Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer! Finally!

Summer might finally be arriving on Vancouver Island! There has been a heat wave in the US Southwest and part of it seems to be heading this way. It is actually warm (and dry) enough today to leave the doors open and get some work done outside. I just leveled the concrete bird bath base and placed the bird bath on it. Last year a deer knocked it over and broke the pedestal. They are fairly expensive so we delayed replacing it. The other day we realized my sundial is sitting on an identical concrete pedestal which could be replaced by a lighter plastic pedestal that was not being used.

A few minutes in the workshop built a wooden adapter to modify the sundial to fit and we now have the concrete bird bath and the sundial standing again. The birds have already found it and are busy splashing and cooling off.

The sundial. The plastic pedestal needs a paint job.

The bird bath.

Norma tending her roses.

I found a new lens on eBay. A Sigma 18-250 with image stabilization for $375 plus $10 shipping from the USA. They are selling locally for $500 plus 13% tax ($565 total) so it will be worth the +/- ten day wait while it is shipped. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Broken Lens!

My main lens on the Nikon is not working! I had it behind the car seat in Vancouver and moved the seat back and forth to let someone in and must have jammed the lens. The auto focus now just keeps on seeking, unable to lock on focus. My experience with having lenses repairs is not good. It both previous cases it was almost as cheap to just buy new ones. The local camera store has Tamron 18 - 270 mm zooms on sale for $400 but reports are not all that great on them. The sharpness is not good.

London Drugs have Sigma 18 - 250's on sale for $500 and these have much better test results and are probably worth the extra $100. I have had bad luck with Sigma's in the past when one fell apart as I was using it and the company refused to do anything about it as the one year warranty had just expired. Hopefully times have changed.

I delayed my purchase to give the small local camera store that has been here forever a chance to match this price and in the meantime I found the same lens at Beach Camera in the US for $320. It is a new lens with no box and has been marked down. Shipping and customs is $30 and it will take up to two weeks to get here. Pretty good deal. I am willing to pay a little more to buy locally but it is unlikely they can come close to this price. This lens also has optical stabilization which will be handy in a telephoto lens.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How It Started

Edith "Edie" Windsor is an American woman who legally married her partner, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. They lived in New York where their marriage was recognized by the State. However, when Thea died, it became immediately clear how their marriage was "different". The Internal Revenue Service determined that their same sex marriage was not federally recognized and that Thea's estate owed $363,000 in estate taxes.

Realizing that she was being treated with anything but equality and knowing that if she or her spouse had of been a man there would have been no taxes, and that this was clear discrimination. Edie found a lawyer willing to challenge the Defense Of Marriage Act and the battle began!

In a 5–4 decision issued on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of DOMA (codified at 1 U.S.C. § 7) "as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment."[1]
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the majority opinion, joined by Associate Justices GinsburgBreyerSotomayor, and Kagan.


Depressing Weather and The Supreme Court

The weather has been very depressing here. It has rained every night and many days. The days it does not rain, it is overcast and cool. it is a long weekend coming up but it looks like it will be spent indoors!

Norma has been doing a little work in her flower beds as we seem to have the deer problem licked. They have not penetrated the fence since I staked down the bottom wire. We are quite pleased with ourselves.

We have been spending our time watching more TV than we usually do and I have been riveted by the goings on in the USA, particularly the recent Supreme Court decisions as they relate to Human Rights.

Two of these decisions, striking down key provisions of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the somewhat complicated process of deciding the disposition of Prop 8 ("Prop Hate") in California brought great joy to the LBGT community and their supporters. They were very satisfying wins that will make it much easier for all couples in the USA to marry and to begin enjoying the same benefits as every other married couple. Equal = Equal!

The third decision, the overthrow of the key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was very disappointing. Voter protection was struck down under the misguided notion that it is no longer needed. This in the time of the worst voter suppression since the 6o's! As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is reported to have said, "It is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not wet".

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I got infected a couple of days ago. Minor, but annoying. There was a download I REALLY wanted on Pirate Bay so I decided to try getting it. But first I needed a downloader program. I Googled the subject and found a promising one which I installed. The problem was, it brought a bunch of unwanted programs with it that I did not want!

