Sunday, July 27, 2014

This is awkward

Coolest summer on record in the US.


As Kate is fond of saying “It’s probably nothing.”

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hamas & the Palestinian Authority

I listened to an interview with John Baird yesterday and it made me realize just how little of the Israeli geo-politics I really knew.  I don’t know much more now but I’m willing to bet I know more than most of you so here for your reading pleasure is a 5 minute summary of Israeli/Palestinian geo-politics from my perspective.


According to Wikipedia (isn’t everything “according to Wikipedia” or “according to Google” now?), the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) was established by the Oslo accord in 1994.  At that time it was given some measure of control over areas mutually agreed to be Palestine.  Obviously what constitutes “Palestine” is a moving target and a large part of the problem but for governmental purposes it has come to mean urban areas of the West Bank (portions within the green outline above) as well as the entirety of Gaza.  The P.A. claims governance over all of Palestine but since 2007 Hamas has controlled the Gaza strip. 

This is what I found interesting in the Baird interview: John made the point that Israel has no major quarrel with the P.A.  During this current conflict the P.A. has remained largely silent, as has Egypt.  The struggle is clearly between Israel and Hamas.  Baird’s point was that Israel has no quarrel with Palestinians but has legitimate security concerns with regard to Hamas.

 I realize that Wikipedia is a living document so this quote may have changed by the time you read it, but this is what it says today:

The Hamas Covenant also known as Hamas Charter, refers to the Charter of the Hamas, issued on 18 August 1988, outlining the movement founding identity, stand, and aims.

The Charter identified Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and declares its members to be Muslims who "fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors." The charter states that "our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious" and calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories,[2] and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel.  The charter also states that Hamas is humanistic, and tolerant of other religions as long as they "stop disputing the sovereignty of Islam in this region". The Charter adds that "renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion" of Islam.

Based on that charter it seems pretty clear that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.  In the face of that I can’t see how any sane person can object to the Israelis trying to neutralize Hamas terrorists.  If we had a group inside Canada whose charter was dedicated to destroying Canada, we would expect nothing less from our government than their eradication.  You can argue all you want about the manner of Israel’s creation but the fact that Israel can coexist with the P.A. tells me that the fundamental problem is not friction between Israel and Palestinians but rather the fact that Hamas will not accept the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

There ends the lesson for today.

Friday, July 25, 2014

FORD - Fix Or Repair Daily

Its not true but I couldn’t resist.  We’ve owned the F250 for close to a year now and, other than not starting when we got back to Cowichan Bay from Alaska, its been dead reliable.  I dunno why the batteries went flat in 4 months but I should have disconnected them so that one’s on me.

A couple of times over the last few weeks the battery idiot light has come on so when it came on briefly yesterday I switched one of the fields on my ScanGuage to monitor voltage.  Sure enough the voltage was jumping around a lot and periodically going pretty low.  Alternator time in other words.  So today, rather than looking at crops, I drove to Swift Current and picked up a new alternator. 

I’ve fought with serpentine belts before so I was initially sceptical as to whether I could change the alternator myself.  In fact when I first looked at it I thought “no way – that’s a job for a shop”.  Everything is so crowded in there – getting a bar or socket on the tensioner looked nigh on impossible.  Fortunately I checked with Mr. Google before I made an appointment.  Ford has done something absolutely brilliant on this truck.  Its so good I have to assume they have it on other engines as well but I don’t know that for a fact.


The little tab to the right of the yellow arrow locks the tensioner “up”.  The only way it could be any easier is if you could see what you are doing.  You pull on the serpentine belt with your left hand, reach into an impossibly tiny space with your right hand, feel for the clip and flip it into place.  At that point the belt is loose enough to change the alternator (or change the belt but I didn’t do that this time).  When you’re all done another tug on the belt, the clip pops back out, let the belt go and the tensioner goes tight again.

