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Winter is really here, even if the official start is still weeks away

Sunday December 1st 2013
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WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT

I'm still in California. Jon and Graham went to bed around four and I got up at five-thirty.  I checked on the temperatures and coal at home via the Internet and all is well.  It has not been extremely cold there.  As long as the temperatures remain around freezing, no worries.  I see, though, that there is a storm brewing for the day of our return.

Tonight, 1 December - Cloudy. Snow beginning after midnight. Amount 2 to 4 cm. Low minus 7.
Monday, 2 December - Snow and local blowing snow. Amount 10 to 15 cm. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40 increasing to 40 gusting to 60 near noon. Temperature falling to minus 12 in the afternoon.

I think I'll have coffee and maybe some breakfast and go back to bed.

That is what I did and I woke up again around 0800. At 1000, Katrina, Mckenzie and I went to the Sawdust Festival for a few hours. At the petting zoo booth we were given free tickets to the petting Zoo at San Juan Capistrano, so we went home, got changed and picked Graham up and went there.  That was fun, but supper was planned for three-thirty, so we drove back by the PCH, stopping at Aliso Creek playground and arrived right on time.

We finally had our Thanksgiving turkey.  I lay down after and slept an hour.

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.
 Jean Paul Sartre

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Monday December 2nd 2013
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    BLIZZARD WARNING IN EFFECT     

Mckenzie and I are to fly at 1340, but from the forecast, I wonder if the planes will be landing in Edmonton.

Today, 2 December - Snow at times heavy. Blizzard developing this morning. Snowfall amount 10 to 20 cm. Wind north 30 km/h gusting to 50 increasing to 50 gusting to 70 this morning. Temperature falling to minus 9 this afternoon.
Tonight, 2 December - Blizzard changing to periods of snow this evening and ending overnight then cloudy. Snowfall amount 5 to 10 cm. Wind north 40 km/h gusting to 60 becoming northwest 20 gusting to 40 before morning. Low minus 13.
Tuesday, 3 December - Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries in the morning and afternoon. Becoming partly cloudy in the evening. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40. Temperature steady near minus 13.

I wrote that at 0400 hrs.  I went back to bed and then got up, had breakfast, called Jean and decided to postpone the trip until tomorrow.  Mckenzie would be having a snow day anyhow, so there is n rush to get back.  Westjet was quite helpful considering the confusion I am sure the blizzard is causing.  I only spent twenty minutes on the phone and they switched to the same flight tomorrow at no cost. The car rental company was similarly agreeable.

So, Mckenzie and I have a day to kill in California.  San Diego, here we come...

We spent the day at the San Diego Zoo and returned home for supper.  Conditions in Alberta continue cold and the blizzard warning has not been lifted for Three Hills.

You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going,
because you might not get there.
 Yogi Berra

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Tuesday December 3rd 2013
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I'm wondering if YEG will be clear today.  We are scheduled to fly at 1340 but the storm has lingered.  The blizzard warning is over.

Jean called and said that the snowplow backed into my van.  She was pretty upset, but my main concern is whether it will take me back to Swalwell without freezing me.  It does not owe me anything. I bought it for $3,500 2.78 years ago and have driven it 38,156 km at almost no cost other than fuel.

I called my neighbour this morning and she says the roads are not plowed. People were getting stuck on the railway tracks, but it did not matter since no trains were coming through.  I can't see my driveway for snow in the surveillance camera shot at left.

The furnace continues to run periodically and the temperature is stable, but I am thinking the ashes must be getting full.

I checked the Edmonton airport departures and it seems our plane is leaving there to come to LAX on time at 1030, so odds are good that we will be getting into Edmonton tonight.

*   *   *   *   *

Kenzie and I drove to LA, returned the car and caught the shuttle to LAX.  We were two hours early and the flight was delayed fifteen minutes, so we have a long wait, but I am always happy to be sitting at the airport gate early with time on my hands rather than sitting in traffic knowing I will barely make my flight -- if I am lucky.

We had a meal on the flight and landed in Edmonton at 1830.  Jean was there and drove us to Gull Lake.  I brushed off the van and drove home.

