Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yet Another Bathroom!

We started on the third and final bathroom yesterday. It is the main bathroom and the most awkward one to do because the tiles extend under the counter to the wall. It will involve laying on the floor to do this part. We started by ripping out the old flooring and sub floor. As we worked our way down through time we found no fewer than four layers of old linoleum. The bottom layer was very thin asbestos squares so we removed the pieces that came off easily but did not work too hard at getting all of it and the few remaining tiles will be sealed back into the structure. Asbestos is a big deal now but how many generations of children crawled around on that old flooring? We probably had asbestos flooring when I was a kid and I know I licked it more than a few times and I am still alive. Anyway, asbestos is now dangerous so we left it pretty much alone. When we finished, Norma soaked the floor all around the toilet flange with bleach and we let it sit there overnight. If there were any mold spores there, they are dead now!

This morning we measured the floor before I went down and bought cement board to go under the tiles. By four, we had the board cut out and dry fit. Tomorrow we will cement and screw the board down. This has to dry overnight and then we can start cutting tiles. Right now I am flopped in my recliner nursing a backache.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Are you smarter than an atheist?

They have just discovered that religious folks actually know very little about religion, even their own. Who knows the most about religion? Atheists. Atheists know the most about religion. That is because Atheists are smarter and do not blindly follow. I am an Atheist.

Canada seems to have lots of us. In fact the entire North looks pretty godless except for Alaska but they voted for Sarah Palin so I guess that explains it. Somehow. "They" may have Alaska but "we" have Australia!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dreary Weather

The weather here has been the shits lately. The wind is blowing and it has been raining for over a week! Nothing is getting done outside except for re-aligning the second StarChoice dish. When I set it up the best I could get was about 35 on the signal strength meter and about two days later I lost the signal completely. It was not a big deal because that dish only serves the guest room and my office. Yesterday I finally had a lull in the wind so I got the ladder out, collected my gear (a receiver, a 9" TV and my tools) and climbed up on the roof. It took me about five minutes to find a signal of 85 and lock everything down.

Tonight we are going to another retirement party for three people I used to work with. It is great to see these guys retiring. Telus is not the same company it was several years ago and I cannot imagine myself working there under the present conditions. Most of the great benefits us old timers fought for and won over the decades are now gone and the place is now crawling with contractors and scabs. Thank goodness we have a bullet proof pension plan that the company cannot get their slimy hands on! There are now more people drawing a pension out of the plan than there are people contributing into it. Due to some very smart planning and investing, this is not having a negative effect on the plan at all and the assets are growing every year. The plan is fully funded and will continue to pay all of us as long as we need it. My minimal involvement in the formation, building and protection of that plan is a source of great pride for me.

This is why I can always say, "Life is Good"!

BTW: Nice shirt Rod! I hope you are wearing it to work on your last day..

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cuban Currency

There are two currencies in Cuba, the Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP). The Convertible Peso was introduced to stop the circulation of foreign currencies on the street. The value of the CUC is roughly that of the USA dollar. The exchange rate between the two Cuban currencies is 24 CUP for one CUC, making the Cuban Peso worth approximately four USA cents.

Foreigners are encouraged to use only Convertibles and to frequent those establishments that trade in them. The problem with this is, this is not where you will meet the Cuban people or get the best bargains! It is best to take some of the CUC's you get from the ATM's and exchange them for CUP's. There are many places to do this but one must be careful of not getting cheated. Even where you can use CUP's to purchase something you must be very careful that your change is in CUP's or, if change is in CUC's, that you get the correct exchange rate. It is confusing and even more so for those who are newly arrived on the island. I think we will be OK because of our extensive exposure to the Mexican Peso system.

Many people think the USA dollar is a "universal currency" and is good anywhere. This is not the case anywhere and in the specific case of Cuba, leave your USA dollars at home. The government has imposed a 10% tax on USA dollars so if that is your currency of choice, you will have lost 10% of your vacation money as soon as your plane lands. Canadian dollars and Euros are the currency of choice and are easily exchanged for CUC's. After that, ATM's are the best choice.

