Friday, August 10, 2007

The War of the Words

We are still at the Santa Fe Elks, enjoying the fresh air, beautiful vistas, and relative cool of the mountains.

I spent a good part of yesterday getting some projects done around the house, as well as more fiddling with the fuel separator. Louise spent all of yesterday -- well, I guess you already know how she spent her day.

I'm glad Louise has found a calling to write more on the blog. We have very different styles and certainly different interests, and I am hoping that her writing will provide some counterpoint to my often dry, arcane, and perhaps overly lengthy posts -- what she sometimes calls "blogorrhea."

But talk about lengthy! OMG, yesterday's post took her all day to compose, and it is certainly a tome. Nevertheless, unlike any of my posts, I am confidently predicting that this post is destined to become a classic in the RV blogosphere, and will be linked, copied, or cited around the 'net. We had been asked that question several times in person, a couple times in email, and at least once here on the blog, and a comprehensive answer was a daunting proposition. It was a real achievement for her to get it all down in writing (and complete with cover photos and links to retailers, to boot).

Now the challenge is for me to remain motivated to continue the part of the blogging that I have always done. I try to blog at least once every time we move (so at least one post from every overnight location), and I will continue to do so. And I suspect that Louise will develop her own loyal readership along with all the folks that have followed along thus far. You may have already noticed that we've moved the by-line from the bottoms to the tops of the posts, so you can safely skip over either of us if the style does not suit you.

Speaking of an excess of words, I've been very active over on the bus boards in the last several days. (And, since I sign my posts with the blog URL, that's brought quite a few visitors over here.) Most of that posting has been in threads that I myself started, looking for help with our cooling issues and, more recently, the fuel delivery problem.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that asking for help on a bulletin board is not to be done lightly. I tend, therefore, to explore many other avenues first, and save crying "wolf" over on the boards for more dire circumstances. (In contrast, there seem to be some folks who think nothing of asking questions there that 30 seconds with Google would answer.) Generally, by the time I ask a question there, I've already done several hours of research on my own. Usually, the questions I ask are very specific, and I tend to be nothing if not completely forthcoming with all the details of the background -- some would say too many details.

That said, any question asked on the boards, I've learned, will generate:
  • several answers to the actual question, only some of which are correct
  • several pieces of information that, while not direct answers to the question, will, nevertheless, be factual, useful, and perhaps answer questions that should have been asked, but weren't
  • many comments on why one should have done things differently from some previous point, thus avoiding even needing to ask the question currently being asked
  • questions that may be related to your original question, but that someone else wants answered ("thread hijacking")
  • completely off-topic remarks that are actually commentary on something that just happened to come up in the course of the thread
Now, I generally take the approach that it is better to ask the question, and then have to wade through the responses to cherry-pick the useful and relevant information out, than to not ask at all, and thus get no information at all. But it is the nature of who I am that I feel compelled to answer each and every person that has contributed something to the thread -- after all, I'm the one seeking information, and it is common courtesy to at least acknowledge everyone's contribution. And that means lots of posting, every time I start a thread.

One of the things I have not yet learned to do is to just say "Thank you" and move on. When I get suggestions that don't make sense, or just won't work in our situation, I tend to say so. I guess it is because I have the sense that someone later on will dredge these threads up from the archives looking for real information, and I want to make sure they see the entire thought process spelled out. But the consequence, I think, of telling a well-meaning person that you are not going to try his or her suggestion, is, in some cases, to turn that potential ally into an antagonist. Thus it has come to pass that at least one individual has announced that Odyssey is a piece of junk and we should get rid of it, since it has so many problems.

Now, them's fightin' words, as they say, and it is tempting to devolve into a rant about that person's parentage over on the board. [Working up my best faux-brogue: "They called the Enterprise a garbage scow! Sir."] But, of course, that path leads nowhere (or worse), and, besides, this is probably a perfectly reasonable person who just feels bruised. And therein lies one of the many perils of the written word, whether in email, here on the blog, or in a bulletin board post: it's just too easy to misinterpret, or be misinterpreted.