One of these programs was a search engine / toolbar called mysearchdial that installed itself in Chrome and Firefox (probably in IE as well but I never open IE). The search engine presents itself as an extra tab every time the program opens. I tried uninstalling it using all the normal methods but none of them worked.

I have all three of my computers hooked up to share settings and bookmarks through Google so the infection  instantly spread to all three computers! I Googled "mysearchdial" and found one program (adwcleaner) that was recommended to remove it. I downloaded and ran adwcleaner and it worked. The problem was that as soon as I re-opened Chrome, it reinstalled itself from one of the other computers using the share settings link.

I turned Google share off on all three computers and ran the removal program on all three. It worked! The only problem was that all my custom Chrome settings were gone as well. Oh well, it will serve to teach me a lesson.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

And As If That Wasn't Enough

I took a $4,000 hit in the market last week! Almost all of it in my gold (precious metals) fund. I mean, how much lower can gold go! It is gold for god's sake, the standard! These funds are still worth almost three times what I paid for them a few years ago ($9 vs, $27) but they have been in a downward spiral for several months. They used to be worth eight times what I paid (peaked out at $78)! I keep waiting for them to rebound, thinking it would be silly to sell when everyone else is buying and yes, someone on here advised me to sell back then. As I do with most advice, I ignored it. I did take my advisor's advice a few months ago and moved about 25% of my gold into something more stable. I just wish I had of moved more. But then if I had, gold would have gone up and I would have been kicking myself in the butt with the other foot!
Joe Btfsplk, the world's unluckiest man (from Li'l Abner cartoons).

I talked to a friend in Alberta yesterday who had the same feeling, saying gold has to recover and when it does it could go to $2,000 per ounce. Oh Happy Days!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chimney Price In. Ouch!

The estimate to replace the chimney liner just came in. It is $1020! That was more than I expected and it will have to wait a few weeks, Our $2200 property taxes are due on July 1 and the $900 dishwasher bill has to be paid then as well. My automatically paid Visa bill is substantial as well and is due in the beginning of July. July is always an expensive month!

While I am waiting, I will get a couple more estimates.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Duct Cleaning

We had the furnace duct cleaners in yesterday. I don't know how often everyone else has their ducts cleaned but we rarely do. In fact we have only had them done once since we bought the house and that was back in the early 90's when we switched from oil to gas heat. We do not have central air conditioning. It is not needed here.

The huge vacuum truck backed up the driveway and they connected the 18 inch diameter hose to the system and blocked off all the air ducts. One by one they uncovered them and fed their compressed air line in. It has a spinning end that has rubber pieces attached that whip around and clean out the ducts. We could hear a lot of noise in the vacuum hose as dirt and "crud" made it's way to the truck so I guess they were pretty dirty.

After that they turned to the wood burning fireplace insert. We rarely use the fireplace but it was not drawing properly the one time I recently fired it up. Smoke would pour out every time I opened the door no matter how the rods that control the vents were configured. I knew something was wrong and that was the main reason we called this company as they do both jobs.

He poked his head into the fireplace and pointed his flash light up the chimney and quickly confirmed there was a problem. The stainless steel chimney liner was no longer connected to the fireplace box! It had been eaten away so bad over the years (it was installed around 1986) that the bottom part was completely missing! Well, that is a problem. He said it was most likely caused by someone burning beach wood or treated lumber in the fireplace. Well, I was guilty of both offences. When Norma's dad lived with us for two years he wanted the room temperature above 80 so we had the fireplace going 24/7. He spent his time in the living room and we opened windows in the rest of the house to compensate. The odd time I walked down to the beach to find a big chunk of wood that would last all night. I knew it was not smart at the time but thought it only caused problems with the fire brick lining the inside the insert, which were easily replaceable. Plus, I always burned leftover lumber in there, pressure treated or not. Evidently a bad thing to do. He took measurements and they will call me back with a price to replace the chimney liner. I am not looking forward to that call.

