Sunday, May 31, 2009

Peaceful in P.A.

Its hard to believe we have been here a whole week. We spent the weekend and the first part of the week painting trim on the rental house. It has easily been our best investment over the last 10 years so we need to look after it. When Weyerhauser closed their P.A. pulp mill we thought it was all over and we had missed our chance to ever sell the house. Its still a great mystery to me why that wasn't the case but it certainly hasn't turned out that way. Property values have climbed along with the Saskaboom and don't appear to be levelling off. Marilyn attributes it to the mill filling up with workers close to 40 years ago and most of those workers now being ready to retire and willing to stay in P.A. She may be right - whatever the reason we aren't in any rush to get rid of the house. Right now we're doubly blessed because we have property appreciation happening and excellent tenants in the house. That hasn't always been the case but it sure is nice while it lasts.

This week I went out to Shellbrook for a visit with Ken, Meriam and Reg Miners. I've often described a trip to the Miners farm as a trip back in time. I don't think anybody is milking there since Ken's mother died but otherwise life goes on much as it did forty years ago when we still lived in Shellbrook. And the life that the family lived in 1970 wasn't a whole lot different than what the Harsneys had lived since they settled there after the first world war. There's a few concessions to modernity - I saw some empty 5020 canola bags lying on the shop floor but Ken clearly thought that his brother was wasting his money on that stuff.

Late in the week I went down to Saskatoon for a meeting with a client. Marilyn has some meetings here in P.A. early this coming week and then we are going to move first to Saskatoon and then to Regina. On Monday we'll drive to Regina for an appointment with father's social worker. Apparently they have figured out where they are going to warehouse house father. It sounds like he is going to be stored at the Pasqua hospital until somebody dies at one of the facilities and then we will have the option of moving him to the open room or waiting until a more acceptable facility comes open. Not surprisingly there are big differences in the quality of care between the various facilities.

So once again we'll be moving father. Years ago I remember him telling me about visiting Ted Eide who was living in a care home in Saskatoon. I don't remember all the details but Ted had lived out in the hills east of Kenaston. He told father that moving from the farm into Kenaston wasn't too bad because at least he wasn't living in Saskatoon. Then when he moved from Kenaston into an apartment in Saskatoon it could have been worse because at least he wasn't in a care home. But when he finally moved into the care home he told father that was the worst because there was only one move left from there. That story had a profound effect on father and I'm sure it is weighing on his mind now.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A royal hissy fit

What a miserable old bitch. If QE2 really gave one good damn for the feelings of the vets who will be meeting in France she would have done whatever was necessary to make sure her miserable royal ass was there. If that meant making a phone call to the forgetful French then so be it. If there was ever a reason for turfing her useless ass along with her assinine spawn this has to be it.

OTOH I've had to rethink my opinion of her royal representative in Canada. I was pretty skeptical of Michaelle Jean at first and I still think the position is an anachronism that is no longer relevant or needed. If we have to have one though I'm glad its the one we've got. She's got chutzpah.

Planned insolvency

Has nobody else noticed the travesty of justice that is playing out in the financial press over the "bankruptcy" of Chrysler and GM? If you or I did even 1/4 of what they are doing we'd be spending time next door to Conrad Black.

You can't decide you are going to declare bankruptcy and then divvy up the good assets before you call in the trustee. That's the whole point of a trustee - to ensure that all the creditors get a fair crack at all the assets. Yet the pre-bankruptcy fire sale is exactly what is happening. These guys have been talking about going broke for months now and meanwhile using the time to sell off anything that they can. Eventually North American taxpayers are going to end up on the hook for whatever happens to be left over.

I'm happy for Frank Stronach. He's the local guy who made good and he has likely made another good deal which will eventually enable him to sell European made Chevvies into Russia. I'm not so happy if there was some additional value there that could have been captured by a trustee because ultimately my taxes are going to support whatever remains of GM once they get done selling all the easy to sell stuff.

