Writings and Ramblings

"Keep a Journal: How else are you going to get a good look at who you were?"

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Okay, so, I'm back from Alberta a WHOLE WEEK early!

Mission: Accomplished.

Got Karen the new tires for her van.  Got the mower fixed, the yard maintenance done and the trash from the basement clean-up (they had a flood during the heavy rains a few weeks back).  Even got to take the kids out for dinner after they got home from trek.  Helped out Mom with her computer.  Got talked into carrying Erin K's stuff back from Cardston to the Lower Mainland.  She's moving back in a couple days and Arvid's truck will only accomodate about half her stuff - the other half is in the back of my van.

Speaking of the van:

I sort of side-swiped a moose on the way down.




Senor Bullwinkle was standing on the shoulder of Hwy 22 South about 1 mile north of Turner Valley.  He had his head down, and started ambling across the road about the moment I came over a slight rise in the road and spotted him.  I pulled abruptly to the left, and he brought his head up and began ambling faster.  So I'm heading for the Left-hand ditch and Mister Moose seems determined to meet me head-on before I get there.

Now, if I had hit him dead on...I wouldn't have a van anymore.  Also, I might be making this entry from a Hospital bed instead of at home.

But the moose thought better of trying to continue his crossing and turned around to head back to the right.  Only problem is; Moose are big, and a sudden turn-around is apparently not something they're capable of.  So he was more-or-less on the centerline of the road, paralell to the road, and I was almost all the way over into the Left lane when I reached where he was...so I almost passed by without hitting him.

Almost.

My passenger side mirror was clipped so forcefully that it left an imprint on the window.  Fortunately, the mirror is built on a pivot and it didn't break from the impact.  Putting it back was no biggie.  The sliding door on the passenger side, however, was not so fortunate.  I'll need a new sliding door, if ICBC can be persuaded that my vehicle is worth fixing.

Anyways, I'm OK...could have been worse.  I'm back early because I had an appointment with ICBC to get the damage assessed.

Postscript:  I spotted two young deer a fair ways South of Turner Valley on my way back.  Unlike Mister Moose, I saw them in plenty of time to slow to a stop and let them prance 'cross the highway in front of me.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

What new, exciting and interesting things are happening THIS month, Uncle Brian?

That's me.  The Weird Uncle Who Lives Under the Stairs. (WUWLUtS).

Well, we got our new Collective Agreement presented and ratified last month.

I resumed Home Teaching last month ('bout time too!).  Our ward choir performed an arrangement of "Praise to the Man" that went so well that we were asked if there was a recording available!  I have been trying to get our Choir Director interested in a side project where a few of us from each section get together and sing the piece again so we can record it.  Hey, I can dream, can't I?

I'm off to Alberta to help out my nearest and dearest.  Well, they are dear to me...but they're also 1200 KM away.

I'm toting along a set of good (used) tires for Karen's van.  She phoned me in a bit of a worry about the "bald" tires the vehicle is presently equipped with.  She was worried the tires might explode, or something like that.  "No, see, first the tires will simply stop holding air for more than a day or so..."

"...then they'll explode."

I can be very re-assuring, don't you think?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen (and you know who you are!).  I now present the SANDERSON FAMILY SPACE PROGRAM!


Or...how to keep the Model Rocketry hobby interesting.

1. Pick up the skills and learn to use the technology:  We started with this:


That's the Estes "Shuttle Express" starter kit.  We're still using the launch pad and Estes Electron Beam Launch Controller that came with it, but the rocket itself is probably obstructing someone's rain gutters now.  Strong winds can be a caution.  Then we continued on with other "ABC" class rockets like these:




That last one?  The Cosmic Cobra.  Let us never speak of it again...

Anyways, on to the next step.  All these models thus far were pre-assembled or "E2X" - a special class of kit for rocketeers starting out.

2. Start learning to build our own:

That is a loadstar II.  Something I forgot to mention...all of the previous models shown were LOST.  For example; the original Loadstar had a good run, but now it's up a tree somewhere near Crescent Park School's ball field.  High winds and poor launch rail alignment can be a caution.

