Thursday, August 27, 2015

I’ve been remiss ………

…………….. I haven’t posted anything for an undue length of time.  In my defence we’ve been pretty busy.

After we arrived in Dog River we had to dash home so I could keep an eye on the concrete crew.  They’re generally an OK bunch but I didn’t hire them because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted done.  The problem with concrete is that, once its poured, its all over.  There’s no going back unless you like leaning on a jackhammer.  As it was, despite my best efforts, they still hosed me a little bit.  I guess its not a big deal but it pissed me off nonetheless.

When I first hired Steve I told him what I wanted and made a particular point of telling him that I wanted hardener and sealer on everything.  The small town guys don’t generally get much of that specificity – concrete is concrete for most people.  If you’re dealing in larger centres then the contractors are used to outside authorities spec’ing the concrete but in small town SK what comes out of the truck is generally what you get and most people couldn’t tell you anything about their options.  Steve’s “finisher” had used hardener before but he clearly didn’t like using it and I’m willing to bet that, of all the jobs they will do this summer, my little project will be the only one involving hardener.  All of which doesn’t make any damn difference to me – I want what I want and I’m paying the bill.  Not that hardener adds any significant cost but I’M PAYING THE BILL and I want it how I want it.

All of which is merely preamble to the moment last Tuesday when, roughly halfway through the pour, I said to Steve “You’re putting hardener in this too, right?”  Which comment was prompted by the fact that I had seen no sign of any bags of hardener and it was getting past the time when they should have been adding it.  “Oh, you wanted it here too?” WTF? How much clearer should I have been?  By then of course it was too late because he didn’t have any hardener on hand and the nearest supply was 2 hours away.  So I’m a little pissed off.  It won’t likely matter in the long term but it will always piss me off.  He had some bullshit about how “they never use it outdoors” but the reality is that they never use it anywhere so the fact, if it really is true, that they don’t use it outdoors isn’t really noteworthy.

After we got through the apron pour, without hardener, we went back to Rouleau AKA Dog River and I visited a bunch more Assiniboia clients.  Then we moved from Rouleau to Kipling and I did some more 100 KPH crop inspections.  While we were in Kipling we reunited with a variety of my cousins that we don’t generally see except at funerals.  From Kipling we headed north and stopped briefly in Buchanan to raid Keith’s garden and do a bit of laundry.  Yesterday afternoon we moved to Humboldt which is where we are now.

Humboldt I’m limited in what I can post for pictures because I’m pissed off at Mozy.  Its a long story but the Coles Notes version is that, when I had to do a restore last January, I discovered some really stupid features of their system.  I was mad enough at the time that I considered changing to some other backup system but then time went by and I kind of forgot about it.  About 10 days ago now I got a “credit card failure” notice from Mozy.  The chip on my primary card died sometime – I can’t exactly remember when – but it must have been since the last time I renewed my Mozy subscription.  The tone of the email pissed me off all over again, not to mention the fact that they were charging the subscription a full 2 weeks before the package I had paid for expired.  That whole attitude of “you can’t use our system unless you prepay well in advance and we’ll go ahead and charge you for a renewal without notifying you” really bugs me.  So the credit card incident combined with my memory of my frustration this winter was enough to push me over the edge. 

As it turns out Dropbox offers a perfectly workable cloud backup system at a fraction of the price of Mozy.  And as it turns out, the Dropbox solution is much more flexible than the Mozy system which was precisely the cause of my frustration last winter.  Mozy is one of those technology companies that simply KNOWS that they are much smarter than all their customers and therefore forces their customers into a one size fits all mould. 

So what does all this have to do with uploading pictures you ask?  Having paid for a Dropbox upgrade I am now in the midst of an initial synch involving hundreds of Gigs of files.  My standard method of quickly moving images off my camera involves Dropbox.  I expect that method won’t work until the initial synch finishes and I’m not really interested in the frustration of setting up a cable connection.  So the only photo you get this time is the town of Humboldt’s entrance sign. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dog River, SK


Gotta love those rates and, while they’re maybe a little on the low side, they’re not completely unusual for small town SK campgrounds.  Of course SK residents, and any fans of Corner Gas, will know that “Dog River” is a fictitious place.  The TV series briefly put Rouleau on the map and the town still capitalizes on Corner Gas tourism.  The gas station and The Ruby which formed the set for the show still stand on the SW corner of town.  When we drove in today there was a car parked there with a family taking selfies in front of the old set. 

After Marilyn’s reunion wrapped up in Cypress Hills we moved to Ponteix and set up there for the week so that I could visit Assiniboia clients in SW Sask.  I’ve done this project for several summers now and its a great opportunity both to reunite with long term clients and to visit small towns across this vast province. 


