Thursday, December 27, 2012

Where the hell is global warming ……….

……. when you really need it.  This is ridiculous.  We’re literally counting the sleeps until we leave for Guadalajara.  For me that should be the end of the cold.  I don’t plan to come back to Regina when we get back into Canada.  Marilyn on the other hand will have a couple more months of deep freeze to look forward to.  But by the time we get back to Calgary the days should be getting noticeably longer which always makes it a little easier to bear.

In the meanwhile though its just damn cold.  Yesterday we thought we’d let the crowds settle down a bit and let the weather warm up a bit.  We waited until noon before starting the truck and venturing downtown.  I’d say we failed on both objectives.  The crowds were gawdawful and it was still gawdamn cold.  I could only put up with the crowds for an hour and a half before Marilyn brought me home.  She carried on into the early evening and judging by the shopping bags she arrived home with must have had fun.

Its hard to get enthused about writing a weblog post when there’s not a lot going on.  I’ve got a couple of minor projects on the go but I’m having more success with procrastinating than I am with progressing them. 

How about those we’re-still-idle protesters?  They’re gonna kill that poor deluded chief.  She started her stupid little hunger strike never thinking that she’d have to carry it through until she starved to death.  I’m sure her ill conceived plan anticipated the PM caving in and meeting with her before she even really noticed that she was hungry.  In most cases those stupid protests quietly fade away over a big dinner but not this time.  She sorely misjudged the will of the PM but she also misjudged the fervour of her so-called spokesmen who have seized on the opportunity to create a martyr.  Now she’s in a can’t win situation being advised by people with an agenda and the agenda requires her to starve to death.  Meanwhile her brain which was demonstrably feeble to begin with is (likely) now further addled by starvation.  Not a good situation and it has to end badly. 

Meanwhile the so-called protesters that have jumped on the bandwagon of the chief’s impending death are no better than the hooligans that burned Vancouver or Toronto.  There may be the occasional well meaning participant but most of them are just looking for a chance to be part of a mob.

The only other item on the news these days is the famous fiscal cliff which has now apparently been turned into a fiscal slope.  “Fiscal cliff” must have been deemed too scary for the sheeple to hear repeatedly so it has been downgraded.  Smoothed off with an editorial grader so to speak.  Its all BS anyway – the cliff or slope that they are trying so desperately to blame on each other doesn’t even come close to addressing the fact that the US is bankrupt. 

I think there will be some real buy and hold bargains in the market by about mid-Feb. 

And finally, how about that internet?  What a resource Google has become.  I can’t imagine life without it.  Lately I have been trying to do as much of my vehicle service as I think I am capable of.  First off I kind of like pulling wrenches as long as I’m not on an agenda.  Second I get pretty well paid when you consider what the service shops think their time is worth.  And finally with the assistance of the internet I think that – most of the time anyway - I can do a better job than I can buy.  I’ve done pretty well all the mechanical work on the boat since we bought it with the exception of hiring little short Pat to change the motor mounts in Seattle.  And I don’t think anybody other than a tire jockey has put a wrench on the frenchy-bus since Luke released it from his shop in Vineland.

The project for today was tightening the parking brake on the Lincoln.  I was dreading starting it because I remember well past experiences with parking brake adjustment nuts that were frozen up solid from years of road salt.  In this case the car is 10+ years old with likely the original parking brake cable so I was prepared for a fustercluck.  First step for every new-to-me service adventure now is to research it on Google. 


Mr. Google pretty quickly pulled up that picture but it took quite a bit of searching to figure out where the adjuster is located.  Fortunately our Lincoln is on a really popular platform.  Most of its siblings call themselves Crown Vics or Grand Marquis but once you strip off the chrome they’re all basically the same car.  I was thinking probably directly under the driver’s right foot but it turned out to be immediately ahead of the rear driver side wheel.  And it turned out to be a really good, incredibly simple mechanism.  The arrow points to a U-clip that straddles the cable.  You slide the clip off (but it is caged so it doesn’t go flying off to lurk forever in some dark corner of the shop).  Then you let the spring take up the tension on the cable and slide the clip back over the cable.  It took about 4X as long to run the car up on ramps as it did to make the adjustment and the whole project didn’t cost me any blood.  Gotta love that on a miserably cold day in Regina – or any other day for that matter.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What to think?