I’ve read that some people are too wimpy to pull with one hand and flip the clip with the other.  In that event it would be a 2 person job for roughly the first 30 seconds.  My only worry was that the belt would fall down when I pulled the alternator out so I boogied up a rig involving a haemostat and my vice grips to hold it in place while I swapped the alternators.  The whole job from hood up to vehicle start took under 20 minutes.  The second time around I’m thinking maximum 8 minutes start to finish. 

Kudos to Ford.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Doing very little & re-uniting

We were in Saskatoon for close to a week doing more or less nothing.  But it was pretty tiring.  We pulled the new trailer up there last week in time to spend the weekend.  I’m not sure where the time went but all of a sudden the week was gone.  We  mostly settled into the trailer and met friends.  Marlan came for supper one night but we still haven’t met Jenna because she was off on some holidays at her parents’ cabin.  We also met Doug & Jo at Tony Roma’s.  Last weekend was Fred & Norma’s 60th anniversary.  It seems like we have been meeting family and friends constantly since we left the boat.

I spent Monday meeting with my Palliser/Assiniboia masters in preparation for our annual farm visit road trip.  Since Canada Pension Plan purchased their land portfolio last fall I’ve been a little uncertain about what my role would be, if anything.  Despite assurances that it was going to be “business as usual” I was waiting to see.  Based on what we were told it appears that it truly is business as usual and in fact CPP is actively buying additional land.  So I guess we’ll be busy for a few more years. 


Marlan showed me how easy it is to take panoramas with my new Galaxy 5.  I’ve had cameras that could stitch multiple photos into one wide shot but with this one I just pan it across the scene and it captures the image as it goes by.

At the end of the week we moved the trailer down to Elbow for my annual class reunion.  We were kind of scattered all over the campground.  They told Jim that we would be in campsites behind the cabins that some of our group had rented.  Then they built more cabins on the spots where we were supposed to park our trailers.  Then – rather than put all the trailers side by side – they scattered us all over hell in the campground.  We persevered and had a great weekend despite the somewhat awkward logistics. 


We’re all getting older.  RJ’s message to me for the group was “make sure they’ve all taken their meds”.  And its not much of a joke anymore.  He’s over in Australia battling deadly snakes right now.

Everyone slowly drifted off for their trips home today but we are staying until tomorrow.  It was great to be able to visit with everyone without worrying about getting packed up.  I have started sorting out the files for SW Sask.  Tomorrow we’ll move down to Ponteix and probably park there for a week.  Then we’ll likely work our way across southern Saskatchewan until we get back to Buchanan.  Its a huge pain having a yard again.  Even when we’re not there the grass keeps growing.  Just like the grass in Nipawin kept growing all those years when we were away from it.  Come to think of it, that’s why we got rid of the yard in Nipawin.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

You just have to love rural prairie attitudes

I went to an auction sale today.  As I was leaving with the truck full of miscellaneous junk it struck me how trusting everyone was.  We all bought shop tools and supplies early in the day and left them lying on the pallets where they remained on display (but never touched) until we picked them up late in the afternoon.  When it came time to pay I just gave them a cheque.  No questions asked – she gave me a receipt.  Then I drove the truck in, loaded it and left.  Nobody stopped me at the gate to see if I had paid or if I had loaded what I had paid for.  Nobody asked for a Visa number to secure my cheque or for photo ID.  I can only assume that the guys paying 100’s of thousands of dollars for the real equipment were treated in the same manner.  When they issued me the bid number they had no idea whether I planned to spend $100 or $100,000.  Contrast that with a visit to Costco where they might as well have a sign that says “Despite the fact that we took your life history and charged you to come into our store we don’t trust you sonsabitches”.