Three Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) worth $3 USD:

Three Cuban Pesos (CUP) worth 12 US cents:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Getting Ready For Cuba

It is only three weeks until we leave for Cuba with Brooks and Linda! I have a ton of research to do. High on the list is to follow in the tracks of Ernest Hemingway when he said: "My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita"

These are two restaurants in Havana frequented by the writer. We will be staying in Veradero but will spend one or two nights in Havana in a B&B. I want to walk through La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and a couple of stops for Papa's favorite libations would add some great flavor to the trip.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky

Forty years ago today Jimi Hendrix took that fatal sleeping pill overdose and robbed the world of his extraordinary talent. "The Guitar God" was dead at age 27!

You can watch Jimi sing Purple Haze here. Note he played his Fender Stratocaster guitar upside down (left handed).

Friday, September 17, 2010



Solid Gold

Gold just passed $1275 USA per ounce, This is good news for yours truly who has about 25% of the family fortune in gold (precious metal) funds. This fund is up 193% over what I paid for it a couple of years ago. Very good news indeed! We won't talk about the other 75% right now. It is treading water, not going up much but more importantly, not going down.

The reason "they" say is the recent discovery that Americans are still reluctant to (over) buy consumer products with credit cards. Americans are becoming more like Mexicans and sticking to cash. Smart! For some reason I don't understand, this is driving gold higher.

I will have a good time updating my Quicken tomorrow to reflect my profits! Life is good!

I do have to admit however that this whole "capitalism" thing is pretty new to me! I do want to make good decisions with this investment but between the two of us we have six pensions so we will not be starving or even having to give up travel anytime soon. My disposable income is much higher than what it was when I was working for a living. Like I say, Life Is Good!

Here is what Gold has done over the past 20 years:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grito de Dolores – Mexican Independance!

It was just before midnight on September 15, 1810 when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the Priest of Dolores (now Dolores Hidalgo) ordered the church bells to be rung to gather his congregation. He called to the indigenous people and Criollos (those of Spanish blood born in Mexico) alike to unite with him to revolt and to throw the hated Spanish born Gachupines out of their country. It was the start of the Mexican War For Independence which would rage for the next eleven years!

We visited many of the historic sites of this Revolution over the past two years and a look back in the Blog will show you many photos as well as stories of this historic revolution. It restored the land and country back to the people it was stolen from.

Every year mayors and government officials throughout Mexico reenact the Grito on this evening. Here is the Grito called by Felipe Calderón, the President of Mexico in Mexico City last year. I would dearly love to be in Mexico to hear the call tonight! Viva Mexico!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saved By The Wasps!

I am in the middle of installing a new Shaw Direct (StarChoice) dish on the roof. The antenna has four outputs and we are allowed six receivers so it does not work out. They are happy to sell you a magic box that has four inputs and eight outputs but they cost $135 and require power which would be very difficult to run to the attic where the box would have to mount.

It just happens that I was seriously thinking about replacing the dish that got blown over in Texas on the way home. It was slightly damaged in the fall and I had to epoxy the LNB at the end of the feed horn back together but everything seems to be working fine. I just hesitate to take it with me this winter in case it does fail in which case Shaw will not ship replacement parts out of the country. I decided to add this dish to the rooftop to give me my extra outputs and to order a new $50 dish for the motorhome.

Anyway, I was taking parts and tools up onto the roof when I bumped the gutter and a bunch of wasps came flying out of a gap in the roof line looking for the intruder! I did not get stung but I broke the existing speed record for climbing down a ladder! I have to go and buy a "bomb" so the project is put off until tomorrow when I have to go downtown anyway. I love retirement. It lets me put jobs like this off without a guilty conscience.

Now There Is Progress!

Self serve wine dispensers have been installed in grocery stores in France! You bring your own container and "fill 'er up"!

This would be a huge improvement over what we have in Canada where you cannot even buy alcohol in grocery stores!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ever Wanted To "Unsend"?

Have you ever hit "Send" and then immediately realized that a) you sent it to the wrong Bob or Mary, or b) you just noticed that you called your boss an "ass" instead of an "ace"? I know I have regretted sending an email immediately after hitting the "send" button.

