Sunday, July 31, 2011

Painting Parrots!

The tacky hanging parrots that followed us back from Mexico over the past few years were suffering badly from the effects of weather! Acid raid had taken the paint off their heads and overall fading of the paint was evident. Sierrah, our youngest granddaughter offered to spruce them up for us. She did a remarkable job! She wants to be an artist and after seeing her steady hand and attention to fine detail, I have no doubt that she will be! Thanks Sierrah! The parrots are much happier now and the coat of Varathane will let them last much longer this time. Great job!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Patio

A few shots of the patio where we do most of our entertaining and socializing. The new benches are a nice addition!
Our lot is basically 120’ X 240’ with the back half or almost 2/3 on a 30 degree upward slope and basically unusable but is in effect, our own wildlife sanctuary. As well, there is a 100’ long driveway down to the “Old Island Highway”. This driveway actually extends across the highway to the waterfront, giving us ownership of 16’ of waterfront. This is really good for nothing but it prevents any development across the highway which would block any view we have.

The slope at the back is home to an eagle nest and a pair of deer. These are the deer who used to feast on Norma’s flower garden before the electric fence went up. I don’t know where they go to eat now but they have had to change restaurants! There are also some raccoons and a wild cat. At least there was a wild cat but I think he tried to take on one of the raccoons one night and I have not seen him since. This suits me fine because he sprayed the inside of my workshop earlier this year and I had to buy some very expensive deodorizer to make the shop inhabitable again.

When we bought the place in 1989 there were two very small lots on either side of our driveway. One was vacant and the other had a very low profile house on it. Our view was unobstructed. The empty lot was for sale but they wanted more than we could afford after having just bought our house and I really did not think it was large enough to build a house on anyway. The other house was owned by a local pilot as a rental property. The owners put it on the market many years ago and I made an offer that was not accepted. I was not too concerned about this one anyway because it was quite a bit below our house and did not affect the view at all.

Well. over the years the empty lot sold and a house went up.  They found a way around the city height restriction by bringing in a bunch of fill before measuring the height and our view suffered. The other lot and house also sold and the owners did the same thing! What was a full front window view is now interrupted by two houses in front. We still have a view, but not like we had.

Mexico Travel Facebook Page

For those of you interested in road travel in Mexico, a Facebook Page has been started by Bill and Dorothy Bell. Bill and Dot are long time Mexico travelers, writers and authors of the popular website, "On The Road In Mexico".

I was one of the early members and the site is growing rapidly. It seems, so far at least, to give an honest look at RVing in Mexico without the alarmist tactics of the USA media. Have a look and join up if you think you like it. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kiva Interest rate Question

A reader left a question in the Guest Book regarding the interest rates charged by the Kiva "Partners" who take the money from Kiva and do the actual lending and collecting on their behalf. Yes, the interest rates charges by these "partners" has bothered me. In comparison to interest rates charged in Canada and the USA, these rates seem high. On the other hand, compared to interest rates charged in developing and third world countries, these rates are very reasonable.

We know a Mexican who lives south of Mexico City who is very well off. He was telling me that even with his preferred interest rate he still pays almost 30% on his Visa card. This was when I was paying 6.5% on my card. Neither of of us ever lets the balance go unpaid after the due date but those are the rates we would each pay if we did.

The other consideration is that these people would probably find it impossible to get a loan from any other source. All the loans I have made have been paid off quickly, usually in three or four months in order to limit these interest payments. So yes, I am concerned but considering all of the above, I still feel Kiva is a worthwhile effort.

For an opinion from the field, read here.

The Finished Benches

Yesterday Norma took the girls shopping so I used the time to finish staining the benches. They look pretty good if I must say so myself! They are very heavy and it takes three people to lift them so they will not be moving very often but that also means they will not be walking down the driveway either.

Today is Norma's birthday so we will be able to sit around a fire tonight. Our neighbour Pauline and the girls baked a cake for Norma yesterday which we all enjoyed last night after a feed of fish and chips down on the dock. It was a very pleasant evening.

DSC_5036 DSC_5035

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Testing Google Maps

Testing the new link feature in Google Maps.

