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Alberta Family Day Holiday
Finally, some warmer weather has arrived. We're at minus twenty this morning before dawn, but Calgary Airport is already experiencing zero degrees (C). I have some outdoor things to do, so am hoping that the forecast is accurate.
I finished the forklift repair and the shifter works better than ever now, so I was able to take out the ten drums of ashes that have been accumulating in the basement. The job takes about an hour and is easy with the forklift. I put on the tire chains, too. I should have done that back when the first snow fell, but they were in the shed and I was not sure which ones fit.
After that, I ran to Three Hills and picked up a few things.
One Month Until Spring Begins
This morning I noticed that the search link in the line below every post was pointing to a file my own hard drive, not the same file on the website on my servers. That error happens once in a while and is the usual reason that a picture may not show up where it should on a website. I repaired the link and there should be a search handy at all times, now, right below each day's post.
The web search is one that I optimized for beekeeping -- as I recall -- so it is not the same as just going to Google. I wonder if anyone ever uses those links? The search of my site is very good and turns up lots of interesting material on any given word chosen.
A load of coal arrived tonight. I checked my records and it seems we have burned a lot more coal this winter than previous years, by as much as 15%. It has been a very cold winter, but ???? Is this coal lower grade? Has our heating system changed somehow? Are we keeping the thermostat higher? We do turn it down at night.
The weather continues cold, but not nasty the way it was a few days back. We had only a little snow today and then the day turned sunny. It is just me, the dog and two cats here until Friday. Ellen is up helping Jean and the new baby.
I spent the day looking at vehicles and boats on the web. This morning Ahmad called me when a van I was watching came up at auction.
I put a limit at $10,500. The van went for $11,750 and who knows where it would have gone if we chased it. The selling price was exactly what I had been told is wholesale for that machine. It was a beauty, a 2007 SXT with a trailer hitch and running boards and a 3.8 engine -- Exactly what I want. Unfortunately, the description did not mention several other things I wanted and I was conservative.
After that, I went so far as chasing down a 2009 Chrysler Town and Country in Edmonton for $20,500 -- all-in cash price, including all taxes and fees. I did not commit, deciding, rather to sleep on it. To me $20,000 is a lot to pay for wheels, even very nice wheels.
I had a nap after supper and checked my email. Chris has sent me a note that the first van I had considered, a 2002 red cream puff with high miles was down to $3995. Although I would love to have Stow and Go, I can put the seats in and out quite a few times for the $16,000 difference. Can you see a $16,000 difference in utility?
I am quite conflicted. the damage to my car has me looking for a new ride, but I heard today that the wreckers have the parts for $150 and they are a few blocks from where Ellen is now. I can fix it, including brakes, lights, steering and paint, for a few grand, give it a way, or sell it to Retire My Ride for $300 cash. I can't believe how hard I make these simple decisions. Anyone else would just junk it and be done with it. I can't believe that the car was damaged January 28th and I still have not replaced or fixed it. That was over three weeks ago!
* * * * * * * * *
I had planned to winter in the south, but here I am, having just spent a cold month in Alberta with no definite plans of when to leap and busy with car and boat buying. I planned to be here for the Beekeeping for the Future meeting back in early Feb and for the baby's arrival, but have gotten busy with car buying and have a boat lined up, too, so may have to take a trip to BC.
The one thing I know is that I will be in Sudbury on March 21st.
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More and more people are posting in Honey Bee World Forum today. Jump in, and let me know if you have problems registering or logging in. You must register and confirm your registration before you can log in. Sometimes that process can take a few minutes or more. If you don't get the confirmation email, check your junk mail. Such messages often wind up there with many email systems.
More cold weather is on the way. The days swill warm up a bit, but the nights are still expected to be very cold.