Well, it appears that Gmail has reacted to this problem and has now added an "undo" button to their sent confirmation message. It gives us five seconds to reach into the cyberspace mailbox and grab the message back. This will not help with the morning after regrets but will help in those "oh no" moments. The feature has to be turned on in Settings.

One more reason to switch to Gmail. Now if they would only allow us to sort messages by size so we could dump those with huge attachments off the server.....

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I was in the local electronics store and they had a demonstration of the new 3D TV technology going on. What a difference! The scene was the Albuquerque Balloon Festival and it was literally breathtaking. The balloons actually floated right out of the screen and filled the area between me and the TV. It was as if you could reach out and touch them!

The cost is high, $4000 here in Canada for the basic Sony system. You need to wear battery operated glasses that actually communicate with the TV and the screen is unwatchable without the glasses (remember the old 3D comic books?). You must be seated almost directly in front of the screen for it to work properly so it is really unfit for most media rooms.

I am sure the technology will improve and the cost will come down but like I say, it was a breathtaking experience. I had no urge to pull out my credit card... Maybe in a few years...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11 (The Original One)

On September 11, 2001 I was traveling in the motorhome on Highway 97 in lower Oregon, heading home to Canada. I had spent the night of the 10th in a WalMart and had headed out in the morning. I had the radio tuned to an "Oldies" station from the day before and the volume turned down. The music stopped and voices came on, not loud enough to make out but it sounded like advertising or something. Eventually I hit the "seek" button and another station came on with more talking, still sounding like advertising. I turned it up to hear what was going on and they were in the middle of the live broadcast!

By then about an hour and a half had passed since the first attack. I was on Highway 97 and the first thing I noticed was the lack of traffic. I was almost alone on the road. Suddenly a police car passed me with emergency lights and siren at a very high rate of speed. Shortly after another police car passed moving quickly in the opposite direction. Next a fighter jet crossed the highway flying low.

Now I began to think.... I was alone on the highway in a foreign plated vehicle large enough to carry a lot of damage in a time of extreme nervousness. At that time nobody knew if the danger was all on the east coast or what. As far as anyone knew the whole country could be under attack.

By now I was entering Bend, OR and even though it was way too early for a normal stop, I thought I had better get off the highway. I pulled into the first RV park I found. When I checked in all the staff was huddled around the TV. The woman told me to find a spot and come back in the morning to check in and pay. I found a spot, hooked up power and TV and watched CNN almost steady for the next day and a half.

The scene at Ground Zero tonight:

Saturday Morning Treat

Frankie Laine singing That's My Desire in 2006 at age 92!

I was lucky enough to see Frankie perform in Vancouver in 1965 or 66 at Izzy's Supper Club. Unfortunately Frankie passed on less than a year after this appearance.

Flat Market Week

It was a flat week in the market, but any week you are “up” is a good week and I was "up"! Up $45! Gold took a tiny hit but my registered fund went up a bit so it all balanced out and even a little in my favor. I guess this is what they mean by a "balanced portfolio". Thanks Cec (my money manager).

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Friend Pam

I went to my 40th High School Reunion a few years ago. Many old friendships were rekindled and it was very interesting to find out what happened to the old gang. It was a very fun weekend!

One of my friends was always the life of the party. Tim was the MC and DJ at all the school dances and sang a very memorable rendition of "The Monster Mash" at a grade 12 Halloween dance of the same name. He was always one of the "popular" guys even though he did not participate in sports. After graduating he became a popular DJ on some of Vancouver's best Rock & Roll stations. This would have been in 1963. I lost touch with Tim and he was one of the guys I wanted to make a point of catching up with. It was only at the reunion early on the Friday night that I began to hear of the private Hell Tim has gone through.