Here is the La Siesta RV Park in San Miguel de Allende that was recently closed to make room for Sam's Club. This was the only RV park in SMA that was accessible to rigs larger than 26 feet. I think this will work well. You can zoom in and out.

View Larger Map

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Benches!

Brooks and LindaLee came up for the weekend so we tackled a project that Norma has been hinting at for some time, outdoor seating around the fireplace. The two benches we built are extremely heavy and solid, being built from 2X6 spruce that we bought up here and various pieces of 4X4, 6X6 and 8X8 salvaged from Brooks' "burn pile" at home. It will seat eight people. We do most of our entertaining outside so they will get a lot of use.

Our granddaughter Sierrah and her friend Courtenay, the granddaughter of our neighbour, Pauline started staining them today while Norma and I built two coffee tables out of leftovers.

Brooks also got me a great deal on a sliding compound mitre saw to replace the one that finally packed it in after cutting about 2000 square feet of flooring and completing many other projects. This one is bigger, heavier and has more bells and whistles than the old one and just may last as long as I do!

Thanks Brooks and LindaLee! And thanks Sierrah and Courtenay for the staining! Now we are all picking slivers out of our hands...
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shakira Concert in Merida

On Saturday night the Yucatan city of Mérida put on a free concert as a gift to it's citizens and visitors. The city supplied and prepared the venue, an unused railway yard, and local businesses paid for the concert. The performer was the Columbian superstar, Shakira who put on a solid two hour concert.

Tickets were required but were available free for the asking at most businesses. The majority of people stood, but there was preferential seating for the disabled and for youngsters who had demonstrated outstanding academic or sporting prowess. Teachers and coaches were previously invited to nominate students for the treat. 150,000 tickets were handed out! There were no riots, no looting, no fires lit. Why? Mérida is civilized!

"Good evening, Mérida! Tonight is yours!"

Gold Still Glittering

Gold is hitting record highs! It passed $1,600 this week and shows no sign of leveling off. My financial "guy" told me earlier this week that they are anticipating a small correction in gold but they are expecting it to recover quickly and go even higher, maybe even to $2,000. Others in the industry are mentioning values starting with "3"! I think I mentioned that I have a substantial portion of my investments in precious metal funds. They are not going up quite as fast as gold but are generally tracking it. It would be nice to have a few actual gold bars stashed away but I would probably spend too much time stroking them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eagle Neighbours

Our eagle family neighbours have been busy lately. On Friday they were doing some nest repairs and talking loudly to each other.

"Here Honey, I found the perfect stick to repair that hole!" "Oh darn, I dropped it! That's what I get for talking and flying at the same time." "It's OK, I will get another one!"

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Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm Not 65 Anymore!

Less work than planned got done at Brooks and Linda's house this weekend. It poured rain all Saturday morning so Brooks called his friends and canceled the project. He is using Hardy Plank, a cement and paper fibre product that must be kept dry until it is up so rain does not fit into the equation. When we got there at about noon the rain had stopped and their employee was there hoping for some extra work so the five of us started installing windows, staining trim and nailing up siding. Everyone except me was afraid (or maybe not dumb enough) to tackle the job of moving the two electrical service masts away from the building to get the siding behind them. I climbed up the 30 foot extension ladder, nailed a short 2X4 behind the masts and re-fastened them to the building. I know just about enough about electrical to keep myself safe around it so it went without mishap. It is only 600 amps anyway so what is the worst that could happen? ;).

We then got five windows and the front door of the suite in and trimmed and siding put up on one side of the building by dinnertime Sunday night. A job well done but my trick ankle was really raising hell last night. Working on a ladder is just about the worse thing for it and that is just about all we were doing for a day and a half! I have to remember I am not 65 anymore! This morning we headed home while Brooks and Linda headed into town to put the finishing touches and pick up cheques on two paying projects.

They are keeping their fingers crossed on a new job they bid involving new fences around all the hospitals on Northern Vancouver Island. If they get it it will mean having to hire a second crew, rent a truck and have them spend six months on the road staying in hotels. He has mixed feelings because he has not had great luck sending a crew out to work without close supervision. Not enough work gets accomplished and projects always take much longer than he and Linda could do them, affecting the profit margin! They cannot go themselves because they have to run the main part of the business in Victoria in order to keep their regular customers satisfied so they are trying to figure something out. The two of them seem to have the "Midas Touch" so it will work out.