The gun debate that is coming out of Newtown is causing me to reassess what I think about gun ownership.  But I have to go way back to lay the background.  And I’m writing this as much to clarify my own thinking as I am to share my thoughts.  I’m prompted to do this because I’m watching the NRA press conference to respond to Newtown.  Their position seems to be that if the problem is guns then more guns is the solution.

I don’t like government and particularly I don’t like heavy handed regulation.  I’m a strong believer in allowing gun ownership and unregulated ownership at that.  But obviously the extreme that the US has enabled isn’t working.  So what to think? 


For a long time I have been concerned about the increasing police state that borders us to the south.  I used to laugh about the various levels of policing that we see in Mexico.  At the bottom of the ladder in Mexico are the Transitos.  They ride around in beat up pickups with beer bellies and bad uniforms.  In theory their role is to police local parking and traffic regulations but I think over time their role likely has been to shake down the locals and the tourists.  At the other extreme is the highway patrol.  They have really nice fast black cars.  They wear spiffy uniforms.  They are uniformly jocks with mirror sunglasses.  In between there are various levels of state and federal policing as well as the army.  You’re never far from some form of police presence in Mexico.

But the situation isn’t much different in the US.  We see local sheriffs and state troopers.  Along the borders we see the green and white border patrol vehicles as well as Homeland Security’s presence.  Behind the scenes there is the FBI and the National Guard and that’s not even mentioning the plethora of private security firms that are very visible.  At the root of it all there seems to be an attitude that you can enforce public safety so by extension if the public doesn’t feel safe you need to add some security personnel.  When I hear the term “gun culture” that’s what it means to me – the concept that armed men carrying guns can enforce public safety.  If the public isn’t safe then obviously all that is needed is more armed men carrying guns.


This morning I heard the NRA spray accusations like the bullets from an assault rifle – the problem is the media, the problem is government and the problem is bad video games.  The solution – according to them - is more men with more guns.  We used to call that M.A.D. – mutual assured destruction and to be fair, the US won that contest because they were prepared to and capable of raising the M.A.D. stakes until the USSR went broke.  Is that how we want to solve the gun crisis?  Keep raising the stakes until the bad guys go broke?  Is that even possible?

I don’t know what the solution is but I don’t think putting armed men in every school is wise or even possible.  When you overlay the gun crisis with the debt crisis even if you think putting another policeman in every school is a solution its not economically possible.  And that’s not even getting into the risks associated with gunfights in the corridors.   I think what the NRA was actually advocating was civilian vigilantes patrolling the hallways which is really scary. 

What I had hoped to hear from the NRA was some reasoned response that included a concession.  Surely nobody believes that 30 round or 100 round clips are necessary.  I know its a slippery slope when you start regulating what can be sold but 60% of the public thinks that high capacity clips need to be banned.  If the NRA had come out with that level of concession I think they would have strengthened their position.  As it is they just look stupid. 

So I started this piece by saying I needed to lay the background and then I wandered all over the map.  I don’t have a solution but I’m 100% certain the solution isn’t a heightened police presence and gawd help us all if the solution is more vigilantes.  The older I grow the more thankful I am that I was born north of the 49th parallel.  I have tremendous respect for my American neighbours but you guys have a lot of things to sort out over the next 5 years.  Good luck with that process.

On the bright side it looks like the Mayans were wrong.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Just in case


I could probably stop right now and everyone would know what I meant.   Marlan, one of our sons, has offered to accept any valuable items that people may have lying around ahead of the apocalypse.  His offer was something to the effect of “if you don’t want your place cluttered up with random valuables as the end approaches, I will be happy to take them for safekeeping”.  Not sure how that worked out for him but you have to admire his creative thinking.

