Late Summer 2018

There’s just too much catching up to do since my last post. I am certain I could go on and on for days! The most significant life changing event for me was the death of my wife, Mary Elizabeth Baxter Chudek three months ago. The effects of 20 years of Type 2 diabetes culminated into meeting her 11 year-old granddaughter, Kaylee, for the very first time and then Mary’s passing away a few days later. To me, this is a huge tragedy on many levels and has left other family relationships that will now never be resolved. A pity beyond words.

Mary’s end-of-life wishes were mostly carried out, with her desire to be cremated and ashes scattered into the ocean. Her sister Fran will be honoring that wish while some of her will remain here with me in Minnesota for the time being. A beautiful urn was chosen which depicts her artistic capabilities throughout her life and our 20+ year relationship & marriage. She is no longer in physical pain and the mental depression from the lack of physical ability to pursue her passions of cooking, gardening, travel, and other outdoor activities is gone. A celebration of her life achievements was held a few weeks after her death and many local and distant friends attended.

Now, in early September 2018, I am beginning to feel the true impact of not having my life partner here by my side. All of the out-of-ordinary activities have been a helpful diversion as I try to settle into a new routine. Personally, I have no immediate plans for significant changes, but the realization that what happens next is now my sole responsibility, not a joint decision anymore. That feels odd, and my mind races with an almost endless string of different scenarios that might be played out!

My biggest decision to date was to purchase a new dishwasher to replace the original unit that had stopped working several years ago. The humorous part of this is that I have become so accustom to washing dishes by hand that after one month I still have not run a load of dishes through it! But I was amazed how quiet it ran when it was put through a cycle to test that everything was working properly. The old one sounded like a car wash in the kitchen.

I continue to work / volunteer at the Chisago County Historical Society. In 2017 CCHS purchased a new storefront building in downtown Lindstrom. This was the former Gordy’s Gifts and the computer shop next door. All the other properties that were accumulated by CCHS over previous years have been sold and put into the hands of people and organizations that have the resources to ensure their longevity of existence. In particular, the Gustaf Anderson house is now a new Eatery that offers light food and ice cream. The new owners have kept their promise to restore the building and property, keeping its historic flavor while serving the community in a new capacity. Our previous office on north Olinda Trail was recently sold and will become a private residence once again. This was a late 1800’s Queen Anne style house that had previously occupied a lot between the Northwoods Roasterie and the Frontier telephone building and was later moved to its current location.

Over the winter of 2017/18 CCHS remodeled the original Gordy’s gift shop into an old-time general store and a museum that holds artifacts and history of the Chisago County area. The grand opening was celebrated on April 21, 2018 and was very well attended. There is a video posted on the CCHS website that will give you a tour.

More to come. . .

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Fall 2013

It’s been way too long since I have posted any update to this site! That said, I can continue on with a few more disasters that have inflicted the Chudek household! December 31, 2011 (or was it 2010?) the central heating system (furnace) shut down. Although I had been successful in getting it going several times during previous years, this time it was not going to start, no matter what I did. Imagine trying to find someone who could deliver and install a furnace in the dead cold of winter and do this on a national holiday! I did find a local independent HVAC man who came to our rescue. And when he tested the furnace he let us know that we were fortunate that it would not start because it was producing so much carbon monoxide that it drove his test equipment “off the scale”. He was able to contact the warehouse and get a new, bigger, more efficient replacement ordered and picked up. We ran the fireplace and kitchen oven to keep the house liveable until he completed the installation the following day!

Our gardening activities have been on hold for several years. There has been no planting of vegetables or flowers recently. The apple orchard had been devastated by moles who had chewed the circumference of the trees, cutting off the flow of nutrients from the roots up to the branches and leaves. That was a setback that has been difficult to accept, both psychically (having to pull the dead trees out and cut them up) and emotionally (not being able to enjoy that harvest and fruits of 5+ years of labor and anticipation of the apples). We did manage one excellent crop, about 200 pounds of Harlson apples that were produced by the two oldest trees.

The 2000 Ford Explorer rolled past 100,000 miles last year. This year it got a new set of tires and ball joints. It has been a very reliable vehicle. My 1995 VW Passat has over 150,000 miles and still provides “transportation”, but mostly sits in the driveway slowly rusting away. Since I don’t drive to Minneapolis each day anymore, I have a hard time putting 2,000 miles on the odometer each year. Oh, a few months ago I put a new set of ‘used’ tires on the front to replace the pair that were showing the steel belts!

I am well into my second 3-year term as a director of the local historical society. I created a new website for them and have been busy digitizing indexes of the research library materials. I launched a Facebook page and have been promoting partnerships with other societies within the county. The recession has caused our contributions and funding to be drastically cut during the past 3 years, making the daily operation a real struggle.

