequent flyer again with USAir.

Tomorrow is Halloween. We'll do our usual set-up for the kiddies; spider-webs all over the front door area, cover the lights with orange cellophane, put a scary-looking witch-dummy sitting on a small chair by the front door, then wire the whole place for sound. We play scary sound effects and Halloween music, and when kids come to the door, the witch talks to them because the sound system is also a PA system with a microphone in the house! This is what the decorations look like around the front door.  It used to be that we were the best- (only?) decorated house in the neighborhood for Halloween night. A bunch of neighbors have caught up with us over the years, and some have surpassed us (strobes, fog machines, coffins, headstones, etc.), but we don't feel the need to ratchet it up to keep up. It's enough as it is.

  • 18 Sept 2005: Lynn and I just got back from a week away in Maine. We spent 3 days in the Bar Harbor area, and then 4 days by a lake near Brownville Junction. Here are some photos...
  • 05 Sept 2005: Labor Day - summer's over! SNIFF! It has been a spectacular weekend, weather-wise though. We've enjoyed it. It was so nice I decided to get up at the crack of dawn Sunday morning and drive over to Great Meadows National Wildlife Preserve in Concord MA to shoot photos. I got up about 6, got dressed and scooted out with my camera gear and my Meade ETX  telescope that can also be used as a camera lens.  I left the telescope in the car for later, and headed out over the preserve's causeway with my camera bag and a tripod.  I filled up my 512 MB card (170+ photos), but boy was it fun!  Click here for a quick selection of shots I liked (NOT all 170!! ;).
  • 13 Aug 2005: Not much happening at the TreeHouse during the dog days of August. We're suffering with the heat... It hasn't been record-breaking hot, but it's been close, and it's been very humid, and there have been lots of days like that! The AC has been running pretty much continuously, and that's unusual. We'll usually have a string of 3-4 days like this, but then it usually breaks and we have warm dry days and cool dry nights, and the windows can be open to let in the cold fresh air. Not this year, at least not often.

We spent an overnight at our friends Peter and Linda's house down in the Providence area recently. Saturday night we went to the WaterFire festival down along the Providence river. Pretty neat! As usual, I took a bunch of pictures.

  • 09 July 2005: We're back from a few day's escape to the White Mountains in NH. While there we took it easy, lounged around the condo, took pictures, did some quilting, did some reading, went fishing, walked the Flume, took a dinner train, and generally had a relaxing time.  AAAHHHHH.
  • 04 July 2005: What a great holiday/anniversary (31 years and counting) we had! First, we hosted a friends-and-family Lobster Feed out on our deck. The weather was spectacular and we had a great time. We boiled up ten 2 pounders and everyone had their fill.  There's a great wholesaler in Boston where I go to get lobsters when we have them... they're Maine lobsters (cold water - the best).  Then we joined friends on Memorial Drive in Cambridge (we set our chairs up in the travel lane of the northbound side) to watch the Esplanade fireworks in person! We had never ventured in to Boston for the fireworks on the 4th before because of the crowds, but our mental images were of the crowds at the esplanade itself. It never occurred to us that a) you could see the fireworks just as well from the Cambridge side of the river, and b) the city of Cambridge would close Memorial Drive and make it a pedestrian mall for the evening! They set up speakers on towers (the scissor-jack platforms in the photo) to broadcast the music, and the fireworks are right there over the river. A visceral experience (whump WHUMP!).
  • 01 July 2005: I stepped out the door this morning to head to work (last day of work before skipping out for a week's vacation), and I noticed a larger than usual number of dew catchers (small spider webs put out to capture moisture during the night) in the grass. I walked out the walk to look at one, thought for a moment about going back into the house to get my camera, then I turned around... There was even a vertical web glistening in the bushes by the front door...
  • 25 Jun 2005: We went out at dusk last night with some friends to view and try to photograph the 3-planet convergence occurring low in the WNW sky. Haze and clouds obscured most of the show (we saw Venus and Saturn, never did see Mercury, but Saturn was so blurry I couldn't even tell that it had rings, never mind see the gaps between them).  The convergence was pretty much a bust. Maybe tonight, but not likely because our heat wave creates a lot of haze.