We have one of those calendars lying around somewhere – it must be in storage in the house in Buchanan.  We bought it in a flea market somewhere in Mexico and it used to hang on the wall of our Mexican room in the house in Nipawin.  Somehow it escaped the dustbin when we downsized and now it is collecting dust somewhere.  I guess its about as useful as a 2009 paper calendar now.  Good thing we didn’t buy it to be useful.

Yesterday I was gone all day on a farm call up by Lanigan.  It wasn’t my first choice of a day to make a roadtrip in Saskatchewan but I made the appointment close to 2 weeks ago so I had to go.  It was an all day adventure and when I got home the City of Regina had posted signs along our street saying that we can’t park there tonight.  I suppose that means that they are going to do snow removal which is a good idea because it is getting pretty deep.  That left me in doubt as to where to park the trucklet.  The Lincoln gets to live in the garage off the back alley but there’s no other parking here except on street parking.  Its not the greatest neighbourhood so I wasn’t wild about just leaving it on some random sidestreet and its minus bloody 20 or worse every night so not being able to plug it in seemed like another bad thing.  I finally decided that its got 4 wheel drive for a reason.  So I engaged 4 x 4 and parked it in the front yard on the lawn.  I suppose that is a redneck move and it may very well contravene some bylaw but as long as the enforcement goon doesn’t come around before morning I’ll be OK.

Anyway - - if we don’t get to talk again its been good knowing you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cat TV

Georgie really likes this house.  I think he still probably likes the boat better but he’s a pretty happy guy here.  And just in the last couple of days he has discovered that he has cat TV.



So far he hasn’t figured out how to make it interactive TV.  I think the top is pretty well covered but I guess time will tell.  He’s always been fascinated by the sound of running water so the filter noise must just be an added bonus for him.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A pair of old fools

Standing in line last night waiting to buy tickets to The Hobbit we tried to remember the last time either of us saw a movie in a theatre.  We concluded it was likely a James Bond flick that Al Pinkney convinced us to see at the theatre in Nipawin but neither of us could really remember anything to fix a date for that viewing.  The only other possibility we could come up with was the first of the Lord of the Rings movies and for that one we could clearly remember three little heads lined up in front of us. So that has to be close to 15 years ago.

Regardless of how long ago it was, there we were lined up with the teenagers and mothers with kids, waiting to see an animated picture about imaginary creatures.  We spent many happy evenings cuddled up on the kids’ beds listening to Marilyn reading first The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings.  And when we got into the theatre it turned out we were by no means the oldest ones in attendance.  In fact there was a tremendous range of ages represented and I’m sure the 20-40 year old crowd outnumbered the 16 and under crowd.  It was a 2 hour and 45 minute movie and both of us were surprised when the credits started to roll so I guess it was a good show. 

And now for something completely different …..

IMG_6393 I don’t get fish.  I like to catch them.  I like to eat them.  But I absolutely don’t get why anybody would ever consider them as a pet.  And particularly so the ones that came with this house.  They’re bland, non-descript, completely ordinary, rather small pet fishes.  They don’t do anything exciting.  They don’t look pretty.  They just swim haphazardly around a tank that slowly turns green.  I don’t get the appeal.

Today Marilyn is devoting 2 or 3 hours of her life to cleaning the tank for the stupid creatures.  Its a major performance.  She has to scrub the sides of the tank, vacuum out the gravel, wash all the plastic crap that sits on the bottom for the stupid critters to swim around and replace about 1/3 of the water.  And not with just any old replacement tap water either.  It has to be the right temperature and it has to have sat for a week to let the chlorine escape.


I say dump a gallon of bleach in the tank, fish the critters out when they float to the surface and two days before the owner returns pop into a pet shop and replace them.  They’re such completely ordinary fish that the only possible problem would be finding 4 equally bland fish in a small enough size.  I can’t see what possible problems could arise and she’s going to piss away a couple days of her life looking after the stupid things over the next 3 months.   She could even go so far as to fish them out before dumping in the bleach and George could have fish for dinner.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Well …… that was stupid

Actually the whole project was pretty much of a fustercluck so I guess it was appropriate that I finished up by deleting the few pictures I had for evidence.