The rule has always been:

  • If you owe the bank a million dollars and can't pay then YOU have a big problem.
  • If you owe the bank a hundred million dollars and can't pay then THE BANK has a big problem.

To that I guess we now have to add:

  • If you owe one hundred billion dollars then the taxpayers have got a big problem.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Loaded up, hooked up and moving on

I had to take two shots to get all our vehicles in the picture this morning before we left Nipawin. Its 23 years since I arrived in Nipawin a little bit earlier in the spring. Something about towing a truck must appeal to me though because that's how we arrived. We had my rusty little '72 Toyota hooked behind the Big 10 chebbie and both of them loaded down with furniture. The Toyota was really just a collection of rusty sheet metal travelling more or less in close formation and herded along by remnants of blue paint. I bought it to use as a trailer during the move and so that I would have something suitable for a commuter vehicle to take to work. My regular driver at that time was an '83 Towncar and Terry had already made it pretty clear that it wasn't going to be acceptable parked in front of the shop.

As I recall the Toyota was reasonably reliable mechanically - it must have been because I drove it for close to a year after we arrived in Nipawin. But it was a rolling disaster in the body department. One day when I was driving out to the acreage on the flats east of White Fox I hit a huge puddle (more like a small lake) in what the RM jokingly called our road at that time. I got wet almost to the waist because it turned out that the several layers of indoor-outdoor carpet which I had previously assumed were resting on the floorboards actually WERE the floorboards.

Today we barely got out of Nipawin in time to say we left in the morning. The cubevan performed flawlessly all the way to Prince Albert and we got settled in at our favorite little campground on the south side of town. Then we hustled ourselves over to the rental house and got busy slobbering paint onto the window frames. That took about 4 hours and its going to take another coat tomorrow but it is already looking much better. The old shutter boards likely haven't been painted since Marilyn built the house 20 some years ago. They slurped up the paint like a dry sponge.

Tonight we discovered that we have either packed the tripod for the internet satellite dish in the cube van (unlikely) or lost it somewhere. Its hard to imagine how we could have lost it but we certainly don't know where it is at this instant so I guess that qualifies as lost. Fortunately this campground provides substantial picnic tables so the dish is now vice-gripped to the edge of a picnic table. I need to make a run back to Carrot River this week so I will stop and check the barn at the old yard but we're both virtually certain its not there.

On Thursday I got a call from the nurse at Victoria Park. As is usually the case with those calls it wasn't good news. They had shipped father off to Pasqua Hospital and they are not prepared to have him return to Vic Park. This didn't come as a complete surprise to Marilyn and me. When we were there last week moving him to his new suite we noticed a dramatic deterioration in his condition compared with when we were in Regina two weeks earlier. The pattern of his Parkinsons has always been wavelike with the lows always lower and the highs never as high. Clearly he is in a low now but if or when he recovers he will be in worse condition than he was and at some point he will be beyond the ability of Vic Park to handle. He is falling regularly now and he appears incable of learning that he can't do the things he once could.

Two years ago now when he first started needing to use a wheelchair we got him a manual chair and attempted to teach him how to use it. As long as I walked behind him and told him "put your hands at the top of the wheels, push forward" he could run the wheelchair just fine. However the instant that I stopped telling him to put his hands on the wheels and move them he would stop doing it and he was simply incapable of learning that most basic of new tasks.

I believe the same congnitive disfunction is now preventing him from learning how to ask for help. I think his days now consist of him blundering about trying to live his life and regularly tipping over. The staff at Vic Park do their best but they clearly can't be with him 24 hours of the day. And he clearly can't learn that all he needs to do is press his button to get assistance. Which leaves us in the horrible position of having to consign him to that which he has always feared namely some kind of institutional care where he will likely be strapped into a bed. Fortunately Cara at Vic Park has taken the initiative and responsibility for the decision because it is a decision that my sister and I were incapable of making for father. I'm not sure that he needs the change in care immediately but Cara has made it clear that he can't come back to Vic Park so that effectively means that he needs the increased care immediately.