BUT...   While we were moaning and groaning about the haze, Lynn pointed up high in the SW and said "What's that one? It's not twinkling either" (planets tend not to twinkle as much as stars). It was Jupiter  - high up in the sky and clear as a bell (well, far clearer than the convergence). We re-aligned the telescopes (we had three set up; a Celestron F80 EQ WA, a Meade ETX, and a Celestron FirstScope EQ60) and got a clean view of the big gas planet and four of its moons.

I had the digital camera attached to the Meade ETX table-top telescope which comes with a sidereal drive so I was able to get decent time-exposures of Jupiter and its moons, attached. For those perfectionists, yes, sidereal drives are meant to track stars and deep-space objects, not planets, but for short periods of time (measured in seconds) it's a good approximation, and far better than nothing at all! ;)

This Jupiter shot (heavily cropped to eliminate most of the black sky) was taken from the parking lot of Northeastern University's Burlington Campus (the old Nike missile site up on a hill off South Bedford St., for those who know the area) at 9:39 pm (the EXIF time is off - I forgot to reset the camera for daylight-savings time), with a 4-second exposure at ISO 400. The Meade ETX used as a lens works out to be about an f/13 at 1250mm, if I remember my previous calculations correctly.  Turns out when I did much longer than 4 seconds, the wind blowing across the parking lot - and the non-sidereal motion of the planets - caused a blurring of the images.

This experiment was fun, but it makes me appreciate all the more the great clear photos of planets taken with giant telescopes and planetary (not sidereal) drives!

  • 11 Jun 2005: Hey! Summer's here! We skipped spring.  Seems like we went from low 40's and rainy to mid 90's, hot, humid, and afternoon thunder boomers. Nothing in between!  The rehabilitation of the corner bedroom into a quilting and sewing room is complete. It took a lot longer than I expected (as usual), but with a house-guest scheduled to arrive next week, I had incentive to finish up, move Lynn in, and re-assemble the other bedroom as a guest room. We moved her sewing stuff in last night, now I'll clean up the former sewing room and set it up as a bedroom again. Now I'll have to get back to my yard-work that's been neglected while I was working on the quilt room!

The Family TreeHouse has transformed into a bit of a nature preserve recently. We had a rare stretch of dry weather a couple of weeks back, so I picked up some Thompson's Water-Seal to treat the wood deck out back. As I was moving plastic things that might get stained by any dripping liquid out from under the deck, I heard a squawk and looked up to see a mother robin glaring down at me from a nest she had built up under the decking, with 4 beaks poking out from under her. Since dripping wood waterproofing probably doesn't sit well with baby robins, the treating of the deck was postponed. Here they are mid-week this week, almost ready to fly. By this morning the nest looks empty, so I can remove the nest and wait for another stretch of dry weather so I can finally get to treat the deck!  We also had a visit from a cast member of Watership Down out under the deck as well - this is a picture Lynn took from inside the closed cellar door!

  • 08 May 2005: Yikes! More than two months has passed since I last did a website update! It's been busy, for sure, but I've also been lazy - end-of-winter blahs, I guess. Happy Mother's Day! Megan and Audrey provided their traditional Mother's Day gift to Lynn today... they planted 250 marigold plants along the front walk for her. The girls have gotten quite efficient at this job as they get older (or was it because it was cold and drizzly today and they wanted to finish and go back inside? ;)

A lot has happened since my last update. Megan recently had some unwelcome excitement - her car was vandalized. Someone threw a boulder or two through the back window. She's pretty sure it was some of the brat kids who live in her apartment complex. The police even have a witness, but nothing's come of it so far. She's still working for Pizza Hut, on track to become assistant manager sometime in the near future, hopefully. Speaking of managerial positions, Audrey has been offered the assistant manager's job at the EBGames store she works at. It pays lots more than CVS, so she'll probably be leaving CVS. She still wants to go to pharmacy school, but she doesn't get paid enough at CVS to allow for saving for college.