3. Build bigger and better:


That's Colin with the first level one "D" class rocket we built - The Stormcaster.  The little green one is the last ready made we bought and the only one we didn't lose - an Estes Skytraxx.  Like the Loadstar II, the Skytraxx has a clear upper section below the nose cone for payloads.  Colin wanted a model he could build on his own and so we added the Blue Ninja to the collection.

Seeing a pattern here?  This is as far as we've got yet.

4. Do interesting things with the rockets that push the envelope:

We want to try a Sunset Launch.  This requires putting lights on (or IN) the rocket.  We actually have two models with payload sections (see above) and BOTH have now been flight tested - in normal daylight conditions - with a cluster of light flashers on board.  Next step is to launch them IN THE DARK.

Well, not actually in the dark - that's against C.A.R. rules.  I'm talking about a launch under low-light conditions.  The lights should ensure we're able to find the models again, even under low light.  The Skytraxx will be first up, followed by the Loadstar II if we're feeling really adventurous.

Another "interesting" project?  A multi engine cluster!

We've got one of these:

The engine mount will accomodate ONE D-class engine.  It will reach only 200' on that engine as it is a very HEAVY model.  Not terribly rugged either.  One of the popular modifications of this model is to cram 4 C-class engines in a cluster around the D-class.  Like this:

That's a photo of Randy DeArman's multi-engine and multi-stage Saturn V build.  That is WAY more trouble than I want to go thru...but I wouldn't mind building a 5 engine cluster into ours.  Make it a "higher flyer"!

5. Aside from the bigger and better stage - we also have to gain some experience with higher power rocketry:


That's an Estes STM-012.  It's an "E" class rocket.  Stands a little over 5' tall.  We've got one of these under construction at the moment.  We'll have to find a new field to launch it...none of our usual haunts has enough open space to ensure a safe recovery.

6. The ultimate: the Scissor Wing Transport.


When I was but a young, eager, novice rocketeer...this was the ultimate.

By far the most complex model Estes ever offered as part of their regular line, it is sadly no longer available.  However, some enterprising enthusiasts have made the plans for this model available online.  One of the more popular projects among serious rocket nuts is to take the plans for the original model - an ABC class - and double all the dimensions!  Thus turning it into a D or even E class model.  What I am wondering is if an E class engine could provide enough thrust that you could loft the "upsized" version with a small battery, Xcver and servo on board.  Instead of just having it glide back to earth, what if you could steer that sucker?

7 ...AND BEYOND!!!

Where will our love affair with rockets end?  I don't know.  Colin is 15, and has started being REAL interested in Girls and Dating and the like.  His days as a eager-eyed rocketeer may be coming to a close.

But as for me?

Sometime before I retire, I'd like to graduate to real high-powered rocketry.  In the meantime, I think I'll read Dan Pollino's book: "I still have all my fingers - how to build a big sugar rocket on a budget without losing a limb".  It's available on Amazon, check it out!



Saturday, March 08, 2014

What can I say...maybe I'm finally growing up.  After all, you're only young once...but you can be immature forever...

...or not.

If Maturity means getting things done even when you don't want to, then perhaps I'm not quite there yet.  I'm having a "lazy day".  Some plans I had for this evening fell thru and here I am; writing a 'blog post because of all the productive ways I could be spending my downtime, this is the easiest.

I'm growing my hair.  Why?  Because I'm nearly 50 years old and this may be the last opportunity I have to enjoy having long hair before it either turns grey, or starts falling out (or both!).  I may even keep it long up until I go to visit the folks next month...whereupon I could offer my Dad the opportunity of cutting my hair like he used to do when I was a kid.  I'm not sure he would enjoy that, I used to give him a lot of guff about it.  As the son of an Air Force Officer, long hair was just not in the equation.

It's Ok, but a whole lot more care involved than when I kept it short.