Meanwhile Marilyn's antique aunt isn't doing well either. She is incredibly weak and in constant pain from her surgery last winter. There is a line in Masonic ritual which says, referring to Mother Nature, "until in our final hour she instructs us how to die." Unfortunately in Anne's case, despite her being well past ready for the instructions, they just aren't forthcoming.

Getting old sucks. I'm still convinced that, for the most part, getting old is preferable to the alternative but there comes a point ..............

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I'm not going to name names but I know the Nipawin readers will be able to identify the guilty parties in the following anecdote.

As I have written about already, I have our generator tightly enclosed in a plywood box. The box is perilously close to the manifold on the 8-92 but I have it protected there with a heat shield made of of tin wrapped with manifold heat tape. I think that is safe and I think the genset inside the box is safe as well. It doesn't hurt to be super safe though so I have been investigating automatic fire suppression systems. Both spaces are small and well confined so it wouldn't take much of a blast of fire suppression to quickly extinguish a fire IF THE REACTION WAS QUICK ENOUGH. On the other hand, if a fire started while we were going down the highway the massive airflow available to fan the blaze could quickly put it out of control before we even realized that anything bad was happening.

So today I stopped in at the local fire extinguisher shop. I had left a message on another guy's home phone number because I can't remember what name he operates under but I was in town anyway so I decided to visit XXX. I explained my concern and asked if they had any automatic systems. "Why would you be concerned about that?" was the response. Now I have thought this guy was a fool for pretty well as long as I have known him. His wife has always struck me as the brains of the organization with the caveat that she married him but apparently she wasn't there today. And he's in even bigger trouble if the one sitting at the reception desk is supposed to be her replacement - but I digress.

I just wasn't in the mood for an argument so I simply said "I'm not in the mood to argue with you and it sounds like you don't have anything." He said "no" and I left but I have to think that maybe I should have argued just a little bit. I mean really - I've got 3 heat sources (the Kubota diesel engine, the 8-92 diesel engine and the generator head), a couple of fuel sources (diesel fuel and plywood, not to mention the fibreglass panels in the coach) and a confined space that I can't easily monitor. What could possibly go wrong in that situation?

Unbelievable - this clown claims to be in the fire protection business. So I phoned P.A. and got a guy there who instantly understood what I was trying to do, said he had a couple of ideas and would get back to me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

An accident of birth

There are still only a million people in Saskatchewan, give or take a few thousand. A large part of the reason for that is that the majority of those people insist on voting socialist. Its hard to say which is chicken and which is egg - do people leave Saskatchewan because it is a socialist haven or is Saskatchewan doomed to socialism because all the brightest and best keep leaving?

This spring it has become apparent to me that there is another reason why people leave this province. The weather sucks. Sure - we get a couple of nice weeks of weather every summer. The long days in June can be really nice and there's usually a week or so in July where the wind isn't blowing constantly and the ground hasn't completely dried up so most of the country is still more or less green. But by and large the weather here sucks big time and I haven't even touched on the BS that happens here between August and April.

This morning we woke up to frozen water lines after hearing the wind howl steadily all night. At least it wasn't snowing - again. But its the long weekend in May fer chrisake.
So the big painting plans for the house in P.A. are on hold again. We blasted the window sills with the pressure washer on the way through P.A about 3 weeks ago now. So far we haven't had two good days in a row so we haven't got back to paint the frames. Yesterday we got done all the tasks we had to do here. Marilyn loaded the van all by herself while I did the other maintenance and construction tasks that needed to be done. I took the van into town last night to fuel it and nothing moved even when I went offroading to get to Millsap's fuel island. We're still not certain that the van will hang together for the trip to B.C. but it looks like our worldly possessions will stay in place inside of it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Footnote to history

It is somehow fitting that Lorne Calvert's last day in the legislature should be completely overshadowed by Dwayne Lingenfelter's membership forgery scandal. Calvert may have been well meaning but his name is synonymous with inefectual.

