Thursday, December 31, 2009

Organic vegetarian pot stickers

I think I mentioned our organic site mate while we were in Morgan Hill.  She showed up one night after dark in the rain and set up a tent in the site next to us.  We both felt sorry for her but not sorry enough to invite her in.  When we eventually met we learned that she actually likes to tent and that her tent was some kind of super-dooper tent compound that stays dry.  Yeah, right – I can imagine how dry it stays.  We also learned that she had a perfectly good trailer, here in Rancho Oso as it turned out, but she had chosen to live there in the rain at Morgan Hill in a tent.

We met at Morgan Hill while I was repairing the TV dish after it blew over and broke during a wind storm.  She asked if I knew anything about satellite dishes and (foolishly) I allowed that I did.  As it turned out she has an internet dish that she had set up here in Rancho Oso but she has recently changed sites and she needed to get her dish re-aimed.  It turned out she was expecting delivery of a new Airstream trailer which had occasioned the move and subsequent re-aiming of her dish.

Today while I was reassembling the generator compartment after replacing the isolation mounts that I have been hauling around since Saskatoon T.K. came up and asked if I was from Canada.  Apparently the reason she hadn’t come around earlier was because she didn’t recognize the bus on her daily dog walks.  Once we had clearly established my nationality she smoothly segued into me setting up her satellite dish.  Since we are leaving tomorrow morning that left this afternoon for setting up her dish.


Fortunately we downloaded and ran it as shareware so when it didn’t work at least we weren’t out anything other than our time.


It was no problem to set up the dish using my computer but I failed in my goal to have her learn how to do it herself with her own computer.  I can’t take all the blame for the failure though because a large part of it – OK – all of it - belongs to her decision to be a Mac owner.  I’m sure that Macs do wonderful things but let’s face it – Macs are angle parkers in a parallel parking universe.  They don’t work particularly well, they don’t fit in and nobody cares.  So when it came time to find her the ubiquitous software that I use to set up my dish – well let’s just say that the Mac versions aren’t ubiquitous.  I did manage to find 2 pieces of software that should have been adequate to the task but one of them flat out wouldn’t run on her computer and the other one only had about half the functionality that it’s Windows counterpart, which I use regularly, has. 

Eventually I conceded defeat, aimed her dish with my computer and left her to ponder what she will do the next time she has to move.  I’m sure that buried somewhere in her trailer is the software that her vendor supplied her with when she bought the system but locating that today seemed to be out of the question.  And frankly it’s not my problem.

It is in fact Tom Mason’s problem.  Tom is the guy who showed up at our bus last year in Arcadia with a bottle of Pinch.  Mel & I detained him until his Pinch was gone and then cruelly released him back to Fran’s tender care.  It appeared afterward that Tom may have suffered for his decision to spend the night with the boys without first telling Fran what his plans were but Mel and I had a great evening.  We may have in some small way contributed to his difficulty by our response when Fran attempted to phone Tom to determine where the hell he was spending his evening.  As it turns out Tom actually sold the system to T.K. so I had an excuse to phone Tom this afternoon.  They’re back in Arcadia but I’m sure it’s not nearly as much fun without Mel & me.

Back to the potstickers.  T.K. was inordinately grateful for my assistance and expressed her gratitude by giving us a bottle of champagne and a bag of granola cruncher potstickers.  We had potstickers at Fern’s Christmas party and we have been meaning to buy some ever since.  I don’t think we’ll buy the vegetarian kind and I can flat out guarandamntee that we won’t be buying the organic variety – although they were very good - but we definitely will buy some.  We had already planned to have appies for New Year’s so the potstickers fit right in and the champagne capped the evening off. 

Tomorrow we’ve got a big 40 mile move down the coast to a beach location just north of Ventura.  We’ll get a hit of going to sleep to the sounds of the surf and then move on to Quartzsite.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A philosophical question involving balls

I can’t claim credit for thinking of this – SWMBO came up with most of it.  If you blow up an airplane and in the process light your knackers on fire, does that all get fixed when you get to wherever it is TodaysCartoons your whacked out mind thinks you are going?  After all, what good are 93 vestal virgins (or 87 or 803 or 2 for that matter) if your knackers go up in smoke in the process of getting there?  Once again we have a member of the non-violent religion trying to blow up a plane.

The only consolation in all of this is knowing that the shmuck in question must be in absolute anguish right now.  Maybe it will be enough to cause him to ask some questions about the brainwashing he received.  He lit his groin on fire – its hard to even imagine how much pain he must be in.  My guess is that the guys who want to question him won’t be real generous with the pain medication either.