I'm also looking for a new vehicle.  I have confirmed that the Quest will NOT exceed 18 mpg in the city and with gas at 1.50$ plus a liter, that will not do.  I can hypermile to extend the van's range...but that only works up to a point and can put serious strain on the transmission and starter of an older vehicle.  I was thinking of a PT Cruiser.  A 2001-2004 model with a manual transmission (easier to hypermile)...but I can't really afford one.  I was even getting nostalgic for my old Mk III Caravan!  That model is available on the junker market, but not for the 200$ that I bought each of my previous 2 Caravan's for.  But it's close - especially if you figure in what I spent re-building Mean Green's engine.  The Elio - my dream vehicle with the 68 mpg fuel economy - will not be available in the NA market until later this year (if ever) and is unlikely to be available in Canada until next year (if ever).

I finally have a career goal in mind.  I can learn most of what I need to know online, but I will need a two-year certification course at some point.  Acquiring the books and courses would be easier if I had any money left at this point.  Wah.  Still getting started on it...the parts that don't require any money, that is.

So my money situation is contracting...I'm now dipping into my savings, the spendthrift days of money flowing like water are over.  I'm not even unemployed yet!  Lucky me.  HBC does seem to be in it for the long haul but if the economy doesn't pick up soon...I don't know how much more the company can cut and still stay in business.  Not really itching to find out, either.  So I have decided on a backup plan...and as the plan is not completely formed yet, that's all I'm going to say about it at the moment.

I have been called to the Elder's Quorum Presidency.  Obviously the Bishopric has some plans for me...and who am I to argue?  I had already decided on a life of service and activity in the Church...but still, this came as a bit of a surprise.  Not sure what I'm supposed to do.  Should be reading my Leadership Manual!  I'm feeling more than a touch damp behind the ears here, nowhutImean?

And I think it's high time I started dating.  I mean actually setting out some goals and seeing some people and exploring some expectations and what I've really got to offer!  'Cause I'm kind of awesome...

I am thankful for all I have...I have it really good right now (money issues notwithstanding).  The Lord has been very patient and very generous with me...and I have enjoyed all the opportunities I've had to serve...and I am thankful that they are not going away any time soon.  I am thankful for the wisdom and knowledge the Lord has given me, and the opportunities to learn.  So much I don't know!  I am especially grateful for the opportunities to teach the gospel.  I really should get around to reading all of "Preach My Gospel" one day soon.

Annnd.  I think I'll close here.





Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmahannukwanzaayule!

I don't know who thought that one up.  I'd love to claim it...but no.  Not much happenin' in my lifes y'all...

Well...almost.

Done with Xmas, but now I am pondering a road trip to Sunny Southern Alberta to visit kith and kin for a few days.  Could also finally get that entertainment wall unit out of the garage and back to the folks' place in Cardston.  The highways seem (mostly) clear and the weather is (mostly) amenable.  Only trouble is I would probably have to do the trip all in one go.  There is a highway closure in Revelstoke scheduled for tomorrow morning (avalanche control) that I might need to work around.  I would like to time my arrival for early AM in Cardston...but that means leaving 13 hours earlier and minimal stops for food and etc.  Most of day one at the folks place will likely be spent in recovery sleep.  It's do-able...but I'm really not as young as I used to be.

I've re-divided the space in my humble hovel: I now have a super twin waterbed which is super-comfortable to sleep on.  It sits on the south wall next to the front window of my living room.  The living room boundary is now re-defined by a three-section wall unit that I traded to Tony H for my Loft Bed.  There is a new captain's bed living in my bedroom now.  It's where Colin sleeps when he visits me.  With a bedroom of his own...I can now think about having the boy stay with me full time.  He would be able to make such a petition to the BC Family Courts once he is sixteen.  That will be in 13 months.  We'll see what transpires in the next year or so.  Speaking of Family Court and such.  Coral will be 19 years old this January.  As such, L will be eligible for support payments from me for Colin only.  That would of course change if Colin's residence changes.  Hope she's ready...