There’s maybe 20 sites in this little campground but tonight we’re the only tenants.  Its not fancy but its got water, 30 amp electric, a sewer dump and southern exposure for the satellite dish.  What’s not to like about that?


Each town has its own personality and there’s some real heritage buildings in some locations – big old cathedrals, civic buildings, provincial courthouses.  The town waterworks with a 1913 build date is across the street from the campground entrance.

I’ve been wandering around visiting farmer clients who are largely occupied with harvest right now.  Its a great time to visit because most days I can hop in the combine cab with at least one client and have a visit while he keeps on keeping on.  The photos below were taken near Scotsgard where a large tenant was getting multiple new Case IH machines rolling early one morning.  This one had the doors up and the operator was buried in the guts of the machine.  I learned later that it had blown a chopper belt but that doesn’t really matter.  I couldn’t resist texting the image to Michael who has seriously drank the red Koolaid.  I asked him what could be happening with those open doors.  His response “Looks like speed brakes to slow her down, little bit like a plane.” 



Sunday, August 9, 2015

The silly season

For a pair of political junkies such as ourselves this is a great time to be travelling with a satellite dish.  It hasn’t been without challenges but we finally have a system that works to allow us to take our TV with us on the road.  And we’re solidly on the road for roughly the next month.

This spring I bought us a Winegard carryout dish.

winegardcarryout It doesn’t look like much but – in  theory at least – it is a vast improvement over what we used to do.  What we used to do was carry a Shaw Direct elliptical dish and a tripod.  Whenever we got to somewhere I had to set up and level the tripod.  Then I had to mount the dish which was moderately big and clumsy and then we had to aim it.  Anyone who has ever aimed one of those dishes knows that it can be a snap or it can be a major pain.  Most of the time it went well but on those occasions when it didn’t it was enough to make us wish TV had never been invented.

Inside that white plastic dome is a miniature Shaw dish with a couple of motors to control elevation and compass orientation.  In theory you set it down on a reasonably level surface, hook it to the receiver, give it 12 volt power and it goes to work finding the satellite.  When it actually works it takes less than a minute from the time you plug in the 12V to the time you can start watching CTV or Fox.  Out of the box however, it wasn’t quite that simple.  We travelled in mid July and tried it out then, unsuccessfully.  At the time I blamed it on trees blocking our southern view and that may have been true but it turned out we had bigger problems.

Last week we moved to Cypress Hills Provincial park so that Marilyn could attend a Bergren family reunion.  They gave us a great site with an absolutely unobstructed southern view so we knew that – if the dish didn’t work – at least it had nothing to do with trees.  And sure enough, the dish continued to not work.  That left phoning Winegard as my next option and I dread phoning any technical “customer service”.  As it turned out the Winegard call was relatively painless.  The nice lady that phoned me back after an interminable length of time on hold initially tried to tell me that I needed to screw around with our skew setting.  “Skew” is the angle that the LNB (the receiver head on the dish) is oriented relative to the axis of the dish.  It is necessary to skew a Shaw dish because they use a single dish to receive signals from two different satellites.  I was about 110% certain that skew wasn’t going to solve our problem so I kept pushing for additional ideas and that lead to checking the signal quality or “Map Status”.  The number for that indicated to the nice lady that we were receiving a high definition signal.  Since the Winegard dish can only read a low def signal that clearly wasn’t going to work and it also explained some weird signal strength behaviour that I had already observed. 

The problem with the Winegard lady’s solution was that she couldn’t do anything about it which meant we had to make a second call to Shaw to get them to set the receiver back to low def, in effect a service downgrade.  Marilyn made that call and its a good thing she did because she is a lot more patient than I am.  She had to persist to get the service droid to actually do what Winegard had told us to do.  He kept insisting that it wouldn’t make any difference and telling us to go back to Winegard.  Since we couldn’t very well call them back and ask, in effect, “We didn’t bother trying your last solution but got any more ideas?” Marilyn persisted and he finally, reluctantly, agreed to do what Winegard had requested.  Sure enough immediately when he did that the on-screen status changed and we were able to start receiving a signal.  Actually I think what happened is that our receiver started decoding the signal that it was receiving all along but the effect was that we started reading the signal. 

