Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Been dived

We were away from Gray Hawk for close to 6 months so she was overdue to be dived when I got back.  I could have phoned Terry & had him come while we were away and if it had gone any longer I certainly would have.  I figured we could go a maximum of 6 months and it turned out I was right.

B-nut croppedDuring our haulout in April that little bit of zinc on the left started out life  looking like his big brother on the right.  He was pretty well expired by today but that just means he was doing his job.  As I have explained here previously, zinc on a boat is intended to be sacrificial – that’s why they call them sacrificial zincs.  These little guys fit over the nut on our bow thruster and they are the first zinc on the boat to disappear.  We also have big plate zincs on the turn of the port bilge, roughly amidships, plate zincs on the transom and zinc “doughnuts” on each shaft.  I have slowed the rate of disappearance on the thruster zinc by a variety of measures – better grounding on the bow thruster in particular – but that zinc is still the first to disappear.  And we didn’t have much time left on this one. 

As soon as I got back I talked to Terry the Diver and he said he’d be around early this week.  It was a gray BC coastal day today and evidently that was depressing traffic in his dive shop at about the same rate it was depressing everybody else in the marina.  So about 3:00 this afternoon Terry phoned to see if he could come right away and of course I was game.  I had to root around in the engine room to find my allen wrenches but in the course of looking for them I found a part that I had given up looking for a few days ago so I count that time well spent.  It amazes me that Terry can manipulate the wrenches and zincs underwater wearing his heavy rubber gloves and never drop anything but he hasn’t lost anything yet.

Things onboard are starting to settle into a routine.  Its been raining pretty well non-stop but occasionally it drops back to a gentle drizzle which is such a pleasant contrast that it feels dry enough to be outside.  So I’ve been doing the inside projects during the heavy rain and the outside projects when its less wet. 

Marilyn is coming for the Remembrance Day weekend so that’s my deadline to have everything ready for travel.  We’ll likely spend the weekend in the Victoria inner harbour.  I had hoped to have the boat ready for a shakedown cruise on Friday in which case I would have taken it to the Yacht Club dock and spent a couple of nights there.  But I’m not going to be ready that soon and I’m not interested in being rushed.  I’ve got some u-bolts on order in Victoria that are currently the biggest holdup.  The supplier phoned today to say that they might be in tomorrow.  I think what he really said was that he had forgotten all about ordering them until I phoned to inquire about them this morning but perhaps I’m too cynical.  Perhaps not too.

And speaking of cynical, how about that damn hurrycane??  I think it sealed Romney’s fate.  However slim his chance was, 3 days ago he still had a prayer of a chance but now its all over but the crying.  Obama gets to parade around looking Presidential and Romney can’t point out that the emperor has no clothes without looking like a whiner.   There’s still a slim chance that FEMA will screw up like they did in New Orleans but I’m afraid by the time everyone realizes that they have screwed up the election will be long over.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Well duh ………..

So CBC Marketplace is going to air a segment tonight about how “tenderizing” meat makes it more susceptible to contamination by various buggers.  I wonder how many Canadians will be astonished by the revelation.  Quite a few I suspect.

I’ve long claimed that as a species we are ultimately too stupid to survive our own evolution.  Buying “tenderized” meat is just one example where convenience trumps science (or even common sense).  But that should be no surprise – science comes dead last for most citizens of the world, let alone Canadian citizens.

Here’s a link to a 7 year old USDA publication on the subject.  Nothing special about that particular link, it just happened to be the first one (of many) that popped up on a Google search.  It shouldn’t come as any surprise to a sentient being that pounding the surface contamination into the centre of a piece of meat and then undercooking the meat is probably a really risky – how about stupid – practice. 

XL logo

The X-L recall has focussed attention in this country on the safety of our meat but that attention will quickly pass.  CFIA likely dropped the ball and X-L management was clearly negligent but come on folks, if you buy this stuff and cook it like a fool then the wonder is not that a dozen people got sick, the wonder is that a couple hundred thousand consumers DID NOT get sick. 