I made up my mind and drove to Lacombe, then Ponoka and bought a 2002 Grand Caravan. It was the first one I looked at, having been mentioned by Chris, but the price was $1500 higher and the owner was away anyhow. Now, weeks later, I bought it for $3,500 cash. I could have probably paid less, since there is a windshield chip and a little rust on the front edge of the hood (why is that so common when there is no rust anywhere else. I see the same pattern on our Toyota, too.), but I figured that I did not want to drive too hard a bargain.
The tires and struts are all brand new and the only thing that might bother some people is that it has 224,000 km on it. There are also two small rust spots. To me, with my other vehicles clocking around 300,000, that is nothing. What I paid for this nice van is just pocket change compared to the other ones I looked at. It has the power seat I wanted (although it lacks lumbar adjustment) and a trailer hitch. The only downside is that it has a the 3.3 engine which is a bit gutless and consumes more fuel than the 3.8 which I have in the van down east.
We are experiencing another really cold day -- minus 31 even after sunrise.
I could be in Laguna Beach where the temperatures are always around 70 or the Caribbean, where the water is so warm that diving in to cool down from being in the hot sun is hardly any relief. I lack good reasons why I am not there now instead of up here in the cold. The excuses are easy to come by: Jean was having a baby and someone had to mind the home fires while Ellen helps out. I wanted to attend the IPM Workshop. My car needs replacing and I need to shop for a new one. I am looking at boats and need to arrange an inspection -- but none are all that convincing when I step out the door into the cold.
February is almost used up. I have less than two weeks to use my flight credits. I have to fly by the 7th, but am told I am needed until the 4th.
I plan to go to the FACS meeting tonight in Calgary. Hopefully, it will warm a bit by then.
Right now, I'm organizing a family reunion to take place this summer in Ontario. It is like herding cats, only harder
I drove to Three Hills in the afternoon and insured and registered the van without any hitches, then returned home for an hour. I had a meeting at 7, so drove to Calgary.
I was not too happy to see my fuel economy reading 12 L/100km on the way in. The tank was down to half, so I stopped in Airdrie and refilled. From that point, the economy improved and I saw a low of 9.5 L/100km (30 MPG) on the trip computer on the way home, so I wonder if it was the extreme cold temperatures yesterday or the tank of gas I bought right after buying the van.
I noticed that the oil was down bit, too, but that was immediately after driving and when I saw it reading "full", it was on an incline at the previous owner's home.
The Alberta pages at GasBuddy.com can be reached direct at AlbertaGasPrices.com. Clicking that second link this morning shows that I could have bought regular gas in Red Deer for $0.954, while in Airdrie, I paid $1.029. (I'm 'lastgas' on the station reports at right).
I buy my gas at the Superstores when I can because they are competitive, and then give out as much as 9 cents in store coupons automatically. The coupons are as good as cash for groceries. A $60 tank of gas gives a $5.40 discount!) Maybe I don't need to worry about gas prices, but saving as much as 20% by paying attention makes a difference in the cost of trip, especially when I drive mansions on wheels. Yesterday, I went into the store and used about $20 in coupons against my groceries.
I entered my one fuel purchase so far into my spreadsheet and get 20.9 MPG. Ugggh! There is a chart at left that I borrowed from here that shows the conversions for those who don't use L/100km. 20.9 MPG (Imperial) comes to around 13 L/100km and that is even worse than the trip computer suggested. One reading is hardly precise. We'll see after I drive more.
The FACS meeting featured a presentation about the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally. I had thought that it might just be about sailing racing which I find hugely boring, but the Rally starts at Istanbul and follows the coasts of Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Israel to Egypt with frequent pre-arranged land tours of antiquities. It is actually a cultural tour via sailboat and people can go from country to country in a way that is impossible for land-based travel ! The event takes about two months and, surprisingly, cost only about € 5,000 for those who already had a sailing yacht or could find a berth. I followed the route during the talk, using Google Earth on my Tab. This allowed me to zoom right in when something was interesting.