The real tragedy is that the imams who brainwashed the poor fool won’t have their own crotches lit on fire.  And that the rest of us will have to live with ever increasing levels of non-security as our gummits pretend to deal with the problem.  Nobody needed to invent airline security after 9-11.  One phone call to Tel Aviv would have been sufficient.  But then we’d have been into all that messy profiling and would have had to accept that not all the travelling public is equally dangerous and we couldn’t go there could we.  As a species we’re too stupid to survive.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Locking the barn door ……..

…… after the horse is over the hill, through the next county and generally long long gone. 

So some Nigerian goes through what passes for security in that god forsaken country.  “Hey mon – where ya goin’?”  “Uh …… London!”  “Got any bombs man?”  “Uh …… no.”  “OK – that’ll be 10 bucks”  This is a country that could give a Quebec Liberal lessons in corruption yet we let them screen passengers to sit beside us on international flights. 

And how does North American airline “security” respond?  “Let’s further harass all the travelling public!”  “Oh that’s a great idea – we could start patting down the cute chicks”  “Awesome – and let’s make up some new crap – like – I dunno – maybe we don’t let anybody go to the can for the last hour of a flight?” “Naw – they’d never be stupid enough to go for that - - would they?”

Yeah, they would. 

Long before Sept 11 we were subject to pseudo-security.  That’s security in name only designed to make the stupid feel secure but most importantly designed to build little bureaucratic empires filled with the otherwise unemployable.  Take a good look around at airport so-called security the next time you travel.  How many of those fools would you hire, even to clean your bathroom floor?  Be honest. 

If we believe in evolution we have to understand and accept that some species don’t survive.  Homo sapiens may be one of the evolutionary failures.  We may be too stupid to survive.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More technology


Site #69, Rancho Oso Thousand Trails

One of my readers mentioned using something called Windows Live Writer to write weblog posts.  Being a confirmed techno-addict there was no way I could resist figuring out how that works.  And I think maybe it works pretty damn good.  I won’t know whether all this is working until they are published but right now they look better than I could have done without the technology.


I’m still struggling to find a way to easily caption the photos I use here.  So far all I have figured out is to put them inside a table and use a row in the table as a caption.  That seems pretty clunky but its all I have been able to figure out.  For all the WYSIWYG wonders of editing software, getting things to display properly on the web is still pretty hit and miss.  At least for amateurs like me it is.

This park will definitely turn into one of our favourites.  The scenery is gorgeous and its really quiet.  Even now when its running close to capacity its still very quiet and relaxed.  More importantly, everything seems to work.  We have discovered that working facilities are noteworthy in the Thousand Trails system.  More so in some parks than others.  Last night we sat in the (working) hot tub and dissed the park at Morgan Hill with some San Jose residents who know the park well.  Apparently it is such a popular park (because of its location close to the bay) that it fills up despite the fact that about 20% of the sites have dysfunctional power and the sewer dump is routinely out of order.    We’ll probably go back there because its so handy to visit San Francisco and Fern but we sure won’t spend any more time there than we need to. 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cheap is good

Right after we bought the bus we installed a Black & Decker undercounter toaster oven. The undercounter mounts are actually really hard to find but we had one in the house and liked it so much so we looked all over and finally found the mounting kit. It came with a rube goldberg bracket that hooked to the oven and a really substantial heat shield to keep from lighting the cupboard above the oven on fire.

This winter that original B & D oven finally failed. I took it apart and figured out that it was the door switch that had broken. Calling it a "switch" is a little rich - what it actually was is a piece of very light gauge metal that bent to make or break a connection whenever the door was opened or closed. After enough bends in the same place the metal eventually fatigued and the piece fell off. I soldered a jumper across so that we could use the oven but that mean that it no longer shut off when you opened the door. Which wasn't a great big problem but was kind of annoying since we were used to it working the other way.

We started looking for a replacement with an undercounter mount and quickly found that, while in theory they exist, in practice they aren't on the shelves anywhere. I came up with a plan that involved continuing to use the existing heat shield which let us shop for the cheapest oven possible. I love those bins at Home Depot or True Value where they have the assorted aluminum angle and flat iron - some of them even have aluminum square tubing now. I'm their most regular customer. This time I used 4' of 1" x 1/8" flat to make hangers for each corner of the new oven. Then I pulled off the little rubber feet and screwed the new hanger straps where the feet originally attached. We ended up paying less than $20 for a new oven and it works just fine - better than the original in fact but that may just indicate how old and worn out the original was getting to be.