Tim finally made a late entrance into the social. He did not make the usual loud, boisterous entrance that everyone remembered him for but rather made his way quietly in the door and along the wall, silently looking for a friendly face to sit with. You see Tim was no longer Tim but was now Pamela. All eyes snapped over in her direction as everyone tried to process this new information in their minds. The word had gone around before she arrived but there is a difference between "knowing" and "seeing". I waved to her and pointed to an empty chair at our table which she quickly took. As soon as the ice was broken she became the same "Tim" as everyone remembered except in a different "Pam" package. She had had the plumbing changed (got rid of the mic stand as one of her DJ friends put it) but not the voice. She still had a fairly masculine voice, she was still in the process. She told us of the terrible time she had in school, first knowing only that there was something seriously wrong and then by grade ten or so, knowing exactly what was wrong and that she had been issued the wrong body. She said she had to hang around with the guys talking about cars and girls while all the time wanting to hang out with the girls talking about clothes, makeup and hair. Nobody ever caught on, she was very good at forcing "herself" to do what "he" was expected to do, including getting married.

The turmoil she was going through lead to drugs and who knows what else. I can only imagine the frustration, anger and confusion. It was only later in life that she decided to do something about it and make the change. She started the process and cleaned up her life. I have great admiration for her.

Everything soon loosened up and at one point I was over at the bar getting a drink when across the room echoed the old booming voice we had grown up with: "This is the Tim ___ Show on LG 73!. Lets Rock and Roll"! We were suddenly back in the 60's and everyone was looking at the woman this wall vibrating voice had come out of!

Another friend at the table was Lance. He was always a quiet guy in school, easy not to notice. He ended up moving to Los Angeles where he became an LAPD detective and later a crime scene investigator. He was retired but had stayed in California. Deso, one of the two Indo-Canadians in the graduating class came over to the table for a chat. She was and still is a very beautiful East Indian woman. While we were talking Lance confessed, "All the way through high school I had the biggest crush on you"! "Oh my God" she said. "Why didn't you ask me out? I would have gone out with you in a second. I never thought a white guy would be interested in me". File under missed opportunities, Lance....

We are approaching the time for a fifty year reunion. I don't know if there will be one but if there is, I will go. Who knows what else is out there to find out?

Here is Pam last year with fellow 1960's Vancouver DJ's John Tanner, Terry David Mulligan and JB Shane at announcer Al Jordan's memorial:

Photo by Jack Bennest of BC Radio History

Talk about coincidences!

A few minutes after I posted this I got an email telling me about the upcoming 50th Reunion for My Kitsilano Secondary School 1963 Graduating Class! I must be psychic or something!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Overblown Wingnut

The hype over the crazy as a shithouse rat "pastor" in Florida who is threatening to burn Qur'ans on September 11 is totally generated by the press. It is calculated to feed the Islamaphobia currently sweeping the USA and to take people's minds off or to justify the real problem: the illegal occupation of two Islamic countries for seven and nine years respectively.

This Florida idiot has fifty followers. Fifty people (if they all show up) go to his church on Sundays to hear him speak. Fifty. Per week. Fifty three people have read this Blog so far this morning, and this happens every day. If I threatened to slam the door in a Jehovah Witnesses face and tear up the Watchtower he shoves through the mail slot would I be leading news at six o'clock? No of course not. The press could care less about me. I would not be helping stir up the anti-Islam sentiment sweeping the country. Crazy "preachers" get all the press and right now this wacko is surrounded by more reporters than congregants.

The Qur'an, like the Bible is just printed paper. Ashes to ashes. Burning a few would not upset either god, they have withstood worse over history and have, or should have, bigger fish to fry at the moment (like the illegal occupations). The Catholics used to burn people and no one got this upset. Remember, crazy is as crazy does.

If religious people want to do something about it, they should go to Florida and form a human chain between this idiot and his burn pile. Tell him that they respect all religions and will not allow him to carry out his craziness.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Yesterday was a busy day. Our friend Les (The Mexico Kid) drove his motorhome up from Duncan yesterday to get some help replacing his monster of a Sony TV. He had met someone in an identical rig who had added a flat screen TV with a bracket behind the passenger seat. This had freed up storage space in the overhead where the old TV had been.

It took us a while to figure out how the old TV was fastened in but we eventually freed it and were suddenly holding a hundred and fifty pound TV that barely fit out the door! We built a mount out of a heavy steel bracket and a commercial flat screen TV mount. All the wires reached so it was an easy install.