Here is the workshop / rental suite this morning as we left. The blank space at the top right is the bathroom and they have decided to add another window to it for aesthetics,  It will be over the sink. One window at the rear living room goes from a foot above the floor all the way to the ceiling and gives a beautiful view of the forest behind the building. They have no close neighbours and the site is very isolated.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gone For The weekend

We are off to Shawnigan Lake to help Brooks and Linda put siding on the new workshop with the rental suite on top. Once the siding is on they can build stairs to the Unit and get it ready to rent out. It will be a $1000 per month "Mortgage Helper". I am sure it will rain all weekend!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kiva Loan

I just noticed I have a credit in my Kiva account. Someone has paid back a previous loan and the money does no good sitting in my account, it must be loaned out again. I searched through the list of those requesting help and found Mary.

Mary is a 38 year old woman in Cusco, Peru. She has four children who she is supporting by operating a tiny grocery store out of her house. She sells the basics plus snacks and cookies. Her store is open from 6:00am until 10:00pm (that is a 16 hour day)! The loan is to purchase more stock for her store so she can increase profits.

I have added a "clicky" to the Kiva ad on the right hand side of this page. Clicking it will take you to a registration page. If you want to sign up to help some of these folks, this is a good place to do it. I will get credit for bringing in a new member which gives me nothing except bragging rights. Here is Mary with the rest of her Kiva Group:

Something To Think About

Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes. Wouldn't it be a far better world if we could all start living by his creed?

  • He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.


  • An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.


  • Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
    Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
    Expediency asks the question - is it political?
    But conscience asks the question - is it right?

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, popular, or political; but because it is right.


  • Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Installing Mexico Maps in Garmin

I spent yesterday updating my Garmin nuvi 1350T to include Mexico maps. I have the Lifetime Maps subscription so all I had to do was get the maps into the nuvi. I followed the directions, found the file in the nuvi but could not seem to get the GPS to recognize it. After struggling for a while I put out a call for help on the GPSpassion forum and got help immediately from my friend Rob who I know IRL (in real life) as well as on the forum. We tried a couple of things and then I got another suggestion from a fellow in Poland of all places who told me the maps were probably already added to the base map file. I searched for an address in Mexico City and a detailed map of the streets appeared! It was installed. Thanks popej from Poland! This is what I do with my days...

Several of you have asked if we are heading back to Mexico this winter. Well, that is the plan. We are assuming we are going to Mexico and unless things really change down there, that is what we shall be doing. There is no doubt that Mexico has it's problems but it is also clear that these problems are being overblown by the media. Once you eliminate all the deaths of those involved in the drug trade and those fighting these people, Mexico is safer than the USA. We have learned the tricks to stay out of trouble both in Mexico and anywhere else.

We always cross the border early in the day while the bad guys are still in bed and drive south until we need gas. We are now in relatively safe territory and the further south we get, the safer it is! Other rules we follow are to stay off the streets at night and to always be aware of our surroundings. Our US retired military friend "Belgique" calls this, "Situational Awareness" We do not hang out in late night bars and have nothing to do with drugs or with those who do. We do not flash money around and always smile at and greet our Mexican hosts and treat them with respect. We have never had a problem and do not expect one. There is always the off chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time but by following our rules we keep the risk at an acceptable level. These risks exist wherever you go and being overly cautious of them does nothing but keep you at home! Not for us! Viva Mexico!

EDIT: If you want to read an article on the safety factor in Mexico, My friend John Calypso sent me this:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Future is Looking Good

Marriage Equality has a bright future! The vast majority of young people with any education at all endorse it as do the majority of the USA population. I don't know why Obama and the Democrats are dragging their feet on the issue. It is pretty clear to me that the Party that embraces the issue will gain the immediate support of the very voters they will need for the future, It is a no-brainer! Come on Obama, get on the right side of History!