I might need to have a word with the Family Law Resource Center downtown.

Brother Roy Crabb is in my thoughts and prayers as he may be facing (yet another) surgery to keep his much used and abused body going a while longer.  The good doctors he has seen over the past week or so are surprised indeed at the amount of discomfort and pain he has endured with this latest development.  If only they knew...The ER nurses who counted the various scars and bits of metal in his body - and therefore decided on an ultrasound scan rather than an MRI - seemed surprised that he was still walking around under his own steam.  He's a tough old Hawk, our man Roy.

Paul may be passing by in the next while and I may not be here...gasp!  I would so like to meet his new missus...but family comes first; I'm sure he'll understand.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Well, here we are again;

I simply must travel by air more often.  Sorry gang, haven't been hitting the 'ol 'blog very hard lately.  I think I may be spending too much time on FaceBook.  Then again, FaceBook is more fun...

So what's been going on lately?  I have been learning.

One of the things I have learned is about helping others: you don't have to be perfect.

Isn't that great?  Helping other people is a come-as-you-are, start-any-time, bring-your-friends-and-family-along kind of proposition.  You don't need to wait!  You just need to be willing.

Mind you, there is no helping some people...but that's a post for another time.

And yes, putting yourself out for the benefit of others can be a pain in the @$$ once in awhile...but it's often well worth it.  Why?  Because you get to see people win.  Seeing someone else win, and knowing that you helped bring that win about, is almost as satisfying as "winning" yourself. (apologies to Charlie Sheen)

In other words...there's a little bit of "fun" involved.  When vice and self-indulgence stop being fun...maybe you should check out clean living and generosity -- just sayin'.

Hmm.  Sorry, getting a bit preachy there.

So what's up next?

Back to work tomorrow, or Tuesday.  I have to check back with the office about how much accrued vacation time I don't have.  Labor day was in the middle of my 10 days off...but I think our HR people already figured that in.  I'll check.

I was off for a week prior to my vacation...oh the shame.  A pinched nerve in my neck I suffered a few years back recurred with a vengeance!  Was not expecting that.  Is OK now...despite the fact I spend the past week on the hardest innerspring mattress I've ever encountered.  Extra extra firm is NOT for me!  Will be good to get back to the Treadmill-and-Yoga routine now that my "temporary roommates" have departed for greener pastures.

Can I mention the rental car?  Economy rental is an Ontario based outfit that has recently opened outlets near Calgary and Edmonton airports.  Good Rates!  They hadn't finished licensing on two new Kias that came in...so they upgraded me to a Nissan Altima sedan.  Awesome.

Anyways; this next week I have to de-contaminate my place and replace my battered and abused Craigslist Couch.  Probably with yet another Craigslist Couch.  I foresee a Dump Run in the near future!  My Brother in Law Grant will be thrilled.

I have also GOT to get started on those six PC systems Peter and I are going to build.  If we can get an average of 200$ each, then Peter should be able to pay the money he owes me for Kim's move and have some ducats for himself. (a young Bohemian Man needs his ducats).

One final story about air travel.

I found my Leatherman multi-tool!

Or rather, the baggage scanner at YYC found it; in my laptop bag where it has apparently been all this time...including on the flight over here from Vancouver.  Oops, YVR dropped the ball there...

Not a huge problem, they made me go thru screening again, and I got to MAIL my multitool back to myself - it should arrive Friday.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Six Months?

SIX #$%^&*!!!??? MONTHS??

Am I kidding me?

To think that I once thought of this 'blog as a Quarterly.  What?  Have my publishing costs gone up so much that I have to switch to semi-annual publication??

Nah.  Just lazy.  Too wrapped up in...myself.

Seems like a good time to write, no?  I really ought to carry a notebook around so all those wacky ideas that come into me head when I'm working nights at HBC can be shared with the World...or whatever part of the World cares to show any interest in what I muse about when I'm working.