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Spring 2011

The winter of 2010/2011 was not very kind to this Chudek household. First we had a well failure where the water storage tank needed to be replaced. Next came the water heater that decided it had completed its tour of duty in the basement. A bit of excitement rained down in the kitchen not long thereafter when the glass in the patio door exploded with no provocation. While our attention was diverted toward the back of the house, the garage door fell off it’s track, mangled the rail system, and required the services of another professional craftsman to get it fixed. We thought we would make it through the end of the year but the furnace had other ideas when it shut down for good. Lucky for us as the technician bypassed the safety shutoff and measured CO emissions that sent his meter off scale! Merry Christmas to ourselves, a new furnace! January, February, March, and most of April went by without any additional setbacks. That is until I was checking the garden and orchard to discover some beaver had girdled six of the seven apple trees. Appliances are quickly replaced, but an orchard is another story. It takes years for the trees to mature and become productive. On a more happy note, Mary and I saw a pair of trumpeter swans visit our pond a couple weeks ago. I got a few photos and some video. The last visit was almost 15 years ago when I first moved into this house.

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Fall 2010

12-NOV-2010: Summer and fall are "done" and it’s time to retrieve the batteries from the garden tractor and motorcycles. They get stored indoors over the winter. The garden produced a good crop this year, and we ended up giving a lot of produce away again. The apple harvest is a totally different story, though. There was one apple about the size of an acorn on one of the seven trees. When I came up to look at it, it fell off onto the ground! The spring was difficult for the trees. The weather warmed up several weeks earlier than usual, the trees came out in blossom, then we got several days of freezing, rainy weather. Apparently we were not the only ones who suffered crop loss. Even the tomato plants were struggled along. In the spring I had signed up for a series of lectures on orchard maintenance. I used my newly acquired knowledge to prune the trees for better yield next year.

This summer was much better for the lawn, with ample rainfall so it did not burn to a crisp during August. It is on a good recovery path from 2009. Last year the sun and lack of water killed areas in the front yard. A bag of 46-0-0 nitrogen also helped green it up along the way. I raised the mowing deck to it’s highest level as well.

The garden has been hand tilled and covered with tarps again this fall. That proved to be very effective in the spring this year, when it came time to start planting. The ground was weed-free and easy to work.

There was only one motorcycle ride this year, less than 100 miles total!. Our German ham radio friend, Alexandra Raker – DL1QQ came to stay with us for a week. It was a beautiful day for a ride so we made a loop to the east of our home, along the St Croix River, stopping at many different places along the way. The original plan was to go for twenty minutes or so. It turned into an all-afternoon outing. It was a trip I will remember… especially the sunburn from all the hours in the sun! But she got to see many different things in the Minnesota countryside, some of which I frequently drove past but never stopped to visit myself.

So a couple of weeks ago I’m standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and I hear a big "boom". I thought a goose or pheasant had flown into the side of the house. But it turned out that one of the panels of the patio door had exploded! It was the outside of the double pane safety glass insert. That was an unplanned expense, just like the water heater that quit working about a month before. Hopefully we can finish 2010 without any other disasters around the house!

Last winter another ham radio friend, Mark – WAØMHJ stopped by with his bow and shot a string up into the tall poplar tree on the north side of the house. I pulled up a wire and created a new vertical antenna for the 160 meter ham radio band. It was late in October on a sunny afternoon that I drove a ground rod and laid out a ground plane using 36 wires. I enjoyed "tuning" the antenna length using my antenna testing equipment and plotting the graphs on the computer. I will use this antenna during the winter when the noise from summer storms is gone. That reminds me I need to string one more coaxial cable before the first snowfall. I "borrowed" a cable from an existing antenna (Beverage) and need to replace that connection.

I’m certain there is plenty more I could write about, but that’s it for this session.

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Making some progress

5-FEB-2010: Well the Facebook experiment is moving forward nicely. This application appears to be "the place" to be for social interaction with family and friends. I have managed to setup several groups and pull people together with common interests. The first was the "Chudek & Czudek – THE Rodina" group. I have rounded up over 30 Facebook users who carry this family surname or are blood related. Every so often I’ll use the search tool to see if more people with our name sign up. I then send them an invitation to participate.

The second group I created was for the original Marketing Technologies team at Target, Mervyn’s, and Dayton’s/Marshall Fields. I guessing more than half of all the people employed in our group at one time or another have signed into this group. I have posted some photos from the different team outings.

In the Ham Radio arena I hooked up with my long lost friend, Dave Barnard who was a friend in the early 1960’s. He’s living in San Diego, CA at the moment and we have exchanged notes about the 40+ years that we grew up together, apart.

I have been learning advanced Excel skills and have created some tools for the radio community. This allows operators to analyze their logbooks after contests and view charts and graphs regarding their performance during different contests. Some of these Excel workbooks have become pretty complex.

I was ask to help create a station/operator scheduling tool for the team that will be activating the Descheho Island, about 40 miles NW of Puerto Rico starting 7-Feb-2009 and going for 2 weeks. This is a major DXpedition that will have 10 full time stations on the air and two teams of operators. Scheduling a event like this has been done manually in the past. I’ll be anxious to hear the feedback whether this new tool was a help for this task.