The comments section in the last post is interesting with all but one poster in support. The lone dissenter quotes Mother Theressa on her own Blog so I can see where she is coming from. Even so, I do not think Mother Theressa, if she were still alive, would condone this kind of blatant discrimination.

I deleted one supporting comment simply because it quoted a letter on the Internet that made the rounds some time ago and was too long for inclusion here. If you are interested, it can be read here. Sorry anonymous, it was simply too long.

Monday, July 11, 2011

11.8% And Counting!

After the recent vote in New York State, 11.8% of Americans now live in States where you are allowed to marry the person you love, regardless of sex. Not very impressive in itself but we must consider that until 2008, only 2% of Americans were allowed to do so!

It is not a big deal here in Canada where same sex marriage has been allowed nationwide since 2005. When Canada joined this "Club Of Tolerance" only four other countries had this enlightened legislation. This club now includes Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden as well as the Federal District (DF) of Mexico.

This is the new Human Rights battleground! I can't understand why so many remain opposed. Even Obama is dragging his feet on the issue, saying his position is "evolving". Well, as the t-shirts say, "Evolve Already!".

Rant Alert!

The Catholic Church is opposed.... I'm not sure why. The Old Testament is not big on it but the Old Testament also OK's selling our daughters into slavery, tells us it is a sin to get a tattoo, that we are not allowed to wear clothes of two different fabrics, plant different crops in the same field, cut our sideburns or trim our beard. There is also the Old Testament demands that we stone to death women who are raped in the city and children who curse or strike their parents.

There are also the people who are not allowed into a church. These include women "immediately after giving birth, and for thirty-three days thereafter, a woman is unclean, and shall not be allowed in church. Anyone with a blemish, or who is "lame," or who has a "flat nose, anything superflous, crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eyes, or be scurvy" shall not be permitted to partake of church rituals."

These are all rules imposed on you by your Bible so if you follow all the rest of them, then you can come talk to me about same sex marriage! Until then, come up with a reason that makes at least a little sense!

End of rant...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Shaw Direct Receiver

It took a week but the replacement PVR630 receiver arrived on Friday. I took it out of the box and put the broken one back in. They only sent the receiver itself, not the remote or cables. I sealed the box and dropped it off at the courier, return shipping having been prepaid by Shaw. Today I set it up and it went painlessly. It works!. We will run it in the bedroom for the summer and then move it to the motorhome before we leave for the winter. It will be nice to have the recording feature in Mexico.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Famous Ancestors

My great, great, great (great?) grandfather was Captain Matthew Webb (1848 - 1883) the first person to swim the English Channel! He continued his career as a professional entertainer and swimmer in the USA. He performed very popular feats of high diving, diving into shallow pools and once tread water and floated in a tank of water for 128 hours! Quite a guy.

He met his demise while attempting (and failing) to swim under Niagra Falls, a feat many observers considered suicidal. They were correct!

The other day I Googled him and found a reference to the Find a Grave site where someone had posted a photo of his grave. Alongside the photo were comments left by visitors to the site. One entry caught my attention as it said the poster was a direct relative to Matthew Webb. It was a woman who lived in Norman, Oklahoma and she left an email address. Here is an unknown relative of mine! I emailed her and after a lengthy exchange of emails we ended up talking on the phone.

One of my nephews had previously made an attempt to trace the family tree as it applied to Capt. Webb but reached a dead end when he read that Webb had no children. The woman from Oklahoma refuted this, saying her mother had done the same search and had found several offspring in various areas of the USA.

This woman is most likely a cousin of some sort and it was great talking to someone from that side of my family.

Captain Webb's image was featured on a box of Bryant and May matches and is said to be the inspiration for the character of Inspector Clouseau, portrayed originally in the Pink Panther movies by Peter Sellers.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Electric Fence Tester

Norma has been after me to go and buy a tester for the electric fence. I objected because 1) they are $60 and 2) the deer scream when they touch the fence and 3) the deer have been leaving the flowers alone for the first time ever. For these reasons I assumed it was working and I did not need the tester.