And let’s take a moment for sympathy for Alison Redford.  She said what needed to be said.  XL threw out literally hundreds of tons of perfectly good meat, so much meat that it came close to overwhelming the Brooks landfill capacity to accept it.  Redford made the perfectly logical, perfectly sensible comment that this meat could have gone to a better destination – like possibly to feed people who desperately need a good meal.  Hell, I’d have happily eaten it.  Cook it properly and there’s ZERO risk.  But from a public image and political perspective there was no way in hell that XL, CFIA or Gerry Ritz could ever have justified doing the right thing.  So all that meat got dumped and I actually heard one genius caller to a phone in show asking what the implications were for the Brooks water supply.  Evidently she thought all that e-coli was going to wash off the meat and run into the ground water.  There’s literally no hope for that level of stupidity.

I love my steaks cooked bloody rare.  “Break the horns off, wipe its ass, introduce it to the grill and bring it to the table” as far as I’m concerned.  But that’s for an intact piece of muscle.  Take that same piece of meat and grind it up and I’m going to want you to cook the living hell out of it.  If the rest of the consuming public would adopt the same common sense procedures we wouldn’t need Marketplace to lecture us about what should be patently obvious. 

The amazing thing about common sense is how remarkably UNcommon it actually is.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mobile Weblog

There won't be much substance to this post - it's more in the nature of research than literature.  Yesterday I tried uploading a post from the middle of Georgia Strait and it didn't go well.  If you are reading this then today must be better.

Mainly I got rained on today. I did get about half of the winter covers off and hung them to dry inside.  Tomorrow I'll be able to remove the balance of the covers.  I made an appointment with Terry-the-diver and I filled up with fresh water.  I had a water leak on a hot hose in the middle of the night so fixing that was a high priority this morning.  We have some rare precursor to Pex for a lot of our plumbing so finding parts is always an adventure.  I wish sales clerks understood that when I ask "do you recognize this fitting?" I don't mean "let's go look at the shelf I just looked at only this time we'll do it together".  I'm not very patient with stupidity.

The idiot cat is very happy to be back onboard.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dodged a very big bullet


That swirling mess off the Washington coast is a very big low that is sucking in winds from all the way across to the Great Lakes.  I was unaware of it when I left Regina yesterday at 7:00 AM but I quickly became acquainted with it as I approached Calgary.

My original intent was to stop for a visit in Airdrie but it was obvious that could turn from a one night visit to being storm stayed for several days.  So I put the hammer down and headed west into the mountains.  I can’t remember ever having a better winter trip through the Rockies.


The snowsheds in Roger’s Pass are almost always wet.  I can’t remember ever going through them – summer or winter – when the road wasn’t wet, but yesterday it was dry.  The only snowy pavement I saw on the whole trip was in the Coquihalla.  There were wet stretches from rain – its BC after all but very little snow.  I understand all that changed in the Calgary and Calgary-east areas today.  But it didn’t matter to me because I got as far as Revelstoke last night and I had supper on the boat tonight.


I assume I’ve seen the last of the sunshine until I go back to the prairies.  I’ve been explaining to some of the locals how there is this big blue dome over the earth that stretches from horizon to horizon but most of them don’t believe me because the sky is grey as far as they are concerned.  You can’t really blame them – it must be very hard for them to imagine anything different although I did encounter one fellow tonight who said he had heard about the blue sky, he just had never actually seen it himself.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Countdown to Gray Hawk

Yesterday I made a flying trip to Saskatoon – flying in the sense that I was flying low in the Lincoln.  While I was up there I stopped at my favorite quick lube place and let them talk me into flushing the diff and refilling it with synthetic.  I’ve been meaning to get that done and it probably doesn’t hurt to do it before I head for Vancouver Island.  Today I’ll help Marilyn with her tile project; tomorrow we’ll move the bus to Buchanan and winterize it; Monday should see me and the idiot cat headed west.