Their last job was to clean out the dryer vent which runs the full length of the house in the crawl space. I installed it myself when we bought the house out of "re-purposed" four inch telephone conduit. It was joined to the clothes dryer with that corrugated plastic dryer hose that was used back then. Many years ago we replaced the plastic hose with the newer (code approved) silver foil corrugated hose. The problem was, we hired a skinny neighbour to go through the small crawl space entry to do the job. Instead of cutting off the three or four feet he needed to reach the telephone duct, he used the full 15 foot length of hose. leaving the excess laying on the ground. This caused restricted air flow and hundreds of nooks and cranny's to trap lint in. The guys shortened this line and cleaned everything out. They got about a grocery bag full of lint out of the system plus whatever was in the piece they cut out. I don't know how it dried clothes.

The bill for what they did yesterday was $360, hopefully money that will be recovered in reduced energy costs. The price shock for the chimney liner is yet to come.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day to all the dad's out there. Here is mine on the Grouse Mountain Chair Lift back in the 50's!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Staking It Down

I did a little Googling of deer fences and learned it was a common problem for deer to get their noses under the fences and push them up far enough to get through. They even make special stakes to hold the fence to the ground. Who would have known?

I started looking for a local supply of stakes when I realized I had a bunch of 18 - 20 inch ends of cedar fence boards that I rescued from Brooks and Lindalee's burn pile. I ripped a few into 1 1/2 inch widths and put a point on each one. Near the other end I put in a screw with about 1/4 inch sticking out to catch the lower wire. I pounded one in the ground in the middle of the first span hooking the bottom wire onto the screw head as it passed and buried the stake into the ground. It worked perfectly. I went along the whole length of the fence, putting one or two stakes in every span depending on the terrain. There is no way any deer are going to "nose" their way in now.

I sure miss that burn pile!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fixed! That Spot Anyway.

I cut a small piece of the left over fence (not the one I sold to a reader) and climbed the hill. It was obvious this was where they came in. They were able to get their heads under and push up on the fence at the gully. They had created an 18 inch gap. They marked the spot by leaving a pile of shit at the opening.

I rolled up the piece I had cut and jammed it under the fence wire. I staked it in place and tied it to the bottom of the fence with about ten zap straps. The growth will soon make it impenetrable.

They Got In!

After a week of no deer incursions Norma went out and bought $200 worth of rose bushes yesterday including a White Rose bush she had been coveting at the nursery. She was going to plant them today but this morning they were all eaten. Reduced to stubs. She had netting across the driveway which was not disturbed so they did not get in there.

The only possible place is a gully up on the bank where there is a one foot gap under the fence. Brooks and I were sure deer did not get down on their bellies and crawl under fences but that is the only place we can find where there is a possible entry. Damn! I will fill that gap today.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Workshop Cleaning Detail

I have not cleaned out my workshop for at least three years and it needed it! It is about 12 X 14 with a large window at one end with my workbench under the window. My compound sliding mitre saw and small table saw are on one wall and the back wall is used for storage of wood. The other wall is used up with racks for tools and coffee tins of assorted nails and screws. When it is used efficiently there is lots of room.

Yesterday I went in to do a simple project but could not get at my workbench because it was covered with "stuff" Half my tools were on it because the shopvac and pressure washer were using up half the floor space in front of my tool storage. The other half was taken up by cardboard boxes waiting to be broken down for recycling. The stack of plywood on the back wall had slid down so the bottom was about two feet out from the wall and there was no way to fix it without starting fresh. My ladder was in the middle of the floor because it's place against the wall was taken up by short lengths of wood and the 4000 watt sauna heater I had the chance to get for free and just could not pass up. The StarChoice dish from the motorhome was also in the middle of the floor because there was no other place for it. Pulling the table saw out to the middle of the floor to use it was not possible. I had to either build an addition or clean it out!