I am reminded of the time that another bus owner was parked in the same campground (unbeknownst to us), recognized our bus, and elected not to say hello because of a post they read here. It was a case of them having a completely different interpretation of what I wrote when they read it than I did when I wrote it. When it was all sorted out afterwards (long after the two coaches had parted ways), I think we both felt bad that we did not get the chance to meet in person.

One of the upshots of all this is that it takes me a long time to write each post, whether here or on a bulletin board or forum. I spend a lot of time re-reading what I wrote, and modifying it or deleting it if I think it might be interpreted in some way other than I intend. Even so, it's not possible to figure every angle (or sometimes to hide my own irritation), and posts slip through that can come across in unintended ways. So, to all the folks who have felt offended by something I've written (if any such person would even be reading my blog), I will state unequivocally that it was not my intent to offend, and I'm sorry if I've done so.


Getting back, for a moment, to daily life aboard Odyssey, this morning we drove down to the lodge building to get some water, and then took the coach out on a brief load test. The fuel level is still dropping in the primary filter, and tomorrow's project will be to disassemble the main supply hose fittings and the check valve, looking for leaks or restrictions.

Today's big project was replacing the satellite modem. Hughes Network Systems (formerly DirecWay) has been steadily upgrading modem technology, to their own benefit. The newer modems allow Hughes more control over their network, and more efficiently move customer traffic over the shared resources. For this reason, Hughes has been incenting customers to move to the newer modems, and, in our case specifically, the new modem (DW7000) allows us to move to a plan that is slightly higher bandwidth than our old plan, but at a lower cost. We were paying around $85 per month on the old plan, and that's dropped to $66.50 per month on the new plan, while our upload bandwidth has nominally quadrupled (from 50Kb/s to 200) and our download bandwidth has nominally doubled (from 500Kb/s to 1,000).

I say "nominally" because we'd been getting higher than the "advertised" rates, with our uploads running around 120K, and downloads running around 750K, and I suspect that we'll not even achieve the advertised rates on the new plan. But that's OK -- it will still be faster than what we had, and we'll be saving $18.50 a month. The "new" modem cost me $130 (used) on eBay, so in eight months we'll be on the gravy train, not even half way through our contract. (The previous, pre-paid contract, BTW, is why we waited until today to make the change -- we were already paid up through Sunday.)

The changeover went smoothly, and I'm typing to you now over the new gear. Anyone want a gently used DW6000?

We finally got to do some sightseeing this afternoon, riding downtown on the motorcycle and scooter, respectively. Wow, is Santa Fe a tourist trap. Don't get me wrong -- it's stunningly beautiful, with tightly regulated southwestern architecture melding seamlessly with 400-year-old buildings. And, as the nation's oldest capitol, as well as the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail, the place reeks of history. But, other than the historic sites, the downtown is an endless array of overpriced shops catering to tourists. We spent a couple of hours wandering the streets and alleys (the plaza was conveniently closed to traffic when we got there, due to a street festival), but merchandise does not hold the same siren song for us as it does for many.

We did stop for a drink on the patio at the historic Hotel St. Francis in the middle of our wanderings, which was quite pleasant, if pricey ($23 for two glasses of wine). And, despite warnings against it from the locals, we decided to have dinner downtown as well, and were lucky to snag a patio table at the Coyote Cafe's open-air cantina, where the food was delicious and the prices quite reasonable.

The weather oracle is telling us that pretty much everything east of here will remain in the grip of a heat wave until well into next week. Unless we get a deployment call, we'll be staying right here in the mountains until perhaps Wednesday, although between now and then we may move from Santa Fe up to Taos and/or into the national forests around here. Assuming I can fix the fuel issue.


  1. I wouldn't waste too much time on this stuff, your never going to win the emotional debate with these groups, there's just too many of them. The right to participate does not qualify ability or exclude stupidity. You and Louise are living a life most all of these guys can only dream about. You have to remember that not all contributers understand the real problem here. It's not that you can bypass the problem to make it work, it's about fixing the problem because it's the way you want it to work. Keep up the good work, your style aids and comforts the silent majority.

  2. I probably should not get into this but being an old appliance repair tech I think about your fuel problem....I know nothing about your system so I should just but was just wondering if you system did not have a fuel pump.. If so could it be possible that your tank is not vented causing a vacuuming restricting flow..


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