And you gotta love those new attack ads that the Conservatives are running. Its about time Iggy got some dirt on him. Nobody even knew who he was a year ago and now he's the putative Prime Minister? Gimme a break. I suppose he would fit right in with Obi Wan - we could call them the teflon twins - two nobodies in charge of North America. Surely we're not all that stupid.

On second thought - - maybe we are.

Long time no post

We've been busy ... where to start ....

I took the cubevan up to the SuperUke's to pick up the generator the day after we arrived back in Nipawin. As could be expected, a visit to the SuperUke wasn't without incident. I had to endure his abuse but I think I gave as good as I got. Once we got done insulting each other and after I paid him for the rebuild we loaded the gennie in the cube and I headed back to Craig's yard. When I started the van it sounded different and it hiccuped a couple of times as I was leaving the Ukeyard. By the time I got across the flat and going by our old place it was dying and restarting pretty regularly. It died again as I approached the highway by McDermott's and then it died completely coming across the bridge.

The Dept. of Holidays was sand sealing the highway that morning so they had a goof stopping traffic on the east side of the bridge. I rolled to a stop just off the bridge and then had to endure the questions of the flag-idiot while I waited for the van to cool off. I was pretty sure that it would start up again if it sat for a while and sure enough, after about 15 minutes of inane conversation with the Highways guy, the van started again. But not for long - by the time I got to the Paramart on the east side of town it was spluttering and coughing again so I rolled to a stop on the service road and waited for it to cool off again. It wasn't overheating but the cam sensor that I had put in was clearly not working. After another rest it fired up again and that time it got me back to the yard.

I went in to Verklan's and after a discussion with Neil and Glen ended up with a genuine Ford CPS. That seemed to solve the problem although it was hard to tell without taking the truck for a long drive. I did drive it out to Codette and back which should have been long enough to create a CPS failure if it was going to recur. It didn't let me down on that trip but I did notice occasional hiccups which caused me to wonder if I had truly solved the problem completely. Sure enough within another 24 hours it had died completely in front of our old shop and that time it didn't fix itself by waiting. We ended up towing it to Verklan's shop and eventually Neil diagnosed a bad injector driver module ($1800 for replacement). So now we're into the van for about $5000 which is a lot closer to what it should be worth but still not an excessive amount. Time will tell how that turns out. I did do a bit of internet research and found that this is a known problem with Econoline vans and powersmoke engines of that vintage. Apparently the IDM is mounted on the driver's fenderwell and it gets too much water on it. Eventually that causes problems. Neil said he dumped about 1-1/2 cups of water out of the old one and found some green death on the ground connector.

In between diagnosing and towing the cube van I got the generator stuffed into the back of the bus. I had all sorts of plans and ideas about how to mount it but in the end most of my design ideas simply wouldn't work. The space where I had to fit the genset just wasn't big enough for anything fancy. In the end I dismantled the old genset completely and remounted the components in a double 3/4" plywood box that I built in place where the generator was originally mounted. I'm not 100% happy with how that all turned out but I think it will be workable. I still don't know whether I have reduced the sound level because I have been running the generator with no muffler. It is certainly loud with an unmuffled exhaust but I think I have reduced the machine noise so perhaps when the muffler goes back on I will have made more progress than it currently appears that I have.

On Wednesday we took time off from all the other things we have been doing to go to Regina and move father to a new suite. When we moved them into Victoria Park Mom & Dad took what was available which turned out to be a suite on the second floor, well out into one of the wings. Father is almost 100% dependent on somebody to move him around now because he seems incapable of learning the manual skills involved in operating a wheelchair. He likes to be involved in any and all activities but that was difficult when his room was so far from the centre of the building. Activities at Vic Park centre around the activity room which is directly ahead of you as you enter the complex. Father's new room shares a common wall with that activity room so it is hard to imagine a location that would be more convenient for him. The nursing station is across the hall from his new room and the reception desk is next to that so he should be well monitored as well. There's not much joy in his life now so whatever little happiness he can get from increased activity is a good thing. I expect that he will even be able to shuffle his wheelchair out to the activity room from his new room. Certainly he will be able to work his way out into the hallway and somebody will no doubt push him the rest of the way once he gets there.