Norma did not trust me to do it myself so she helped. Sometime over the winter a cat had gotten inside and had sprayed. The place stunk and she has the technology (chemicals) to fix that. We started by taking everything outside. Saws, shopvac, plywood, everything! After that we swept and vacumed the floor and workbench clean. All the too small pieces of wood and all the cardboard got burned and a ton of "stuff" got put aside for Beau (her lawn guy) to take to the dump. The cat spray got dealt with by spraying with vinegar and industrial strength deodorizer. I made room in the rafters for the StarChoice dish and equipment.

When we finished there was a ton more space to work in. Everything is against or hanging from the walls and the workbench is bare! My tools are all organized. Now, what was that project I wanted to do yesterday?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Saving a Humpback Whale

A family vacationing in Mexico has a chance to save a Humpback Whale tangled in a fishing net:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Deer Fence (Finally!)

Brooks has been talking about a deer fence in the back of our property for years. The terrain is not friendly for fence building however. Our property is odd shaped. We have a 100 foot long driveway coming up from the road and at the end of the driveway the main property is 120 feet by 360 feet. The house is built near the front of this piece with the back 3/4 being very steep with dense brush and trees, home to deer and eagles. It would be an impossible (as in way too expensive) task to fence this whole area off. Instead, Norma had Beau, her lawn guy, cut and remove the brush (mostly horsetails) from a 120 by 50 foot area behind the house.

On Tuesday Brooks and LindaLee drove up and we went fence shopping. We bought two 165' rolls of six foot high deer and rabbit fence plus steel posts. The idea was to use trees wherever we could to support the wire fence and use the steel posts in between the trees. We bought one eight foot wood post and cement to form one corner where there was no convenient tree. The finished product would not be perfectly straight but no one ever goes up there because of the steep terrain and the fence will soon be covered by wild growth in any case. It will soon be invisible and imperfections impossible to detect. It will also completely block off the three main game trails that the deer use to access their favourite flower buffet.

It was a dirty job for Brooks and LindaLee, slipping and sliding up and down the wet bank (45 degrees in places) and reaching into the blackberry bushes to place the fence and posts, with me helping where I could. After several hours of hard work, everyone ended up with deep scratches and muddy clothes. Thanks Brooks and LindaLee!

That same night I watched one of the deer standing on the far side of the fence, wondering how to get to her reserved table at the rosebud diner. Their only access now is up the driveway from the busy road, something one of them actually did on Thursday afternoon. Brooks and Norma are now talking about a swinging aluminium gate to completely block off the driveway. The total cost of the fence was about $700, including material, Beau (the lawn guy), food and beer. About $3.20 a foot but I have about 100 feet of fencing left over if I can find someone to buy it. Norma says this is cheap as the deer eat about $700 worth of flowers a year. That might be a slight exaggeration, but we have spent a lot of money over the years on solutions that did not work.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

50th High School Reunion

Last weekend was my 50th High School Reunion in Vancouver! It was in 1963 that I graduated from Kitsilano High School! It was a fun weekend.

The school is still standing but will be closed for four or five years while they do earthquake upgrades to the structure. It will re-open in 2017.

There was a Meet And Greet social on Friday night but the acoustics in the hall were so bad that it was very difficult to talk (or perhaps it is our hearing??). The next night was dinner and dancing at the Point Grey Golf and Country Club. Here, it was much better! About 100 people showed up, some bringing non-Kits spouses but most flying solo. Most people were recognizable but some were not. Old girlfriends were there, two still friendly to me, one not so much. Wow, fifty years is a long time to hold a grudge!

The host for the evening was Pamela Burge, "Pam Da Monium", who went through school as Tim Burge, a male. He went on to become a very popular DJ on AM radio in Vancouver, it was only later in life that she decided to make the changes necessary to become who she really was. Most but not all of her classmates were very supportive. From the stage, she nominated herself "The Most Changed" grad. She ran unopposed! She was surprisingly nervous, something she addressed from the stage. "I introduced The Rolling Stones at the Vancouver Coliseum back in the 60's and they were a half hour late!" "Now here I am in front of 100 of my friends and I am shaking like a little girl!"

It was a fun night. Drinks were $8 each so I did not drink too much, the food was good and it was a blast to catch up. I will be at the next one!

Here I am. What a geek!