We have snow and minus twelve this morning, with a promise of minus one. Good skiing should be the result. I have to decide if I have time for skiing now or not, though. It is time to fly somewhere before my option runs out. I have to be in Sudbury on March 21, but otherwise have no commitments. I have an invite to go and hear Bill Clinton speak down in NY on March 2nd and I am planning to go there anyhow, but I don't think I can get away that soon.
I keep track of our grocery bills, year 'round, even when in Muskoka or California. Talk is that the cost of food is increasing, so I did some calculations.
Here is what I found:
There is probably no significant difference between the years after 2006 or 2007 since year-end carryover is not accounted for in these numbers.
How do I explain this seeming inconsistency? I don't know. It does not seem to confirm that claim. We include all groceries and some things like detergents and such items -- everything we buy in the grocery store, but not wine or beer or liquor. We also include the food for parties.
What should I conclude? Can I conclude anything from these numbers? The averages over a short term are quite unreliable since we stock up on sale items then run our stocks down again so we can clean out the freezer.
Right now, we have quite a lot in the freezer -- enough to skew the numbers by at least a dollar a day over the 57 days this year and probably more than that. We drew down our supplies to very little on hand around year end and have restocked.
You can see I'm killing time here. I should be planning or building a bin auger, but I have managed to find things to research and write about. Friends are coming for supper in several hours, so. I've pretty well killed the day.
We did get new tires on the Toyota today, though. I had noticed that they were worn and there was vibration a few days ago, so ordered new ones. Same kind: Nokians. Very expensive, but very good.
Ellen went to town and had them put on. I took the van for a spin when she returned and, sure enough, the jitter was gone. Thank Goodness!
The Toyota van is for sale -- sorta. We really have no reason to replace it other than a yearning for something newer. It's a 1998 Sienna and solid as a rock. It has 290,000 km on it and runs as well as a new van. I'm sure it will do another 75,000 km without much expense. The tires are brand new and the premium all-weather tire. The van might need a new timing belt sometime in a year or two as routine maintenance. That's it.
It is minus fourteen this morning, with minus four promised as a high. Yesterday's snow and winds have left drifts in the yard, so I may do some blowing today when it warms up.
* * * * * * * * *
I went out and blew away some drifts. I figure they could get quite hard if left in the sun. There is a good chance the drifts would melt on their own, but there is an equally good chance that we could get a lot more snow and the drifts would make blowing that away impossible once hardened. March is often the month when we get the biggest snow dumps, both here and in the mountains One year it snowed and blew so much that drifts formed high enough that my neighbor's cattle walked right over the buried fence and headed for their summer pasture several miles away.
Blowing snow is good exercise and I worked up quite a sweat out there even though it is minus twelve out there.
* * * * * * * * *
We were invited to The Mill for supper and accepted. The drive was a bit snowy, but not too bad. We had a good supper, then returned around nine.
Looking out the window at seven, I see that the drive to Lacombe will be an adventure. Good thing we have new tires.
Ellen has to be up there to get Mckenzie from school and I have been planning to ride along to recover the Merc from the street in Ponoka where I left it.. I have not decided whether to get the $300 from www.RetireYourRide.com or not. If I do, I need to know where they will pick up.
First, Ellen and I were going to go to Lacombe, then I decided that I have to drive a separate vehicle anyhow and that the roads are bad, so I won't go today. Then Ellen took a look and now she is waiting for tomorrow, too.
Things are getting worse and they are now closing highways west of here.
* * * * * * * * *
A reader pointed out to me that today's date was wrong. I checked and I guess I did not post Sunday the 20th and the dates were wrong thereafter. I think we are correct now.
* * * * * * * * *
I phoned Aeroplan and after over twenty minutes on hold, managed to reserve flights. Just as we were reviewing the last details, I realized that the return flight was on the wrong day. The operator had taken at least a half-hour to get that far and could not change it since the call centre was closing for the day. I have to try all over again tomorrow.