If all goes well my next post will be from the boat.  I think our slip neighbour misses me – I got a text from him yesterday that said “Bite me, prairie dog!”  The fool is a BC Lions fan so my earlier comments regarding the Riders may have motivated his fond reply.  The Rider’s performance (of lack thereof) prompted a taunt from him this afternoon.

While I was in Nebraska Marilyn started laying ceramic tile in the hallway and bedroom.  She ripped the carpet out back there last winter while we were in Texas but she hadn’t got around to replacing it until now.  Its early going but its going to look really good.  We struggled to decide what we wanted to do for floor covering.  The only thing we were certain about was that we did not want carpet.  I don’t know what fool came up with the idea that carpet in an RV was a good idea.  Clearly he never actually used the RV. 


We knew we wanted to get rid of the carpet but if we had any doubts the winter that we spent along the west (wet) coast convinced us.  Quite aside from the cleaning challenges that carpet creates, the constant wet conditions on the wet coast caused mould growth under the bedroom windows.  Last winter when Marilyn pulled up the carpet back there she could see that even though she had the mould under control in the carpet and on the lower walls, it was lurking beneath the carpet waiting for the right conditions to reappear. 

Beyond not-carpet though we struggled to decide what we wanted.  Ceramic tile was always pretty high on our list because it is impervious to moisture and durable.  We worried though that it might crack and it is harder to install – in fact we assumed we would have to schedule a trip to Nipawin in order to hire Phil-the-flooring-guy to do the installation.  We considered a variety of laminate systems but always came up against the moisture problem.  Some of the manufactured flooring claims to be water resistant but when we brought samples home and soaked them in water eventually they would swell, even if only slightly.  That ruled them out.  We didn’t want lino because it always ends up looking like lino so that brought us full circle to ceramic. 

This fall Marilyn decided that she could lay the ceramic tile herself as long as she could find someone to do the cutting.  Both Home Depot and Lowes offer that service so she figured she was good to go.  Then for some reason she brought home a tile saw, tried it out and discovered that it actually is pretty easy to do.  Today I was the cutting boy while she finished up laying the tile.  It turned out to be a much bigger job than she expected because the walls aren’t as straight and square as we thought they were and because its a really complicated hard to access area. 

When she’s done the tile will go down the hallway and around the bed – its likely only 35 or 40 sq feet of actual area but its a difficult shape.  Its additionally complicated by the fact that she has to keep a work area accessible.  In a house you can start on the furthest away wall and work your way back out of the room.  She had to start on the hallway because it was the visible straight area.  But she could only do half of the hallway at a time because she couldn’t walk on the wet tiles.  The same restriction applied around the bed.  I’m very impressed with how she was able to make it all work out.  Several times she had to start from a far away point and work back to align with tiles where the adhesive was already set.  The adhesive will have all winter to set up and she’ll have to grout it in the spring.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Peeing your pants


I’ve been thinking a lot about wind power the last few days.  Firstly because the damn wind blows worse here in Nebraska than it does in Regina, and that’s going some.  But more importantly because every day I drive past this ridge that has been polluted with windmills.


This morning I happened to notice the old school technology right next door to the “modern” wind turbines and managed to capture both systems in the first photo above.  Clearly the old school technology is working well, judging by the cows gathered around the water trough in the photo below. 


I’m not so sure how well the more “modern” technology is working so this morning I did a little quick internet research and the results confirmed what I had suspected.

In the United States, domestic clean energy production and manufacturing competitiveness work hand-in-hand. The report finds total U.S. wind power capacity grew to 47,000 megawatts by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 megawatts, enough to power 12 million homes annually -- as many homes as in the entire state of California.

…. so trumpets Energy.Gov.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  Enough power for all the homes in California.  But a little common sense and some further digging reveals that it isn’t quite that rosy a picture. 

Energy production is subject to a variety of measures – capacity, efficiency, intermittency, reliability, dispatchability, availability and no doubt many more.  I’m not going to explain each of those terms – you can Google just as easily as I can.  The three important ones for me are capacity, intermittency and dispatchability. 

