Page March 2011
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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.
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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.
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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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