The driveway was impassable (left) and even walking the 200 feet to the door through the drifts was hard going.  Carrying bags and my snowsuit, I even fell at one point, tripped by the deep snow.

Even with my home monitoring cameras, I had been concerned about the furnace.  I can see the coal supply and burner activity from anywhere with Internet, but not the ash level.   If the ashes build too high, they interfere with the burner. I'll have to get a camera looking into the firebox next.

As sonn as I got inside, I went down to the furnace room to check on the furnace.  The ashes were not even half-full (right), and as it turns out, I could have stayed away another week by the looks of it.  The problem is that the amount of ash can vary from one load of coal to the next or even one part of the pile to another.

I have an existential map; it has 'you are here' written all over it.
 Steven Wright

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Wednesday December 4th 2013
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Nice to be home.  I'm leaving the furnace untouched to see how much longer I could have stayed away.  I'll be going to Vancouver to take Cassiopeia to Sidney next week, so that information will be useful.

The drive needs blowing out, but it is cold and breezy out there.  Trains are going by again.

I went out and got started on the snow.  By my progress so far, I think I'll have to get a tractor in before the next time I need coal. The back yard is blocked by a five-foot deep drift.  The drift shown at left is only three feet deep.

I'm off to Drumheller to pick up Zippy sometime this afternoon.  I'll look at a gallery, too.  The Drumheller art group has suggested putting on a retrospective art show of Ellen's work in her memory.

Elijah is coming after school to work, so we will see...

I went to Drum and got Zip.  I did not check out the gallery.  Elijah was coming to work and I wanted to get home.

I called my buddy at Heavy Metal Auto Wreckers and he thinks he may have a matching replacement door for the van.

The graveyards are full of indispensable men.
 Charles de Gaulle

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Thursday December 5th 2013
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I slept until eight.   My plan is to go to Calgary today to renew my passport, pick up my eyeglasses, and get the new computer I ordered.  The temperature is minus twenty-seven and the roads are still being cleared in the city.

I did go to Calgary.  I stopped at Costco to pick up my new glasses and remembered they do passport photos, so saved having to go to AMA.  AMA does them for free, but I had bad luck last time.  When going to the passport office, if the picture is not perfect, time is wasted looking for a photographer downtown and going back and forth.  The wait at the office is bad enough usually and parking is very costly there.

Charlie had my new laptop near Franklin Mall, so that was my next stop, then I drove to the Harry Hays building and drove through the parkade.  $16 for two hours was ridiculous, so I parked on the street.  That was not cheap either at $5 for an hour or so.

There was no line-up at the passport office and I was out of there in a half-hour.  It seems that the bitterly cold weather kept the crowds away.  In the past a two hour wait was to be expected.  My new 10-year passport should arrive on the 19th I am told.

From there, having accomplished my goals, I drove home and started breaking in the new computer.  With its solid state hard drive, this Lenovo turned out to be lightning fast.  It has a really nice feel, too.

Breaking in a computer takes hours.  Just updating the operating system requires many reboots and downloads.  Installing software requires passwords and they are in my software safe.  Catch-22.  I started at five and went to bed just before midnight and was not half-done.

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.
 Oscar Wilde

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Friday December 6th 2013
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The high today is expected to be minus twenty-five.  I have bookwork to do, so the weather does not much matter.  I have yet to finish clearing the driveway, though, and should go out for an hour or two to get some exercise.  The drifts are hard and I need to break them with the truck.  I know it is not going to want to start in the cold unless I plug it in for a few hours.

An email yesterday:

Did you ever order that DNA kit from 23andMe? I just read an article today that the FDA is trying to shut them down. I guess the FDA sent them a warning letter on Nov 22.

It seems the FDA is worried that someone might overreact if the results say they have an increased risk of a disease, and opt for unnecessary medical procedures. Or a person might fail to recognize an actual risk if it doesn't show up in the results, and not get needed treatment.