Intermittency refers to the times when power isn’t available from your chosen source – the lake goes dry behind the dam, the sun goes behind a cloud or the wind doesn’t blow.  Capacity derives from many of the factors above but in the case of wind a big influencer of capacity is intermittency.  If the wind doesn’t blow then you have zero capacity out of your wind farm.  And it turns out that results in capacity factors for wind in the neighbourhood of 30%.  Compare that with nuclear capacities that may exceed 100% of designed capacity.  And you get similarly high factors for steam (coal or natural gas) plants.  So only 30% of those homes in California will get supplied with power at any one time.  Maybe they’re used to that though – I hear they have become accustomed to rolling blackouts.

There’s another element to wind power though that’s more insidious.  When shills for the so-called green power industry gush about the benefits of their new religion they emphasize how we’re going to move from a world of dirty old coal plants to nice clean wind or solar power.  But are we really going to do that?  The answer is no and its due to the third factor that I said was important – namely dispatchability.

When we lived at Nipawin we were right between two huge hydro-electric plants which I was surprised to learn are controlled from over 200 miles away and are used as “peaking” plants.  That means that they get turned off and on in order to supply power during peak demand times.  When you look at the massive dam spillways and turbines its hard to imagine them starting and stopping but the reality is that they are well suited to that type of service.  If you’ve got a steam fired plant it needs to run 24/7 – it takes time to come up to full production and it takes time to shut it down.  Nuclear is just a steam plant with a different power source so the same rules apply for nuclear, coal and natural gas.  But with a head of water behind a dam and a turbine below the dam all you need to do to turn on the power is open the gates. 

So what has all that got to do with windmills?  I’m glad you asked.  Wind energy (and solar for that matter) isn’t continuous – its intermittent.  When you input that intermittent energy to the grid it may coincide with a period of increased demand in which case its all good.   However if that so-called green energy arrives at a time when the demand on the grid is constant then you need to take some other production offline and it turns out that the power that goes offline is hydro. 

The next time you hear some fool singing the praises of green energy ask them how it is that wind power is greener than hydro.  For me the whole green energy thing is like peeing your pants – it may give you a temporary warm feeling but with a little thought it quickly turns messy.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It just keeps getting better

I’m starting to sound like a shill for Android phones but I can’t help myself.  I’m down here in Nebraska in a Sasktel cellular black hole. 


That big white state pretty well in the middle is Nebraska.  Somebody in Sasktel doesn’t get along with somebody in Nebraska as far as I can see.  However all is not lost.  I have really good wifi at my motel so every night I can get caught up.  But it gets better.

My phone can use the wifi – no big deal there – my Blackberry could have done that too although it would have been much more difficult to set up on the BB.  The big deal came last night when I thought I’d try accessing Skype on the phone.  As I’ve become accustomed to, as soon as I browsed to the phone asked me if I wanted to install the Skype app.  And seconds later, once the app was installed, there I was holding the phone up to my ear just like it is supposed to be used and talking on a crystal clear connection to SWMBO.

So that was a big deal and I was pretty excited about that last night but what pushed me over the top tonight was the realization that I would rather enter trades on my phone than my computer.  Not that I’m any great wizard of the stock market but I do keep some active trades pretty well all the time and I’m really strict about entering trailing stops immediately after any new purchase.  I like to place the stop roughly 3 x the average true range below the close on the day that I purchase.  So tonight I needed to place a stop for the Cheesecake Factory stock I bought yesterday and it turned out that it was easier to do that on my phone than it would have been to use the computer.  I use Questrade for online trading and there’s some neat features to their new IQ platform that are really only available on the computer but for simple trade entry I don’t think it gets much easier than doing it with the app on the phone. 