I hate cold weather.  That was both the instigating incident and the complication for the project.  Generally I don’t bother plugging vehicles in but that requires me to avoid weather approaching the minus 20 range and I have screwed up in spades in that regard.  So this week I thought I should dig out the cord on the Lincoln and get it plugged in.  No cord. 

I crawled over and under and around that stupid car but nowhere could I see any evidence of a block heater cord.  It was inconceivable to me that any car sold in western Canada wouldn’t ship with a block heater but I sure couldn’t see a cord.  Yesterday I went so far as to run the car up on blocks – which of course meant I had to start it without having plugged it in first.  Once I got it on the blocks and crawled underneath I pretty quickly found a block heater stuffed into the rearmost frost plug on the drivers side.  So it should have been simple to trace the wire and find the plug, right?  Not a flipping prayer.

The cord from the heater disappeared up over the top of the bellhousing and from there I had no idea where it went.  No matter how I poked and prodded peered and spied I couldn’t figure out where the cord was going.  In the back of my mind I knew it was possible that some fool had cut the power cord and it certainly appeared that was what had happened.  Last night I decided that I would make one last attempt to trace the cord this morning and, failing any success in that department, would buy a new cord and plug it into the existing heater. 

So once it finally got up close to –15 I donned my insulated coveralls and gloves and headed back into the tiny little garage that comes along with this house sitting gig.  I thought I could maybe pull the cord loose from the bottom and drag it up over the engine to see where it went to but it quickly became obvious that was just going to turn into an ordeal and make a mess.  With some additional high intensity lights that I discovered in the basement I was able to confirm that the cord was definitely headed to the curbside of the car.  Up until today I wasn’t 100% sure of that. 

So back up to the top of the car and try to figure out which cables might be coming from under the engine to the curbside.  To make a long story long enough already I finally found a wire that terminated in a stupid looking rectangular plug that kind of looked like the plug you used to use on an electric frying pan, back in the days when people still used electric frying pans.  The plug had three pins offset such that it made sense they were set up for 110 volts and something I had read online confirmed that this was likely what I was looking for.  Original equipment would have included a pigtail that plugged into this connector and extended through the grill but of course that was long gone.  So I took the number off the plug and went indoors to warm up and phone Ford.

The partsman at Bennett Dunlop was very helpful and quickly found what I wanted on a schematic.  They didn’t have it – of course.  And it turns out it is a discontinued part but as he got deeper into the search he discovered that it was priced at $120 so there’s not a prayer of a chance I would ever have paid that anyway.  The whole point of finding the right pigtail was simply to avoid freezing my fingers while I adapted what I had.  My first inclination when I found the connector was to cut it off and splice on an extension cord, which is what I ended up doing.  I did however think that if the factory pigtail was under $40 it would be worth it to miss out on the frozen fingers.

That sent me back to the garage with my soldering iron and a sacrificial orange extension cord which is now permanently dangling from the grill.  If I do say so I did a pretty good job of blending it in but I don’t have any plastic zip ties so I’ll need to make a run to Wallyworld or Princess Auto in order to finish the job completely.  When I got it all done and plugged it in I got the high pitched singing sound that every Canadian knows signifies that their block heater is still working.

I took a few pictures along the way in anticipation of writing about the project but I took them with my phone.  When I put them in Dropbox they didn’t upload as quickly as I thought they would so when I came back to my phone and deleted them I didn’t realize that the pictures I actually wanted to upload hadn’t uploaded yet.  There’s likely some workaround to retrieve them off the phone but frankly I don’t care that much.  This whole project should have taken 5 minutes but instead has taken the best part of the last three days.  Enough already.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

There and back again

I’ve got Hobbit on the brain because I ate breakfast at Denny’s every day last week.  For some reason Denny’s is running a promotion in conjunction with a new Hobbit movie that has apparently been released.  For those of you who don’t know, “There and Back Again” was the full title of Bilbo’s original book of adventures.  We haven’t seen a show in a theatre for so long I can’t remember when the last time was but I’m tempted to go see Bilbo’s excellent adventure.