It's minus twenty-seven with wind chills of minus forty-four expected today. A wind warning is in effect. Mckenzie phoned and says she has a 'snow day'. There is no school, so Ellen does not need to go up. Just as well, IMO.
* * * * * * * * *
I tested the drifts and they were still soft, so I spent an hour or two clearing the driveway.
Later, I ran to town to get a copy of the registration for the Merc so I could send the info to www.RetireYourRide.com . I decided not to attend the Bluewater cruising meeting in Calgary since it is a long drive and the weather is poor. More snow was predicted for the evening.
We are experiencing minus twenty-five again today, but the forecast is promising plus temperatures tomorrow, then colder weather again. Snow is falling and I'm hoping I don't have to blow snow again right away.
We are expecting an inch or two of snow, and drifting is starting again. Although it is warmer, the conditions are brutal out there.
Ellen decided to stay on plan today and to go to Jean's. She went out to start the Toyota, and it turned out that the battery is flat. I had moved the van yesterday, and I guess, in the process, the park lights were turned on. The switch is on a stalk and easy to nudge. Anyhow, the battery is not bulged and it is taking a charge on "High" from the booster/charger. I have a spare battery and cable to take along, and I'm sure it will start. I'm not so sure it is smart to make that drive today, though.
I guess she got there. I never heard back and someone would have phoned by now.
I completed the paperwork for sending the Merc to the wreckers. What a lot of work for $300 and it seems that I didn't need to spend the $22.50. Maybe, maybe not. I don't know, but now I am waiting to find out who is going to pick it up or if I'll have to deliver it.
* * * * * * * * *
Tonight I decided to find out why the Ubuntu dual boot on my netbook isn't booting. Win 7 boots fine, but not Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a good operating system when it works, but is definitely not up to Windows standards of reliability. People complain about Windows, but I have run Windows since Windows 3 or 3.1 (Can't recall which it was). Windows used to be awful, but now has become a very good system. It has a great deal of flexibility.
At any rate, back to Ubuntu. I Googled my error message and soon was sitting at a command line prompt, programming some changes to a boot file. I can't recall the last time I used a Windows command line other than for 'net functions -- or had the need. On the other hand, a person needs to be a mechanic to keep Ubuntu running.
Once I got Ubuntu running, after a 680 MB download to set up a USB live key, and did the edit using the on-key O/S, the copy on the netbook came right up and I discovered it needed a 500+ MB update to version 10.10. If people think that Windows needs updates, Ubuntu and Linuxes are worse! Good thing I have lots of bandwidth paid for. I'm using my Tablet as a Wi-Fi source for the household, except for Ellen's Vista desktop, which won't work with WPA2. (Known issue)
Our Chinook failed to materialize. The temperature is minus twenty-four this morning, not plus three as promised yesterday. A high of minus thirteen is still expected, and that is a lot warmer than minus twenty-four.
The update from Ubuntu 10.4 to 10.10 finished this morning and the boot error showed up again. After ten minutes, I had it fixed. First I had to boot to a live USB copy of Ubuntu, then mount the Windows partition, find the boot file, edit it, then reboot.
I was up at 5 AM, awoken by the highway snowplow. IT turns around at the end of our driveway, with considerable noise and flashing of lights. I had breakfast, fixed the computer, then went back to bed and slept until 8. I had noticed a back pain when I first got up and hoped it would subside. It did not, so my plans for the day may have changed. I took an ibuprofen and am hoping it will work.
I went out one more time to blow the drifts that have filled in since yesterday. They were not too bad this time and were mostly along the edges. The mail came just as I finished. I see the garbage has not been picked up and it was taken out Wednesday.
My back is better, for whatever reason. I took ibuprofen and did some stretches. That's lucky, since these things normally last several days and sometimes leave me unable to do anything much.