I keep waiting for the day when I’ll think “well that’s a bad feature” (of my new phone) but so far that day hasn’t come.  I was a little concerned about the battery life but I think that was just me spending so much time looking at it.  The screen definitely chews up power when its turned on and its such a nice screen to look at that its tempting to browse or play on it.  However, unlike my Blackberry which would chew through a battery in half a day trying to connect where no connection was available, this phone seems smart enough to know that it can’t connect down here and it hasn’t been eating up its battery in a futile search for a connection.

Friday, October 5, 2012


I can’t claim to have invented that word but it still describes me.  I just love my Galaxy SIII.  I finding that there are times when I prefer to access the internet on it over using the computer.  Not always by any means but there are definitely times when it was easier.


And talk about apps!  There’s an app for everything.  I’ve got an eBay app, an Auction Sniper app, a Trawler Forum app, a Riderville app, a weather app, some navigation apps – marine & terrestrial, various shopping apps (which I haven’t tried out yet) and many many more.  It seems like every time I access a website it prompts me to download its particular app.  And with something like 40 gig of memory to work with, as long as the app is free, I don’t even hesitate.  So far I have paid the grand total of zero dollars and zero cents for the apps I have downloaded.  I honestly don’t understand the revenue model but from my standpoint I figure to grab as many as I may ever need while they are free.  I even went so far as to change trading platforms on my computer just so that I could use the trading app (which I doubt I will ever actually use to trade but it will be handy to check fast moving stocks during the day). 

Today has been an expensive, largely futile day.  The car had a large bullseye just below and to the left of eye level when we bought it.  I had been waiting for an opportunity to get the glass changed and today was the day so that meant an early morning trip into town with SWMBO to drop the car off and bring the truck back home.  Yesterday I ran out of propane just as I was finishing up making breakfast but I had too many things booked for the day to take the time to drive into town for propane.  So when I got back this morning I disconnected everything and headed into town for propane.  Which turned into fuel plus propane.  We weren’t out of fuel but we’re starting to use the diesel furnace at night so it made sense to top off the diesel tank.  So at the end of the day I have made several trips in and out of Regina, spent a shit load of money and don’t really have anything to show for it.

Tomorrow I think we’ll run out to Buchanan to close the house up for the winter.  We’re not going to move the bus there for a couple more weeks but its getting cold enough at night that we’re starting to worry about things freezing.  I’ll probably also fire up the Cubevan and move it over closer to an electric plug.  The guy that gave me a deposit on it back in May or June still hasn’t showed up to complete the deal.  At the time we made the deal I had him write in a drop dead date on the contract.  He wrote in Dec. 31, all the while assuring me that it would never possibly take him that long to come up with the rest of the money.  The clock is ticking.  He did call me about a month ago to assure me that he still intended to complete the sale and I hope he does because it will be a PITA to start all over again next spring selling it.  I will have his deposit to ease the pain but the truck will also be one year older. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I just have to say this

We watched the 1st Presidential debate last night in its entirety.  I am under no illusions that Romney’s stellar performance last night will have any effect on his doomed campaign but it was fun to see the chosen one umming, ahhhing and looking at his shoes.  What has been even more entertaining is the reaction of the liberal media today.

I can’t stand too much of their pablum so I can’t pretend I have watched every bit of nonsense that CNN and MSNBC spouted today but the general theme seems to be this: Obama failed as a debater.  Apparently that was either due to inadequate preparation (ie. John Kerry’s fault) or lack of enthusiasm for the process. 

What that side of the political spectrum seems to have failed to notice is what I have been saying all along, namely that the emperor has no clothes.  All of his policies have been failures, he doesn’t understand how the economy works and most importantly he doesn’t understand how to lead.  All he understands is how to campaign. 

So when you put him side by side with someone who does know how to lead and does understand how the economy works its no wonder that the chosen one comes up looking like a goof. 

Meanwhile north of the 49th Gerry Ritz was back in the House to face the music over XL Foods.  I usually ignore Question Period, even when I’m in Ottawa, perhaps especially when I’m in Ottawa because ultimately it means exactly nothing.  Particularly under Harper who defends his ministers often past the time when he really should dump them.  But I made a point of watching Ritz in QP today.  Not because I’m any great fan of Gerry but just to see what he had to say.