From what I understand, 23andMe has pulled all their internet advertising, but still has their website up and running. But for how long, who knows. The FDA gave them 15 days to respond to the warning letter. http://www.caseyresearch.com/cdd/does-the-fda-think-youre-stupid

I did and they charged my card $153.  Fifty was for delivery to me and back.  A day or so later Loomis phoned and wanted me to pick a package up at a town 60 miles distant from me. Second choice was a town a hundred miles away.  I said that they accepted it for delivery to my address and I expect them to deliver it.  There is no way I am going to drive to get it.

They said they couldn't deliver it and I said, well mail it then.  The mail comes right to my door four times a week.  They said they could not mail it as the mail is a competitor.  I said they must be joking if they do not deliver to my door, they are not competitors.  They are in a different business. 

Anyhow, I have not heard from 23andme or Loomis.  I'll have to follow up and see what happened.

The truck would not quite start, so I decided to give up.  Early this evening, we are approaching minus thirty-five. 

I have yet to do anything to the furnace since returning.  I last shoveled ashes and set the auger on Wednesday last week, so I have now gone ten days.  The first five days were relatively mild, but the weather since has been viciously cold.

I spent the day dealing with the new computer and on the phone with my bank and broker trying to resolve the estate without having to go to probate over a small sum.  Seems they lost my power of attorney document.  I know they did have it in the past, but a lot of time has passed.

I wrote to 23andme to request a refund.  I know the failure to deliver was due to Loomis (DHL) and not them, but it is three weeks since I ordered and and nothing has come and I have received no contact from 23andme.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
 Albert Einstein

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Saturday December 7th 2013
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It's minus thirty-seven at noon today. I played with the new computer and started seeing what needs to be removed from some old laptops. I have worn out five or six and probably more.

Mid-afternoon, I went to Three Hills and bought a present.  I figured Joe needed a bird feeder.  The I filled the gas tank, and went to Meijers for supper.  I like to make sure I am prepared when going out in this weather and a snowsuit and Arctic boots are a minimum -- plus an emergency kit and blankets.

A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
 Oscar Wilde

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Sunday December 8th 2013
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By noon, we were up to minus 11 degrees with no wind so I went out to blow snow. 

Before I did, I took the shot at right of deer ten feet from my back door.  There is a herd that travels through here and comes right up to the house in broad daylight.  Things are tough for them with this snow and cold.  They eat our evergreens and specialty shrubs, but they were Ellen's projects and I am not as sure it matters to me much.  Not enough to string electric fences all around as I helped Ellen do.

I also spent more than a little time with the weather station software.  When my weather station works, it works well, but it needs a computer running all the time. Moreover the software is not stable and loses USB connection with the bridge often.  Whenever I go away and take the laptop along, I have to get the thing running again when I return.  Sometimes it is easy, sometimes impossible.

I have a netbook I plan to use, but I made the mistake of installing Windows 8 preview on it and there is no upward path from that release.  After Windows 8 release, Microsoft crippled the trial version and I cannot just install Windows 8 gold over it.  I have some files on it I want to keep, so I have not just wiped it -- yet.

The afternoon was bright and mild at minus twelve and I blew snow until 1700.  The drifts had softened a bit, but the job is brutal on the shoulders.  Blowing snow is a very good workout.

A half-hour before I was done for the day with an estimated five hours of work left, Patrick came by with a tractor and pushed out the worst of the snow that was left.  It took him fifteen minutes.

I had a light supper, posted on Facebook, then sat down to watch Netflix. 

I'm deliberately hard to find on Facebook as in the past they were quite opaque and IMO untrustworthy.  I don't know why I hide there when I publish in the open here, but if you want to 'friend' me, drop me a line and I'll consider adding you.

I'm not too eager to have tons of friends, though, and I silence the input from those who post too often or with memes and drivel.

I have to confess I have gotten to watching "Lie to Me" and "N3mbers" mostly lately although, I regularly try other series.  I watch these two, mostly because the people and scenery are nice and I am tired in the evening.  The plots are imaginative, but implausible.  Mind candy.

I also watched an episode of "Happy Endings", and made it through to the end, but doubt I'll watch another one.  What is the point of watching such contrived and pointless drivel? 