 Lynn and I are re-doing one of the bedrooms upstairs into a real quilt - sewing room for Lynn. She has been using the middle small bedroom, but we gutted the corner bedroom (a little bit bigger, 3 windows, south-facing exposure), ripped out the carpet, pulled up all the baseboards, put in two set of track-lights in addition to the ceiling fan and light that was there, re-wired everything, added a second multimedia drop (phone, internet, and cable TV) on the wall opposite from the original drop. We'll paint the walls and woodwork and lay down Pergo laminate flooring instead of carpet.  Once all that's done, we'll set up the middle bedroom as our guest room.

Winter ended and yard work began without any transition. I'm mowing the lawn weekly now, and with all the rain we've had lately, I may have to up that to every 4-5 days.  I still have a second raised garden to build at the north end of the pergola (where the blue tarp is in the photo), and we're starting to replace the line of rubble rock along the side street side of the yard with a similar raised bed, for Rose of Sharon bushed and other similar things.

  • 20 Feb 2005: First the Red Sox, now the Patriots! Again!! I don't know if we New England sports fans can handle it! There was a great (albeit slightly tongue-in-cheek) quote by Dan Daly in the Washington Times the day after the Superbowl (I'm paraphrasing here):

New England rules ALL FOUR major sports, not just two - Think about it: The Patriots just won their third Lombardi Trophy in four years, the Red Sox broke the 86-year-old 'Curse of the Bambino' by winning the World Series this fall, Boston College's men's basketball team is [was at the time] 20-0 for the first time in school history - and the Bruins haven't lost a hockey game since last spring!

Lynn and I had a second trip to Florida last month. We returned to the same area as before so Lynn could get a medical assessment for jaw problems. For the past 10-15 years, Lynn has had jaw problems (as did her mother, it appears to be hereditary). She has TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint) disease, where the jaw joint on either (or in Lynn's case, both) sides deteriorates.  It causes a lot of pain when talking or eating, and alters the position of the lower jaw and screws up the bite.

We went to a world-renowned Maxillo-Facial Surgery specialist down in St. Petersburg (recommended by our local dentist) to get an assessment of the problem and the possibilities of fixing it from his point of view.  Fascinating visit.  She had an MRI and a CT scan done, plus positional portraits (mug shots - emphasis on the jaw) and a Doppler sonogram (records the amount of noise coming from the jaw).  She also had two mouth casts made, and had three blocks (Novocaine in a nerve); one in the occipital nerve in the back of the neck, one directly into the TMJ joint in the face, and another into the sympathetic nerve in the front of the neck.  It was a busy day, to say the least.

This guy down in St. Pete does a radical repair procedure that no-one else (apparently) does, where he transplants fat tissue into the jaw joint to replace the destroyed disks.  If that weren't weird enough, once you have this done you have to have the jaw immobile (think Hannibal Lector in  Silence of the Lambs) for up to 6 months or more. We'll be getting 2nd and 3rd opinions too, but our dentist (whom we both think highly of) said this guy was the best, so we figured we'd check it out.

  • 02 Jan 2005: Another year started, my how time flies! Christmas at the VOGT Family TreeHouse was low-key and pleasant.  Both Megan and Audrey were home, though Audrey had to divide her time between here and Jake's house (to be expected). We had Megan's roommates Seth and Corey over for Christmas Eve dinner, which was very nice and festive. Megan slept over, and Christmas morning we did stockings and then had our traditional Christmas breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and lox (Scottish smoked salmon this year). Then Audrey dashed off to Jake's house for a while and the rest of us vegged out.  When she came back with Jake, we opened our under-the-tree presents in a leisurely fashion.  After that it was off to sister Betty's house for the traditional Christmas Day gathering. The day after we hosted a "Thanksgiving, it's over!" dinner party for 3 other couples, complete with turkey dinner! A good time was had by all.

We rung in the New Year in our traditional fashion, at our friends' house with other folks as well. There was three parties in one this year; old duffers like us, out-of-college folks, and high-school-senior folks. Another great time was had by all, including the annual viewing of Dinner For One, a German New Year's tradition!

Also, the 2004 edition of the VOGT Family Christmas newsletter is out. You can read it (and past ones too) here...

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