It froze hard again last night so our water hose is iced up again. Once it is warm enough to work outside I need to get back to fitting shelves into the cube van. We're setting it up so that it is convenient for both long term storage as well as for storing tools and supplies of a more immediate nature. I also need to install a hitch on it because we have too many wheeled units to get out of Nipawin with otherwise.

Yesterday we booked our campgrounds through to the 3rd week of August. That is the most organization we have ever had in our camping life but we thought it was prudent to have our summer accomodations arranged well in advance. We'll be spending most of July and August near to Chilliwack so we expect some congestion from Vancouverites trying to get out of the city. Marilyn bought a membership in a campground group called Holiday Trails and we already had our Thousand Trails membership. Holiday Trails has a campground at Bridal Falls and Thousand Trails has one at Cultus Lake. By going back and forth between the two of those we should be able to stay pretty well as long as we want in the the vicinity of Chilliwack. We also booked an extended period at Whispering Pines both for old times' sake and in order to meet up with some friends that will be there at the same time.

Friday, May 8, 2009

You too can be an NDP .....

whether or not you want to be. Maybe you already are one.

Apparently Dwayne Lingenfelter signed up 1,100 members of a Meadow Lake reserve and paid for their party memberships. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for the new members they weren't aware that they were joining the NDP. Leaving aside how he planned to get them to vote for him - was that also going to be without their knowledge or consent? - these have to be the ideal NDP members. After all they are completely unaware and accustomed to living off the taxpayers' largesse. Its hard to fault him for thinking they would make good members when they fit the profile so perfectly.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gawdam Saskatchewan weather strikes again

The thermometer has barely made it above zero all day and the bloody wind is blowing like a mad thing. I have tried to work outside a couple of times and got driven back to the warmth each time.

This morning I went in to our old shop to visit Quint and pick up a cheque for my little Kubota tractor that he sold for me. I have been driving the cube van at every opportunity to build up some miles on it and hopefully iron out the gremlins that plague every used vehicle purchase. So when I walked out of the shop and the truck wouldn't start it didn't come as a complete surprise. A complete annoyance but not a complete surprise. Marilyn came to rescue me and we towed it up to Verklan's. Since it has been intermittently dying ever since we bought it I guess it is a good thing that it seems to have died completely now. Perhaps Verklans will be able to figure out what the root problem is.

On Monday after I picked up the generator I came to the conclusion that there simply isn't room for the hushbox I had contemplated in the location I am stuck with. The previous owners put the genset in what used to be the A/C compartment. That's not an inherently bad location but it isn't really big enough. Its also a really hot spot because it is opposite from the rad so all the heat from the engine gets blown across the generator.

I started building the box and quickly realized that I wasn't going to be able to baffle the airflow in and out of the box the way I would have liked to. I was getting pretty frustrated by supper time Monday but, as so often happens, a break from work provided the additional inspiration I needed. After supper I tore the genset completely apart and discarded the metal cabinet that it was originally housed in. At the same time I decided to reverse the airflow through the generator radiator. One of the big problems with a boxed in genset is that the heat from the generator gets trapped inside the box and you have to come up with some plan to get that hot air out of the box without letting sound out at the same time. To overcome the heat problem I decided to pull the air out of the box through the radiator. That will alow me to bring fresh air into the box to cool the generator head and then use the air to cool the rad as it exits the box. At least I hope that's how it will work.

Last night I got the stripped down engine and generator head moved into the partially built box. Today I should have been finishing the top and front of the box but I need to epoxy those into place and I think it is too cold to be curing epoxy so that will have to wait for tomorrow.

Meanwhile Marilyn is fighting with Canada Post over the money order she sent to Calgary on Saturday which they promptly lost. Today she established that it hasn't been cashed yet and that the recipients haven't received it yet either. Canada Post doesn't give a damn - no surprises there. She threatened them with reporting the letter stolen and they basically said "good luck". She paid for one-day delivery so she has their fancy serial number to trace but the number simply doesn't show up at all in their system.