Increasingly I'm finding that the sitcoms I see are depraved and I wonder what they teach kids who don't know any better than to watch them and assume that people like that are 'normal'.  I look at my grandkids approaching teen years and they sees OK, as do all the young people I meet, so maybe this crap is harmless.  I don't know.  I hope so, but I am afraid it will only continue to get worse as producers scrape the bottom of the barrel for ideas that have not been worked to death and come up with ideas no one has wanted -- or dared -- to exploit.

For the most part, movies are too long for the time I want to spend after supper.  I have time on my hands during long flights, though.  On my recent flights to and from California I was treated to free pay TV on Westjet seeing as their satellite system was not working on either flight.  (I wonder if that plane even stops flying long enough for any in-depth maintenance). 

At any rate I had the opportunity to watch two of the most terrible movies I can recall ever seeing.  One was "We are the Millers" which wasted ten minutes of my time while I hoped that it would improve.  In that brief time my respect for Jennifer Aniston was destroyed.  She must be desperate I'm guessing.   Mercifully, I can't recall the other movie at the moment.  That is how awful it was.  It will come back to me, though.

I decided to look online to jog my memory.  What surprised me is how many movies are released each month.  Here is November 2013 alone.  I still did not find it and can't recall its name.  Apparently watching it caused selective amnesia.

I went to bed around nine-thirty.

Behind every great fortune there is a crime.
 Honore de Balzac

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Monday December 9th 2013
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I awoke at midnight and found I was not sleeping, so got up and here I am. 

The temperature outdoors dropped last evening, but I see that it has warmed to minus twelve again.  Minus twelve feels like a heat wave after the almost minus forty we were experiencing.  Normals for this date are  Max: -3C and Min: -14C. 

I wrote for a while and now it is 0200.  I'm going back to bed and I am sure I will sleep.  I actually quite like getting up for two hours in the middle of the night.

*   *    *   *

I slept until 0800 and awoke to find that we have warmed to minus four and are getting more snow.  The snow is accompanied by a NNW wind strong enough to make me think about snowkiting.  10 MPH is the lower limit for a good ride it seems and we are just below that now.  With the falling snow, we have visibility below one mile.  I see our main Internet is down again and I am falling back on my Android phone hotspot.

Everyone has a smartphone these days and some spend a lot of money on them.  Besides the phones that are promoted and sold by cell networks, there are other sources that look interesting.  You need to know what specs you want, but here is one source: T-Mart.    Here are the specs for my Nexus 4 for comparison.  The Nexus 5 is $399 US from Google and $500 fro  Koodo.

Google phones are free of all the nuisance built-in proprietary crap and restrictions that many phones sold by networks can have on them.  They come totally unlocked and work on any network.  I see that there are no retailers in Canada shown on the map.  Nexus 4 is no longer on offer from Google.

I'm glad I did not drag out the chute and try kiting.  The wind has dropped to zero. 

Maybe I should blow the snow off the drive while it is warm and the breeze has stopped.  I also think that maybe I should blow some snow over the hives.  I see some are still visible. Elijah has something happening and can't come today.  Kids these days have higher priorities than work, it seems.  I have not found any who understand that an employer expects some semblance to predictability.  I should have him fill out a calendar and stick to it.

I went out and cleaned up the drive again.  Amazingly, the south arm had blown in again.  I also started the truck and moved it closer to the house.

After that, I changed the oil in the blower, lubed the chute and inspected the machine.  I discovered that one quarter of the auger was missing its shear pin and replaced it with a bolt.  How long it has been free, I don't know.  I vaguely recall a missing shear pin before, but assumed I had fixed the problem.  Maybe not, or maybe another one came out -- or sheared.  At any rate, I had noticed that cutting drifts with one side of the machine had been easier than using the other side, but the penny had not dropped.

I imagine the machine will be easier to push now and it all goes to show that inspecting equipment regularly can save a lot of problems and effort.

The evening was spent reading up on the Caribbean, catching up on computer security issues and generally reading.  No video tonight.

The cynics are right nine times out of ten.
 Henry Louis Mencken

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