I drove to Lacombe, picked up Ellen and then went on to Ponoka. There we found the Merc, looking sad and covered with snow. It started right up and we drove back to Lacombe, where I took everything out of it and left it for the wreckers to pick up.
This is very hard for me. This Merc has been an excellent car and lasted me longer than any car I've had before -- almost seven years -- and been quite trouble-free. It's fuel economy was excellent and the ride was smooth and quiet. Sad to see it go, but everything has to end sometime, and the cost of repairs looked too high for what was left in it. Just the same, the engine and transmission were working perfectly at almost 300,000 km on the clock.
Amazingly, the cold snap continues. This morning, I am up and off to get the van a safety check in Three Hills at eight. This is not mandatory in Alberta, but I would like to know for my own peace of mind.
The van passed with flying colours. I changed the cabin air filter at a cost of $40. I could have bought one from JC Whitney for $11, but I wanted it done and over with. The high brake light needed changing, too, but that was it.
We blew the ice out of the wheels, too. Last night, when I got the oil change, the van was inside for a half-hour at most, and just enough ice thawed and fell from the inside top of the rims, that they were unbalanced since the ice remained on the inside bottoms. Over 100KPH, the ride was a bit shaky.
I have noticed that the temperature does not get to the middle of the gauge and stay there. It creeps up and never gets to the middle. Other late-model (if 1993 is late-model) vehicles run dead-centre on the heat gauge. So, in spite of Earl's advice (my car guru), I bought a new one and installed it. (Man it is cold out there under a vehicle!). I'll see if this changes things. Before I installed it, I checked the two side-by-side in a saucepan of water on the stove. Sure enough, the old one sticks open a bit after opening. I don't know if that explains the gauge. A 6-mile test run did not get it up to centre.
I notice also that the mechanic did not mention the oil leaks to me and I was expecting he would. Leaks are not an issue here in Alberta, but would get a car condemned in California. Just the same, I did expect some feedback. It was my mistake. I took the first slot in the morning at 8 AM. Nobody is awake that early and he was no exception.
I guess it was my mistake, too, for asking for a "Safety Inspection". Apparently oil leaks are not a safety issue and most people get a "Safety" for insurance purposes and are happy not to hear of any problems. My purpose was to turn up present and future problems.
I'll get a can of engine stop leak -- a seal conditioner, not STP which just thickens the oil -- and maybe the problem will go away. If not, I'll have to tighten some bolts. I'd just like to know what is leaking. A motor shampoo should help find the leaks, if any.
I normally add a bottle of transmission seal conditioner to any older vehicle I buy, but these Mopar machines are known to be fussy about their tranny oil and, since this tranny does not hesitate going in and out of gear or shift badly, I'm inclined to leave well enough alone. The tranny oil is nice and red, so I think the lady changed it often, and hopefully the filter once in a while.
The engine oil is another story. It was pretty black, even though the sticker on the windshield showed only 3,000 km since a change, and the level was down enough after I drove 300 km that I added some to get to Wal-Mart for a change. I cold weather oil levels are tricky since the oil gets pumped up top when starting and is slow returning to the pan. This gives false readings and can also result in the oil pump sucking air when starting a frigid engine if the level is not kept up. That is obviously not good for the engine.
I notice a slight burnt oil smell after driving this van on the highway. There is a little oil puddle on the passenger side block that probably explains that. I don't know if the rocker covers seep or someone spilled oil on the engine when filling. I'll definitely add some seal conditioner to the motor oil. Some of the oil colour could be explained by the fact that Penzoil is a bit dark even when new. I'll change it a few times and see. The question now is, "Does this machine burn oil?". It should not. These engines are good for 500,000km when all goes well. My van in Ontario leaks a little oil, too and has for the last 45,000 km. It has 292,548 km on the clock and runs like new.
I see I am running about 22 MPG (Imperial) so far. That is pretty poor, but the weather has been cold and the engine is running below the ideal temp. I see the Toyota was running at 22 MPG last fill, too and it is usually getting 26 to 28
Ellen is home and her stint at Jean's is over.