When I got home we moved “stuff” from the bus to the 5th wheel in preparation for the weekend.  We are going to Saskatoon for a few nights as a shakedown cruise.  We hope to meet Jenna, the woman in Marlan’s life and we will attend Fred & Norma’s anniversary party.  From there we’ll likely make our way to my annual college reunion.  It feels very different to once again be using our RV for “camping” as opposed to “living”.  We’ve become accustomed to having our whole life travel with us.  We’re now asking questions like “What tools do I need to bring?” and “How many pots and pans do we really need?” 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Two down, one to go

We’re back in Buchanan.  We took a relatively long time to get home compared with some of the trips we have made but we did a lot of visiting along the way.  We stopped in Airdrie for some wine and good food.  Then we had a great visit with Michael in Medicine Hat.  After that we stopped in Regina to pick up our mail and replace the cell phone that I threw in the ocean.  I was being so careful to avoid losing Marilyn’s folding shopping cart ($69 at Home Hardware in Port Townsend) so I leaned way over the rail as I was placing it on the dock.  As I did that my Galaxy S3 ($750 at leaped out of my pocket, slipped neatly between the bullrail and the hull and disappeared forever beneath the waters of Cow Bay.  I guess it was time to replace it anyway.

The crops we saw east of Regina look pretty late.  And wet.  Lots of yellow areas and drowned out patches.  We came through Wadena so we missed the worst of it (Melville area) but even so we saw yards with sandbags holding the water away from the houses.  There was no water in our basement but a few of the boxes on the floor in Marilyn’s sewing room were damp on the bottom so there was likely a very small amount of water entered that room.  We dodged a bullet there. 

Now we’ve got a big scramble to get ready to go away again at the end of the week.  I’d like to get one of the two antique garden tractors that I bought last fall running tomorrow but I won’t devote more than one day to them.  We picked them up on a bitterly cold day last November and they sat on the trailer all winter.  Yesterday I got them unloaded but I didn’t do anything other than push them into the garage.  Marilyn spent her evening getting the 5th wheel cleaned so that it is ready to load up.  We put the slide out on it for the first time – it looks good.  I need to pack the wheel bearings and grease the running gear before we go anywhere with it.


My two latest toys/treasures.  We picked them up late last fall on a bitterly cold day, shortly before we left for the coast.

(the next evening) I’ve been alternately looking forward to playing with my new-to-me garden tractors and thinking that I was a damn fool (again) for buying them.  We had a 244 Case on our first acreage and it was a great little tractor.  The kids all learned to drive on it.  I wanted to keep it when we moved into town but Marilyn wouldn’t let me.  The little Case tractors are hydrostatic drive but despite that the mechanicals are virtually bulletproof.  When we moved into town our yard was built into the side of a hill.  The house was a 4 level split with the front entrance on the bottom level and the back entrance on the third level.  The hill that we had to mow was so steep that the lawnmower simply wouldn’t climb it going clockwise but you could sort of sneak up on the hill by going counter clockwise, which is what I did.  However there was one point where you were at the top of the steepest portion and had to go down it.  As soon as you started down, the relief valve on the hydrostatic drive would let loose and the little tractor would stage a runaway down the hill.  Then when the hill started to flatten out the relief would snap shut locking the rear wheels up solid and sending you into a skid.  It was a lot of fun but Marilyn didn’t enjoy it and she didn’t like me enjoying it either so eventually we sold that little tractor.  I’ve missed it ever since.

Last fall I bought a 446 & 444 tractor, paying pretty much scrap iron price for the pair of them.  They came with a set of attachments – no snowblower but a pair of mowers and tillers plus a blade.  I didn’t hold out much hope that either of them would run without some serious attention and I had even considered repowering them but this morning I took a run at the newer of the two, the 446.  Post Pinkney visit, I am no longer afraid of carburetors.  That will come to bite me sometime I know – father’s advice with regard to carbs was “if its running at all, leave the carb the hell alone”.  This morning I justified my amateur carb job because I didn’t actually even try to start the tractor before messing with the carb.  And its not like I did that much anyway – the carbs on these little tractors are really just a piece of pipe with a couple of jets and a float.  I watched a Youtube video, then went to Canora for some carburetor weasel piss.  All I really did was clean the carb jets.  Then I dumped a little gas down the the throat and turned the key.  It ran.