I was eating breakfast in Denny’s in Cottonwood, Arizona because I was down there on a cattle project.  We’ve been in that area several times so this trip was easy to plan.  When I get an email saying that I need to go to East Bumfuzzle, Montana it can be hard to figure out where I should fly into or where I should stay.  This time I knew right away that I would fly into Phoenix and stay in Cottonwood.  We’ve stayed in the Thousand Trails park between Cottonwood and Camp Verde and I wrote about it here.  In fact it was the Thousand Trails at Cottonwood that we went to after Clifford gave us our awning & I had some parts shipped there to finish up the installation.

It was great to get away from the Regina cold and still have sunshine.  I could get away from the cold by going to the boat but I’d get no sunshine on that plan.   I flew into Phoenix on Monday, picked up a car and drove up to Cottonwood.  I always enjoy driving in Phoenix because their freeways are so well laid out.  Everything is on the square and you don’t have lanes that just suddenly disappear or suck you off into an exit without warning.  One time we drove into Phoenix from the west and drove right through town and out the east side.  We arrived in town in the right hand of two lanes and exited town in the right hand of two lanes.  In between we were frequently in 6 or 8 lane traffic with multiple lanes either side of us.  I never once changed lanes.  That’s really good road design.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay in the warmth until spring so I flew back to Regina yesterday morning.  Last night we went to Marilyn’s staff party at the Queensbury Centre on the exhibition grounds.  The band was …….  shall we say ……. not good.  We did however manage to get in some dancing.  We think Kerry’s wedding was probably our last dancing occasion. 

We’re in the midst of an unseasonably cold snap here which makes it really easy to think up reasons not to go outdoors.  Despite that I need to put brake pads on the Exploder so I’ll likely tackle that project this week before I make a few local road trips.  I’m planning to sit it out here until after Christmas when we’re booked to fly to Guadalajara to visit Karla.  Then I’ll go back into the gray warmth of BC.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Little house on the prairie

While I was starting the cubevan in the cold Marilyn was in Regina getting ready to move to her house sitting gig.  She wasn’t sorry to be leaving “the hole” as she affectionately referred to the basement of the Chinaman’s place.  I met them briefly while we were finishing up her move to where we are now and they seemed OK but there were clearly just too many people crammed into too small a space. 

While she was starting the move I was in Saskatoon at Rob Saik’s Farm Forum.  There’s been a few guys over the years that have tried to build a business based on selling consulting services to farmers but Rob’s organization is the only one that has got any traction.  I remember when he first started out.  At the time we thought he was long on promotion and short on content.  And he likely was but over the years he has surrounded himself with some really smart guys and his own enthusiasm and vision has continued to drive his organization ahead.  I haven’t been to one of his Farm Forum events for several years but they are always well worth the significant registration fees that he charges. 

The show wrapped up around suppertime on Thursday but I had a farm visit before I could head home so it was really late when I got to Regina.  I woke Marilyn up around 3:30 to let me into her new residence and I didn’t get up very early Friday morning.  Friday evening we went back to the hole and cleaned out all her remaining “stuff”.  And for just having been there six weeks she had really accumulated a lot of stuff.  I think that goes with the territory – when you have a house you fill it with stuff.  No matter how big the house the stuff just accumulates.  Yet another advantage for boats and buses.

Today we went and picked up the idiot cat and got him moved to the little house on Victoria.  He has been prowling the house ever since.  Its hard to tell what his furry little brain is thinking, if it thinks at all.  Judging by how high he is carrying his tail he seems to be settling in well.  Cat tails are like a barometer – high tail means good things.

And now for something completely different ……………….