I think he missed the chance to hammer home the simple fact that he has been in Brooks dealing with the problem rather than being in Ottawa dealing with the press.  That’s exactly what I would have told him to do, had he asked me.  I about blew a gasket this morning when that stupid old fossil Craig Oliver was pontificating about how abjectly derelict Ritz was in his duty to the Ottawa press corps. 

What nobody seems to want to say and yet appears crystal clear is that XL dropped the ball and CFIA failed to pick it up.  Most of you have never been inside a slaughterhouse.  If you don’t want to know what happens there then stop reading now because its not pretty.

The steer comes in off the truck covered in shit and full of shit.  He gets shot in the head, his throat slit and somebody hangs him up by his Achilles tendons so he can bleed out.  Then this huge roller affair pulls his hide off – its kind of like watching your wife pull a tight sweater up over her head, except that the hide goes down not up.  Just think about the opportunities for the clean carcass that is inside that hide to get contaminated by all the shit and bugs and dirt that are on the outside of that hide.  Then his guts come out and he gets chilled and the rest is kind of boring.  I believe that in this case the major failure was that after the hide comes off the hot carcass is supposed to get flushed with hot water – likely steaming hot water.  My understanding is that some of those water jets weren’t working and the ones that were didn’t have as hot of water as they were supposed to have.

At some point the carcass gets checked for bacterial contamination and whenever one carcass reads positive the carcass ahead of and behind that carcass are also supposed  to be pulled off the line.  That wasn’t happening.  And ultimately when CFIA asked for the plant records, XL didn’t provide them for three days.  Its not much wonder they are staying conspicuously silent.  Now that may have simply been because nobody at CFIA thought it was important enough to remind them.  With the benefit of hindsight its easy for CFIA to say that XL was stalling while at the time CFIA may have thought it was no big deal.  What I find particularly impressive is that neither Ritz nor CFIA president George Da Pont have slung much mud in XL’s direction.  That tells me that both of them are more focussed on solving the problem than on casting blame and again, that’s the way I’d want them to handle it.

At the end of the day the guys that will pay for this fiasco are the cow calf producers in western Canada.  Processors like XL just work on throughput.  They won’t cut their margins one iota as a result of this.  What they will do is drop the price they pay feedlots for incoming cattle if the public cuts its beef consumption as they almost inevitably will.  Who wouldn’t with all the crap that fools like Craig Oliver are currently spreading?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Grandma would have loved this moment

When Grandma and Grandpa left the farm their federal polling station dropped from 3 Liberal votes to 1.  Everybody knew whose vote that was – it was Barbara Pavelich – her husband Frank voted a straight CCF line. 

So its not surprising that Grandma was a huge Trudeau fan.  She actually had a scrapbook with pictures that included his wedding and their baby pictures.  Which brings us to today’s topic – Justin’s long awaited announcement.  The kid definitely has the old man’s gift of the gab – gotta love his opening line - “behind every successful man there stands an astonished woman”.  There’s no way Margaret “Maggie” could have given as eloquent an introduction for Pierre but that perhaps highlights what I expect will be Justin’s problem.

Pierre was likely the smartest man who has ever served as our Prime Minister.  He was also a charismatic leader.  It seems to me that his son has inherited that charisma and leadership ability but I see no evidence that he is anywhere close to the father’s intellect.  Perhaps time will prove me wrong but here’s what I predict:

  1. The Libs will crown him.  The party old guard will attempt to remold him and he will resist but eventually will succumb to the allure of the finances and power they promise him.
  2. He will improve the Libs share of the popular vote in Ontario and Quebec, possibly BC as well.  That will not however translate into a massive increase in seats.  He will take some seats from the BlocDP in Quebec and he will take back some Conservative seats in Ontario.

My great hope is that he will weaken the BlocDP hold on Quebec enough that the Conservatives will regain some seats.  Time will tell.