Next Les wanted to convert the old TV spot to storage. He figured the space would hold all his extra pillows and bedding. A light load and perfect for the spot. The old wooden TV frame will serve as the frame for a door, so we added a piano hinge and a couple of magnetic catches and now the door is just waiting for Les to add some fabric to the opening and it will look great! It took us a good six hours to complete our work and then Les treated Norma and I to some great fish and chips on the dock.

Les then helped move some heavy furniture in the office so I could complete the flooring project in there. I got up this morning and completed that and now I am flopped in my recliner watching TV. The furniture has to be put back in the office but I think that will wait until tomorrow. I am done in!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I Can't Afford Me

It is a good thing I am not paying myself by the hour! I thought I could do the office floor in one day. Ha! I started moving the stuff I could move at about nine this morning. I had to put everything on pieces of old carpet to avoid scratching the floor. I then started placing the flooring. It is tough getting started as none ot the walls are square or straight and the flooring had to flow from the hallway into the office. The first couple of rows are always time consuming. I also had to deal with a hatch in the floor leading into the crawl space. Just to make things more difficult for me this hatch is in the closet.

I finally got going until I came to the first desk. I lifted the legs on one end and propped the desk up with a stick while I pulled out the old glued down carpet and laid a couple of rows under the raised legs. By now it was time to quit for the day. I was less than half finished! If I was paying myself by the hour, I would be broke on one hand and well off on the other!

Tidy desk, eh?

The next day brought rain all day so I could not use the cut-off saw which remained under a tarp. I did a little work but it will be another day (with no rain) before I can call it "done".

The next photo was taken when Brooks and Linda were up laying the floor a couple of weeks ago. I just found the photo on the memory card when I downloaded the last photos. Here is Linda performing her magic on the saw.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This And That...

I finished the trim on the new floor this week. It is now all done except for my office which will be a real headache! It is a small room, maybe 10 X 12, with two desks and two computers with all the printers and scanners as well as three external hard drives, file cabinet, TV, two book cases and the WIFI system. I don't really have a plan of attack. I am thinking I can move everything to one side and lay the floor up to the furniture. I can then lift one side of the desks, prop them up and continue laying under them. I can then finally move the desks over to the other side to finish the floor. It will take a full day to do this but it has to be done!

We still have to tile the main bathroom and install a new toilet and counter top. We priced granite and it is not much more expensive than the conventional type. Our local granite place will sell ends for $40 per square foot if they do not have to measure or install it. If they do the measuring and installing it is $100 per sq. ft. so it is quite a savings! We only need a little over ten square feet (2X5). Plus a strong back to help me install it.

Then we have to tile the laundry room. That may or may not get done this year. I always like to have a project ready for when I come home in the spring. It stops Norma from dreaming up too many new jobs to do.

My final bit of news is the Canadian stock market has ended "up" six days in a row so I am looking forward to my favorite weekend job of updating my investments in Quicken. I have been "up" three weeks of the last four and the one week I was "down" it was only $500 or so overall. A mere drop in the bucket. This week will be very good and if I live long enough I could die rich. It is all a matter of timing before I make that call to Dr. Kavorkian.

Market Update!
The doctor can wait. I made two months pay last week! Happy days are here again!

Deer Update!

I was sitting in the TV room the other day and one of the baby deer flashed past the window followed closely by it's brother/sister. It was headed for the bush and was in a big hurry. I suspect it got a 500 volt jolt in it's snout from the deer deterrent. They have not been back so he must have had a talk with his mom about finding another flower garden to plunder. We just may have won a round!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Finally, Someone Who Understands!

Finally! Someone who understands Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin!

The Great White (Black Ant) Hunter

I did as instructed and put some peanut butter on a piece of tinfoil along with an ant bait. The idea is the ants will be attracted to the peanut butter and find the ant bait as well. So far it is working about as well as Norma's deer deterrents and that is not at all! I checked this morning and there was not one ant at either dining table (bait or peanut butter).

I may add a smear of jam to the peanut butter and see if that helps. Maybe I need a Tilly hat. That might help.