So, now the excitement is over. The baby is older, Jean has recovered, Ellen is coming home this afternoon, I have a new (to me) van and it is 100%, The wreckers phoned to say they will be picking up the car, Spring is a few weeks away, I have a ticket to New York for Monday, and things are quiet. There's nothing much to worry about.
Another frigid morning, but with a promise to warm to minus fourteen.
I drove to Three Hills and checked gas prices for www.AlbertaGasPrices.com along the way, then bought a few groceries and some items for the van: engine shampoo, seal conditioner, injector cleaner, and door seal glue. I poked around the Bargain Store, then drove home again.
The rest of the day was spent at the desk getting ready to go away.
It's warming up a bit, now that I am leaving, but not much. This is still a very cold, long winter..
I tidied up a bit and then Meijers came by. After that, we all went to the Mill for supper.
I awoke around four and decided to sleep a bit more and got up around five-thirty, made my usual omelet and coffee, then checked in, printed my passes and did some chores, and packed. At eight-thirty, I left for Airdrie where I visited with Mike and then he drove me to YYC.
I was 2-1/2 hours early for my flight, having heard horror stories of people missing planes to the US after arriving three hours early due to hold-ups in US customs and in security. There were no line-ups and a huge sign saying not to enter US customs until two hours before flight time and so I had to wait. Customs is such a nuisance. Europe has largely eliminated border hassles between countries, but the US tends to worry a lot.
Security was not too busy, and everyone was downright pleasant. I was through in no time and was soon airborne, headed for Chicago. Chicago airport was busy and quite a zoo. I found my flight to Washington and that flight was uneventful, too.
Flying at night into Washington for the first time was interesting, but flying out was even more so, since we took off straight for the Monument, then veered left before continuing north the ALB, a one-hour hop on a small jet. Landmarks were lit up and visible. Maybe some time, I'll come back.
I landed just before midnight and Aaron was driving up to the pick up zone just as I went outside. We drove to Round Lake, had a beer and called it a night.
I slept well on the couch. The house is being torn up inside due to renovations and the guest room is still incomplete.
Aaron's truck was not giving heat in the cab, so we troubleshot that issue. I felt the hoses and only one was warm, so I pulled the hoses off and blew water through. There was no blockage I could detect, so I put them on again. Although the rad was only down an inch, the top and the overflow were empty so I added a half-gallon. Adding anti-freeze to the overflow seemed to fix the problem and we had heat on a trip to Clifton Park to buy some airtime for my phone. We put the bed in the newly renovated guestroom together and now I'll have a bed again.
Aaron's remodelers took yesterday off to go skiing due to the big dump that cancelled some incoming flights in the AM.. I looked up Gore Mountain and it looks pretty good -- and it is only 61 miles away up the Northway! Howcum everybody lives close to good skiing than me and I live in Alberta?
Some concerns have been expressed about soy, since neonicotinoids are commonly applied to seed. After a number of years of neonic use, these chemicals should be showing up now if they are going to.
Mike at Global shares that concern and has recently had soy tested at a USDA lab for neonics, metabolites, and other potential toxins.
Sensitive testing showed ND (Non-Detectable) for all the many chemicals that could be shown up in the sensitive and expensive tests that can detect as little as one part in a billion.
That is reassuring.
* * * * * * * * *
In the evening, Aaron and I went to Schenectady for dinner and to see The Lion King. The sets and the performance were excellent even if the plot was a bit thin. I am not a huge fan of the Disney religion. Even though it was a commercial performance, they got the (apparently) obligatory curtain calls and everyone stood up. The we were hit by a plea to buy junk to support the causes of the day. How to ruin an otherwise good show!
The heater on the truck now works. It worked for a short while after my first attempt, but quit again, so I had taken the hoses off again and made sure I ran water from the garden hose through strongly in both directions on the second try.
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