Monday, May 4, 2009

WHO and the "pandemic"

One of my favorite Bugs Bunny sketches is the one where Yosemite Sam pokes Bugs with his guns until he climbs the diving tower to do the high dive. Actually all I really remember is Yosemite saying "I paid my two bittees to see a high diving act and I's a gonna see a high diving act ....... wabbit!"

You could paraphrase that now on behalf of WHO. They've paid their 2 Billions (or whatever the sum may be now) and they're by gawd gonna have a pandemic.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Back where we started

Today we moved back into our old yard at Nipawin. We're here to pick up some stuff that we left here last fall. "Stuff" like some antiques, china, tools, sports gear, fishing equipment - stuff in other words.

Last week we moved to Saskatoon on Thursday and immediately picked up my internet truck. Last winter I bought a cube van off the internet. I knew it wouldn't be any particular prize but actually it was better than I had expected. We didn't even try to start it at the dealership until after I went and bought a pair of new batteries for it. It was still a very hard start and I'm not sure what that is all about but it is nothing more nor less than a storage shed on wheels. So it if takes a little sniff of ether first thing in the morning to get it rolling then that's what it takes and I'm not losing any sleep over the matter.

Today Marilyn headed for P.A. in the cube while I went off to watch RJ's final scrimmage at the Husky spring football camp. He had a really good camp this year. Years ago when he first started playing football I remember telling Marilyn that the only difference between him and me at his games was that he was closer to the ball and got a better view of the action. In the early years there wasn't much finesse to any of the players he played with. Occasionally somebody would get lucky and the team would score but they didn't make much happen. As he progressed through high school and finally to be a member of the powerhouse team when he was in Grade 12 the quality of the ball he played got steadily better. The Mohawk team when he was in Grade 12 actually took plays to their opponents and RJ was a big part of their offense.

It was like deja vu when RJ started practicing with the Huskies. Once again he was following the play and it was painful to watch. But not today. Today I saw glimmers of what I saw 4 years ago in Medicine Hat. I'm no football expert by any means. Anything I know I have learned watching my son play and I'm undoubtedly biased in my view. But today I could see that RJ was making his blocks, doing the work that he was supposed to be doing. So it was gratifying to me when he called me after his post game interview and told me that his coaches had told him more or less the same thing. He had a GREAT camp - he knows it - I know it - and apparently his coaches know it too. Time will tell what comes next but for now he deserves to be really proud of what he has accomplished.

About halfway through the scrimmage my phone rang. It was Marilyn who just wanted to tell me that the cube van had left her stranded in Hague. I asked her what it was doing and she said she would try starting it so I could hear what was happening. So she started it - I don't think that was quite what she had intended to demonstrate. I couldn't hear anything but she said it had started. That seemed like a good thing and there didn't seem to be any reason why she shouldn't keep on keeping on so that is she did. I talked to her a while later and it was burping and stalling outright occasionally but eventually it got her to Anne's place in P.A. From her description of the symptoms I was pretty sure it needed a cam position sensor so I stopped at Parts Source in Saskatoon and picked one up.

We met up in P.A. at the rental house and while Marilyn was powerwashing the old paint off the windows I put the new cam sensor in the truck. Apparently that was the problem because it ran flawlessly on the way back to Nipawin. Its still got some issues with the alternator - the voltage is fluctuating wildly. It appears to be charging but the voltage spikes will likely cause trouble eventually so I think its going to get a new alternator before we leave here.

Tomorrow I will pick up the generator that has lived at Super Uke's for over a year now. We've got a really heavy week here. I want to build a hush box around the genset and we have to get the stuff moved into the cube van. I'm getting new tires on the front of the bus and I have some work to do on the boat to get it ready to travel. Yesterday Marilyn bought another campground membership so we need to get ready to head west and start trying it out.