The point of all this - and about bloody time that I should get to the point - is - how the hell can they sell a toaster oven for less than 20 bucks? The packaging alone has to be worth close to 2 bucks - it was a pretty elaborate box and there was a multilingual operators' manual included as well. And then there's shipping - it was no doubt assembled somewhere in the orient so it had to get to North America and then get through distribution here. Its not a fancy piece of electronic technology but its not dead simple either and it works really well. No matter what anyone says about outsourcing and offshore manufacturing I'm a big fan of it. A really big fan of it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I hate computers

I expect I use a computer as much as anyone I know & I fancy myself pretty handy at getting them to do what I want them to do but sometimes I wonder. I used to warn my staff that some morning they might come in to work and discover a computer sized hole in the front window with a pile of glass and plastic lying on the ground outside.

I just went through an incredible ordeal with blogger trying to get it to post this photo with the previous post. After it deleted the photo four times running I finally gave up. I have no idea why some miserable piece of plastic or more likely some piece of computer code refused to allow that picture to co-exist with my previous post. And at some point you just stop caring. It takes forever for a file up upload on our satellite connection and then just when I thought I had finally succeeded in getting it to up upload Windows would give me some stupid error message and the whole mess would start over. Of course Window would very solicitously ask if I wanted to report the error to Microsoft. What I'd really like to do is grab the scrawny teenage programmer at Messysoft by his pubescent adam's apple and shake him while I scream at him for a while. That's never an option on the chirpy little message boxes that pop up on my screen.

We didn't eat at the pelican restaurant in Santa Barbara but it seemed like they thought that was a good place to eat at.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa Barbara

We're pretty remote here, despite being less than 10 miles away from Santa Barbara.

View Larger Map

Fortunately we had been forewarned so we knew enough to disconnect the micro-truck before starting up the winding, switchback filled trail to the gatehouse. I wondered if we would be able to see through the trees to get a satellite signal but as you can see we are in a clearing in the middle of a forest. I had some serious difficulty last night trying to get the internet satellite online and finally had to give up. I'm still not 100% sure the problem is fixed but I was able to get online this morning. I had an excellent signal strength but there is a step in the setup where the Hughes satellite checks to see if my transmissions might interfere with other transmissions (called "cross-pol")and I just couldn't get past that step. Normally its no problem but this time it was a major problem & the "solution" eventually was for me to reduce the accuracy of my aiming. When I had an 80+ signal strength I simply couldn't get past the cross-pol step but when I pointed a little off the satellite so that my signal was in the low 70's then I was able to pass cross-pol.

We arrived here close to a week ago, on the 18th, but neither of us has been very active for the past week. Marilyn caught a bad cold about 2 weeks ago now and of course she shared it with me. I managed to stay clean until last weekend but it has hit me hard this week. We both felt good enough yesterday to make a trip into Santa Barbara but that pretty well played us out. We did manage to find a small turkey yesterday so the trip was worthwhile. The turk is in the oven right now - today will be our turkey day. We're both more in love with turkey leftovers than we are with the first time round turkey so we decided we would arrange it so we have leftovers for Christmas day.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I just by god love it

I realize that the global warming apologists will argue that one or two data points don't make a trend, and rightly so. But you just have to love what the weather man is serving up for the attendees in Copenhagen.

I had an email from my brother-in-law last week wherein he argued that editorials are not journalism. To that I would counter that all journalism is coloured by an editorial opinion. Journalists would like to have us believe that they are objective, without bias, pure as the driven snow that the warming apologists tell us is no longer falling. Well folks it ain't so. We all wake up with opinions and some of us are more willing than others to share those opinions. Journalists by their very nature want to see their thoughts publicly exhibited and that includes their opinions about the world around them. Some of them are more successful than others at acknowledging different opinions from their own but the whole works of them have a bias.

In general human beings like to be well thought of by their peers. The combination of wanting to have your views visible to the world and wanting peer approval is a dangerous situation when it comes to journalism. It leads to a herd mentality. Right now everybody "knows" that global warming is real. Just like everybody used to "know" that we would run out of oil by 2000 and just like we used to "know" that an ice age was approaching.