Its running but I’m not happy with how the governor is working – it doesn’t want to pull back to idle.  That’s not a huge problem – I can just flip the hood up and pull it back myself.  I need to take the cover off and see if maybe there’s a broken spring in the governor but in the meantime I can use the tractor.  So the next step was to tackle the Bolts and ScrapIron engine on the lawnmower that was hanging on the wall when we moved in.  I had even less hope that it would run but I flushed the gunk out of the gas tank, squirted my magic elixir into the carb and it fired up as well.  What’s even more amazing is that all of that was pretty well done by noon so we had the whole afternoon to clean up the yard and we had a lawnmower to do it with.  I still haven’t mounted a mower on the tractor because I need to find some new blades and a belt for the mower but we’re a lot better equipped than I thought we would be.


You can see the little throwaway push mower in the foreground.  They’re so cheap now its hardly worth the time to fuss with one if it doesn’t start right up.

So I’m feeling a lot cockier tonight than I was last night.  I spent last evening fighting to get my new phone set up.  I hate switching computers or phones.  Google kindly informed me that they have a transfer utility that will move all my information and apps from my old phone to my new phone.  They didn’t explain how they were going to access the information on my old phone.  And I didn’t ask.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The company we all love to hate


So when we got back to Cow Bay two days ago the truck wouldn’t start.  Eventually I ended up having it towed to the Ford dealer in Duncan.  They informed me that the computer needed to be reflashed but, not to worry, I would get more reliable starts and better fuel mileage.  I didn’t really have much choice in the matter so they reflashed it, got it running and we have it back.  There’s a minor problem that has appeared since the reflash – we can no longer open the back doors.  Its not a huge problem – there’s four doors after all and we still have the use of the front doors.  Crawling into the back seat will be a bit awkward for guests but fortunately we don’t do that too often so it should be manageable.

The only part of that paragraph which is 100% true is the first sentence.  I had put one of those solar battery tenders on it before we left and clearly it did precisely nothing, except perhaps help to drain the batteries.  One call to roadside assistance, a few minutes hooked up for an electron transfusion and all was good again.  However, the story does have a point – we had exactly that experience with our all-in-one nav computer.  So substitute “Microsoft” for “Ford”, “upgrade” for “reflash” and “touchscreen stopped working” for “can’t open the rear doors”. 

Most of us can no longer live without Microsoft but they sure don’t make that relationship easy.  Windows had been whining plaintively about not being able to phone home pretty well ever since we left for Alaska.  So when we got home and hooked up to the dockside wifi I thought “What the hell, what harm can it do?”  It downloaded some bizarre (obscene) size of a file, “upgraded” itself and appeared to be working fine.  Then last night when we had company onboard and Marilyn wanted to show them our trip path we discovered that we no longer had a functioning touchscreen.  I have now wasted the last 3 hours trying to figure out what Messysloth broke with their so-called upgrade and I’m still not sure I’ve solved the problem because it takes a while to appear.

And on a semi-related subject (idiots who mess with our lives) – we went to the yacht club yesterday morning for a work bee.  Adrian always has an excellent lunch laid on after the morning’s work.  Over lunch we were visiting with a couple of the folks we had been doing yard work with. Some wag had registered Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper on the worker sign-in sheet which brought up the subject of Stephen Harper at which point one of our lunch companions voiced her opinion that she “sure hoped he wouldn’t get elected again.”  I just zip my lip at those junctures but our other lunch companion said something to the effect that he didn’t really like Harper but he disliked the alternatives even more.  At that point it became abundantly clear that the complaining woman didn’t even know who the alternatives were.  I got up and left but as she repeated her desire to not see Harper re-elected I couldn’t resist telling her to prepare to be disappointed.

I understand it has been raining a lot in SE Saskatchewan.  Maybe it will get that over with before we get back there.  You’d think that the sky would eventually be empty.