This weekend (7-Feb-2009) is the Minnesota QSO Party. It’s a 10 hour event where all 87 counties will be activated by fixed and mobile HF stations. The goal is to try and log every county during the contest. I built another Excel tool to help the mobile stations plan their activities and avoid excessive duplication of effort in some of the counties. There will be about a dozen mobile stations who plan to visit 10 to 20 counties each. The highly populated counties will be activated by fixed stations. Mobile stations can redirect their effort to the sparsley populated areas of the state. All of this planning comes together in the Excel workbook designed for this purpose.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in front of the computer lately. And about a month ago the main backup drive with all our digital photos died. I’m working to resurrect that disk drive to retrieve the photos and movies. When this is accomplished, all this information will be copied to DVDs to avoid this kind of trouble in the future. I will also implement a basic RAID solution so if there is another drive failure in the future the data will be safer.

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Setting up shop on Facebook

5-NOV-2009: It’s fall, the leaves are gone, the garden is turned in for the year. There has been one snow flurry but nothing has stuck. Actually, it has been pretty warm the past few days, in the mid to upper 60’s. A reprieve to finish the fall chores before winter sets in.

I’ve been busy on Facebook, rounding up all the Chudek and Czudek families I can find. There’s quite a group of us over there now, and from all corners of the world. If you haven’t tried Facebook, you should. It’s the leading social network on the internet and it’s free to join in all the fun.

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Where did the summer go?

12-SEP-2009: I occasionally get back here to add more information but unfortunately
I’m not too consistent about it.

This summer (2008) I joined the Chisago
County Historical Society. Their research library is located in Lindstrom, MN
and contains a wealth of genealogical information regarding the
pioneers and descendants. They were predominately Swedish and some German immigrants who
settled this area in the 1850’s. The library holds books, lists, family
histories, and other materials created by local historians and writers.

All of this information is in hard copy form (printed) and not
accessible on a computer or via the internet. I have begun a
"digitization" project to help bring some of the important information
online. One source of genealogy information in their library are death records and
cemetery interments. There have been  Society volunteers who have
collected and cataloged this information for many years. It was easy to choose these
records to receive the first attention.

I broke the project into several phases. The first was to gauge the
acceptance to making the information available via the internet in the first place. The
concept and samples I created were received with enthusiasm and
I received encouragement to proceed. The second phase was to determine an
effective method to host the data. The Society has a basic web
presence on a single HTML page that is managed by a local ISP. Developing
an expanded website coupled with maintenance issues was discarded (for
the moment) in favor of using a popular website called

This is a free web service that hosts cemetery interment records. It also includes the ability to add photographs, biographies, and other
pertinent information for genealogy research. I posted some basic
samples and showed this concept to some of the Board members. This idea was also accepted and approved.

Until now, there had been no organized effort to create the official Chisago County cemetery list on this site. It was necessary to move some cemetery listings out of Chisago County and into the
appropriate county. I found several "made up" cemetery names where the interments needed to be transferred into the proper cemetery. Several cemeteries need to be consolidated or merged together. There are a few pending corrections that will be resolved when the administrative queue on the website is completed.

During this process I traveled to each location and photographed the signage and gates. In addition, the GPS coordinates for
each cemetery were added to the website listings. The next phase was to start posting the interments.

Interments can be added to the website manually, one at a time. Many people choose this method, especially if they are listing family members and including obituaries, photos, and biographies. The other option is a batch process. A spreadsheet is populated with basic information such as Name, Date of Birth, and Date of Death. The spreadsheet is uploaded to the website and is processed during the next batch process cycle, usually less than one week.

I reviewed the 40+ cemeteries and decided to work through the list from the smallest to the largest. I started with the Glader Cemetery south of Lindstrom and the Old Lutheran Cemetery in Harris, MN. Both of these sites are "full", where no additional interments will be made. Using my digital camera I made photographs of every visible marker in these cemeteries, created a spreadsheet, and uploaded the information. When the interments came online, I uploaded the proper photos for each interment.

This worked fine, but it became apparent that a lot of time was be needed to upload photographs one at a time. I solicited advice from the site owner, Jim Tipton, and he told me it was possible to bulk load photographs too. This was not an advertised feature because it required some manipulation beyond the normal processes established for the website. In general, here’s how it works: I create the spreadsheet and upload it normally. After the interments are posted I download the listings form the website. This step adds the Unique Identifier Code to the spreadsheet for each record. I then populate the spreadsheet with the image filename(s) for each record. I send this new spreadsheet in CSV format directly to Jim. In the meantime, I down-sample my original 1 ~ 2 Mb images to the requisite < 250-Kb file size. I then upload these images to an FTP website where Jim can down load them direct. At his end he coordinates my spreadsheet and image files for uploading into the system.

All the pieces are in place to bring the records online with minimal manual involvement. It works and save a tremendous amout of time at my end.

So the project continues… photographing, transcribing, auditing against existing records, uploading spreadsheets and photos. I estimate there are 30,000 or more records that will go online during the next year. Some Chisago County Historical Society members have vounteered to help with the photogrpahy. When considering a person might average 1 photograph per minute, this project represents 500 hours of photography work in itself. The additional transcription and image manipulations will probably add another 1,500 hours of work.

The final result will be an up-to-date audit, data that is accessible worldwide, and photo documentation for validation. Although adding obituaries or biographies are out of scope in this project, family members can add this informtion if they choose to do so.

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