The reality is that we don't "know" any such thing which is why it makes me really happy to think of all those earnest protesters in Copenhagen shivering in the (unseasonably) wintery weather. I hope they all forgot to bring their parkas and toques.

And it seems I'm not the only global warming sceptic around. Its great to see that some of the worst liars on the planet are finally getting a taste of their own medicine. The photo comes courtesy of CFACT - you can read more about them here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Geriatric surfers and other weirdness

You don't usually think of surfers as old guys. At least I didn't. And I guess to be perfectly fair, geriatric is a slight exageration. But most of these guys were older than me so they weren't kids either. We stopped for lunch on the way down the coast - can't remember whether it was southern Oregon or northern California but it was real pretty whichever it was. It was kind of a dull wet day but these guys were out enjoying the surf nevertheless. They don't really "do" much. Mostly it seemed like they hung out sitting on their surfboards and visiting, just outside where the waves were breaking but maybe that's not a bad way to spend a day either, specially when you have a view like this.

Today the turkeys came around again. They came again a few nights ago but by the time I got their attention it had started raining and then lost interest in my turkey calls. I downloaded a couple of turkey calls and managed to figure out how to pipe them through the speakers on the radio. When I turned the radio up and opened the driver's ticket window I managed to get their attention. There's a lot more somewhere - the flock that was around the other night was at least 30 but today there was only about 6 of them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Faggoty fags & wet weather

Its been raining more or less non-stop since we arrived here. Some days it rains harder than other and some days it clears off for a while, like it did today, but generally it has been raining since we arrived a week ago.

Last night we were invited to a Christmas party at Marilyn's cousin's place so we drove into San Jose in the evening. It was a pretty major house party but it started about the time we normally think about going to bed. That is one of the features of living on bus time - we often find that the local residents are out of step with us with respect to time. We had as good a visit as could be expected with 40 other houseguests taking up Fern & Larry's time and we will likely connect with them again in the next couple of days.

This morning we had plotted a course to take us to Pier 39. The only place I have found in North America that sells Aegean caps in size 7-3/4 is Pier 39. That is a bit inconvenient but they are such good caps that it is worth making a few sacrifices to get back there to buy some. They didn't have any in grey this year but I got a navy blue one and a black one so I'm good for a couple of years again.

The skies cleared briefly while we were downtown and we had remembered to take our umbrellas so we had a great trip. We rode public transit from downtown San Jose so as to avoid all the traffic and parking hassles. We had planned to take the bus from Morgan Hill into San Jose but it didn't seem to be running this morning. We may just have missed it but San Jose is pretty close so we just drove in there and caught the bus.

I should have taken more pictures of the old trolleys that they run along the waterfront but I did catch this one as it arrived to pick us up. As near as I can tell they have collected them from various heritage trolley systems in different cities around the world. I assume that the only heritage part of the trolley is the shell and even that was pretty heavily modified but its still a pretty cute idea.

Riding public transit is educational no matter where you do it. During commuter hours the travelling public is pretty conventional but after hours and on the weekends is when the real colour appears on public transit and San Francisco definitely has some local colour.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Its cold here this morning

Morgan Hill Thousand Trails Preserve

Well maybe not real cold but cold nevertheless. There's a clear blue sky overhead and I'm sure it will continue to warm up as the sun gets a little higher. It was -1.2 when I got up and the water hose must be frozen up but it is up to -0.5 now so we're having a little heat wave.

It must be the morning for black idiots in suits on TV. First we had some lying SOB from Copenhagen weasling on about how it might not actually be getting warmer this year but overall he was convinced that it was going to get warmer and it was all the fault of us rich nations. Hearing that from a resident of the most corrupt continent on the planet didn't fill me with confidence. Now we've got another black man in a suit telling us how he has single-handedly rescued the world from the brink of destruction. The chosen one is in trouble down here. I think his approval rating is actually worse than GWB ever got to and he's only a year into his reign. I'll bet the Dems are thinking that Billary looked pretty good now.

Right now I'm reading "Krakatoa - The day the world exploded" by Simon Winchester. Its a fascinating blend of history and evolutionary science that combines the story of the exploding island with continental drift and the life stories of people like the man who inspired Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace. It really is a remarkable world that we live in and our feeble understanding of what happens around us is not much better than that of our primitive ancestors who attributed everything they didn't understand to some God or another. The current obsession with blaming mankind for every "bad" thing that happens to the planet is no less ridiculous than our great x 43 grandfather blaming his cold on his wife's impure thoughts and thinking that killing his goat would cure it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We're in wine country --- finally

It seemed like we'd never get here what with our border crossing issues followed by our truck spindle issues followed by a wheel falling off. Oh - wait - I hadn't mentioned that last little detail had I?