Today Norma came in from the garden and told me she got a shock! She reached through the fence and touched her arm on the wire. ZAP!!! She pulled her arm back and hit it again. ZAP!!! She said it was "not that bad". I told her she was now the official electric fence tester!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Update On The Xico Family

A few days ago I posted on Mexican Blogger Leah's efforts to help the newly formed family of eight in her little village of Xico, Veracruz. I asked all of you to consider a small Paypal (or credit card) donation through the "Donate" button on Leah's Blog and you came through! I am happy to report that through the efforts of many readers, here and elsewhere, enough funds were raised to finance a trip to Sam's Club in a neighboring town!

As carts were loaded, the kids stared at each item that went in, knowing that it was theirs and would mean food on the table every day and an end to the starving and begging cycle. All six kids got brand new shoes for the first time in their lives! Leah reports the kids were very well behaved but it was as if they were in Disneyland! They also stocked up on school supplies. Yes, they will be going to school now!

Leah also reports that medically, the three girls will be fine but the physiological damage caused by being sold by their own mother as "party favors" will take a long time to overcome.

Leah tells me that there was a noticeable influx of small donations after that post and that many small donations add up quickly but let's not stop here, it is a new month and we can all do without another Starbucks or a breakfast out to help this family. They still have a long way to go. The father, a mason who loves to build and wants to work is currently unemployed and the mother helps out by making antojitos (small snacks) and other yummy homemade stuff which she sells from their house and on the street. However, times are tough in Xico and income is hard to come by. It is a bump in the road we can help them get over. Thanks.

Here are a couple of photos from the Sam's Club shopping trip:

"Help me tie my new shoes please!"

"I am hanging onto this until we get home!"

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Screaming Deer and The Crazy Deer Lady

And Now For Something Completely Different.

Last night Norma noticed a deer laying on the back lawn of the condo next door and looking in our direction. She called me to look and told me the deer was waiting for us to go to bed before it tried to sneak in and eat her flowers. She checked on it a couple more times and tried to get me interested but by then I have to admit I had her kind of tuned out. I was afraid she was turning into the "Crazy Deer Lady" and ignoring her was the best course! As I went to bed I did look and the deer was still there, watching the bedroom window.

We watched TV for an hour and turned out the light. All was nice and quiet for about a half hour and then there was a high pitched scream and some thrashing around right outside the bedroom window! The damn deer HAD been watching us and had tried to get through the electric fence after the light went out! She did not make it...

I guess Norma is not the "Crazy Deer Lady" after all. Sometimes life is like a Monty Python skit.

Nice Folks At Shaw Direct

I called Shaw Direct this morning and was kicked up one level on their CS ladder and talked to a knowledgeable technician. She reviewed everything, asked a couple of questions and asked me to go to a particular screen on the PVR630. I told her it was frozen and after guiding me through one unsuccessful attempt to unfreeze it told me they would replace it. They are sending a new one out on Purolator and I will send the old one back to them. Done deal! I know Customer Service is a tough job but it is nice to be treated as a fairly intelligent adult once in a while and not asked if there is a power outage.

A local electronics dealer, Madman McKay, is selling the older PVR's for $199 (half of their original price) so I went down and bought one for the motorhome. It will be nice to be able to record programs in the winter and to be able to receive the high definition programs as well. I will have to run an additional cable to it from the Utilities bay on the motorhome but that just involves drilling a hole through the floor in the bedroom. Easy! Life is Good!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Footbal Season! Tinfoil Helmet Time!

Well, the hockey stick remote is stored in the back of the closet and my tinfoil football helmet is sitting ready beside the TV! The BC Lions first game of the regular season was last night and despite winning two great exhibition games, they lost to Montreal. Montreal jumped into an early lead of 20 - 6 but the Leos settled down and came within four points of them by the end of the game. If the clock had been a little slower, they would have won. They have a good rhythm and the quarterback has obvious confidence. I see a great year for BC.

For my American friends, Canadian football is similar to the US variety and many of our players come from the US. The big differences is we have only three downs and there is no "fair catch" rule. Many a US import player is stunned when they signal for a fair catch and immediately get clobbered the instant they touch the ball. They learn quick! We play tough up North. For our guys, the raised hand before the catch means, "Here I am! Come and nail me!"