Of course all of this happened about 14 hours after the US and Canadian debates so we missed seeing the drama live.  We have however been able to watch the aftermath and endless dissections of the two debates.  North of the border my assessment is that Harper didn’t lose the debate which is absolutely the best he could have hoped for.  That combined with the long lead time to the election made the Canadian debate pretty well irrelevant.  On the US side it appears we are seeing the long anticipated (and inevitable) Trump implosion.  What I’d like to see now is some intelligent assessment of who the Trump support actually is.  Are they disaffected Republican voters or just disaffected potential voters?  It makes a huge difference because – when The Donald eventually runs as an independent – on the the one hand it will be an erosion of votes that would otherwise go to the Republican nominee while on the other hand it will be a meaningless movement of votes that wouldn’t have showed up at the polls anyway.   I’ve been very impressed with the interviews that Carly Fiorina has done.  If, as it appears, the prime prerequisite for the 2016 presidential candidate is ovaries then she seems much more qualified than Billary Shrillary and that contest would be one well worth watching.

Meanwhile back at Chitek lake my two little boys are celebrating 25 years on this orbiting rock.

Malibu at Chitek

It feels so good to see the Malibu getting used again but I’m more than a little jealous that we aren’t there to use it too.

Monday, August 3, 2015

I promise to write about something else next week …….

……. but this week the garage is still my highest priority.

IMG_5995 IMG_5996 IMG_5997 IMG_5999 IMG_6000 IMG_6001 IMG_6002 IMG_6003 IMG_6004

I’ve reached so many milestones I don’t know where to begin.  The most satisfying one was definitely the bloody door.  If there were 97 possible wrong ways to install it then I did all 97.  Once I finally ran out of possible wrong things I could do all I had left was the right method and, not surprisingly, the door worked just fine at that point.  Up until then – not so much.  It was incredibly frustrating – the directions were less than clear, in fact they were ambiguous at best and downright confusing in some respects – it took way too long and kept me up at night but it was all the more rewarding when it finally came together.  Right now it works as well or better than any overhead door I have ever seen, let alone owned.  It literally is weightless for its full travel, up or down. 

With the door out of the way the next priority was a general yard cleanup.  Once that was done I could backfill the north and west sides of the building.  The east side is still waiting for Steve-the-concrete-guy to come back and pour me an apron.  I managed not to disturb the south side at all so it didn’t require any cleanup. 

Once the east and north sides were levelled I could use the Genie lift to attack the eaves.  Its incredibly sensitive to being level.  The day I brought it home I thought I was broken because it would go up a little bit, then start squealing loudly and refuse to go any further.  I thought it was “level enough” where it was sitting – we park the truck and trailer there all the time – but once I got the machine inside and got to know it better I learned that it has an extremely low tolerance for side to side out of level conditions.  I guess that makes sense from a safety standpoint – when it extends to its full 26 feet elevation even a very little bit out of level could be  a huge problem.  Its more tolerant of fore/aft out of level conditions but that too makes sense because it is considerably longer than it is wide.  The fact it is so sensitive to level meant that I needed to get the sides of the building cleaned up before I could even think about using it to finish the eaves.

Concurrent with getting the sides of the building levelled up I discovered a feature of the Genie lift that I was previously unaware of.  I was aware that the front end of the platform was supposed to extend but I was also under the impression, mistaken impression as it turned out, that the extension was somehow power driven.  Since I couldn’t make any of the control buttons cause the platform to extend I had concluded that this feature was “broken”.  The lift was incredibly useful even without that extension feature so I didn’t give it too much thought.  There came a time though during the door installation where I was going to have to use a ladder to install the last track hanger.  I had another round of trying to extend the platform and accidentally discovered that extending the platform is as simple as lifting the lock lever and pushing.  It just rolls out as easy as you can imagine and when its fully extended I have a rolling scaffold over 12 feet long.  Its a unbelievably wonderful machine.  It was indispensible to me during the renovation even though I thought the platform extension was unusable.  Being able to extend the platform increases its utility 100%.  Or more. 

The final milestone this week was getting the electrical hooked up.  That happened today.  I trenched the cable in last week and I wasn’t really intending to do anything more until this fall but I had some time on my hands last night which I used to get started on the hookup and I finished it this afternoon.  I’m by no means done with the electrical – in fact I haven’t much more than started but I’ve got a light in my mezzanine parts area and a couple of duplex outlets in the main building.  I’ve also still got the original line powering some outlets so I’m pretty well set up even if I don’t do anything else until winter.  All in all a very productive week.

In fact it was such a productive week that I even took a few minutes to hang parts on the Frankentraktor.  It has been hors de combat since late spring.  I had ordered a coil, points, condenser and voltage regulator from various US suppliers and they finally all arrived a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t feel like I had any time to waste on what is really just a toy.  When things were going so well late last week I took an evening to install all the parts and it has been running like a champ since.  Last night I even took SWMBO on a romantic evening drive around town.