Evidently the guys that put the front end back together on the micro-truck never got around to tightening the lug nuts on the curb side. Obviously I should have checked them but I thought I had more than 100 miles to do that in. I was wrong. There we were tooling down Coastal 101 minding our own business when I saw the by now familiar flashing lights in the rearview mirror. "Not again" was our instinctive response but no such luck. It wasn't quite as bad as the first time - this time the lug nuts just broke off and dropped the truck onto the rotor and we stopped relatively quickly so we likely could have salvaged the rotor. The Ford garage we got towed to was more worried about their own liability than they were about my chequebook so I agreed to replace the rotor. It took them 24 hours to round up some studs & nuts which is a sad commentary on the level of parts in the system now but they eventually got them and we got back on the road.

We didn't get on the road until late in the afternoon which meant we got to experience a bit of San Franscisco's rush hour and a full blown hit of San Jose rush hour. We're getting used to arriving at Thousand Trails parks in the dark and I must say we're also getting really good at finding satellite visible sites in the dark. It was blacker than the inside of a cow when we arrived here and the park is pretty heavily treed. It hasn't been particularly warm yet so I haven't taken any pictures but we're surrounded by tall oaks and some kind of evergreens. Nevertheless we were able to find a hole in the canopy in the dark and get set up. Yesterday we were visited by the camp turkeys but they didn't get close enough to the bus to be worthwhile taking their pictures. There appears to be a flock of about 25 wild turkeys that live here.
Now we'll settle in for a spell. We still need to get a wheel alignment done from the incident in Oregon. I want somebody to have a good look at the right side where it got dragged to make sure there isn't another disaster lurking there and I need to buy a pair of tires, having lost one to the broken spindle and another one when the wheel departed for parts unknown. I spent a while tramping around in the bush where it ran off but with no luck. Its amazing how quickly something as foreign as a tire and rim can blend into thick bushes. Several years ago we lost a wheel off the boat trailer that we bought from Bill Jones. We lost it west of the junction of #6 & #41 highways but east of Taylor's steel. I know exactly which bluff of trees it went into because I saw it leave the boat trailer. The bluff is less than an acre in size and it looks like you can see right through it but we never found the wheel. Down here I was searching on about a 45 degree incline with vicious thorns and some kind of short trees that the deer had beaten a path under but that I could barely claw my way through. Not surprisingly I didn't find anything.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On the road again

We ended up staying two more nights at Humbug Mountain because somebody screwed up on the truck repair. The guys in the shop worked all weekend so they could have us on the road Monday. I had told them it didn't matter but evidently they wanted to work so they did and in theory we should have been mobile again around noon on Monday. The story was that somebody transposed 2 digits on the parts order so the stub axle that showed up was about 8" too short. It seems unlikely to me that transposing 2 digits in a part number would just coincidentally end actually being an axle so I'd say there's more story than what I got told. Whatever the cause, we weren't on the road yesterday. We decided that we were likely not going to get an early start today, even if everything went well, so we paid for another two nights. It really wasn't that hard a decision because this place is so beautiful and it is really cheap too.

We're trying to get our average nightly site cost down into the $12-15 range. Right now we're at just a little under $24 per night with everything in since we started on the road two years ago. We had our cost down to $19 per night when we bought the two campground memberships. The purchase cost of the memberships plus the costs to transfer them into our names pushed our average costs up but over time they will pay off. Going forward our cost on the Thousand Trails membership is $12 per night for the first 50 nights and $5 after that. The Holiday Trails is a bit harder to figure but it is a fixed cost of $500 annually with unlimited stays so it should easily be under $10 per night. This place is $12 per night so its a pretty good deal in the big scheme of things.

We have had a reservation at Morgan Hill, just outside San Jose, ever since we left BC. We've been moving it back as the various holdups in our travels have arisen. Right now we're rescheduled to arrive on Friday but that could still change. Leaving aside the possibility of additional disasters, we still have to get through San Franscisco in order to get to San Jose.

Now we're hooked up ready to hit the road at sunrise. I crawled under the frenchy-bus today and greased the front end that got missed when we were at Aidrie. I can't remember exactly why I didn't do the front end there - it may just have been that the weather was getting so bloody miserable that I didn't want to crawl underneath the bus.