You know, I had a whole plan laid out for a new life:  I was going to be let go at HBC after 20 years service.  I was going to go to Cardston and stay with the folks for awhile.  I was going to get a new job, probably in Lethbridge, working in some kind of I.T. capacity.

All of which may still transpire...but not yet.  Step one: losing my job of 20 years with HBC didn't happen.

So, I'm staying put.  For now.

The last time HBC "re-allocated" our Logistics Center Workforce was way back in the beginning of 2003, when our present DC was completed and the staff from the Zeller's DC on Viking way in Richmond, and the Bay DC on Lake City Way in Burnaby, were both merged into our then-new building.  This required some...adjustment of shifts and pay scales and re-assignment of some staff to other departments because; quite frankly, not everyone could have the shift and department assignment they preferred.

The management team decided to have a "competition", based on seniority, to handle the transition.  This involved written requests and a couple of interviews and a WHOLE lot of nail-biting.  It was not unlike attempting to get hired on...for a job you were already being paid for.

Now, thanks to the Global Economic Downturn and the fact that we only service 2 of the 4 retail banners we used to supply from our DC, our present Management team is forced (reluctantly, I am sure) to "right-size" our workforce.  Our banners have been reduced in number because Zellers was sold to Target USA.  Also; Fields was closed as it was deemed too expensive to continue operations.  This is the new reality at HBC: We've retrenched a ways...and are slowly re-building.

It also means we've gone from a roster of 430 full and part time employees at our peak...to 43 full time employees, plus perhaps another 50-100 part time; called in as needed.  The roster is also slowly increasing...but we all know it will be some time before we are called on to work at the kind of capacity and pace we experienced before the Downturn.  I am convinced HBC will recover...but I've no idea how long it will take.

When the new "core" roster was announced, I felt certain that the time had finally come to move on from HBC to...another opportunity.  I was far enough down the Seniority List that there was no possible way of qualifying for one of the core roster positions; or so I believed.  Hence; the aforementioned plan for a new life in Southern Alberta.

I kept in mind the hoops I had to jump through the last time my Employers had to re-arrange their workforce.  I decided that if I wasn't going to make the full-time roster anyway; I wasn't going to bother jumping through the inevitable hoops required to try to make what income I could for what work there was.  If I was going to have to make such a change in my employment, it wasn't going to be all that much more trouble to find a new job.  I even imagined that I was looking forward to picking up and starting over.  The plan did have some...advantages.

Well, at least I was becoming accustomed to the idea.

So imagine my surprise when our Facility Manager came to me one Thursday evening and asked; "we have three more slots on the core roster, do you want one?", "doing what?" I asked in turn.  "Same as you are doing now: MHF Mondays to Fridays on the PM shift".

"Okay."

It was that easy.  Totally unexpected too.  My Father's advice to me in December before all this unfolded was: "Son, don't jump unless you are pushed!".  Sound advice that.

So...not the opportunity I had "braced" myself for...but an opportunity nonetheless.  Better make the most of it, no?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sitting in an Airport...wotta yawn.  Got the laptop perched on top of the valise. (anybody want to buy a hard sided display case suitable for sales samples or WarHammer figurines?  It's Air Canada certified for carry on.)  All told, my vacation with the Folks has turned out well...until now.  Arrived one hour before departure to be informed that owing to "maintenance issues" my flight would not be departing at 7:45...but instead at 11:25 PM.  This has since been updated to 11:48; or "midnight" as we English speakers would have it.  Latest update on the story of this flight was that it was out of Halifax, NS bound somewhere southern-like (Carribean?, I've no idea), and there was a medical emergency that necessitated a return to Halifax.  This aircraft is now inbound from Halifax to Calgary.  I got a couple of "meal" vouchers from WestJet (for a whopping 16$)...I think I'd rather have a 50% discount on my next trip...or an upgrade.

Got to see Karen and the niece and nephews...except Evan.  He decided on Friday to stay with his Dad past the weekend and was unable to make Xmas at Grandma's.  Karen was a little ticked that the Rundquists didn't say anything about the change in plans until the last minute on Xmas eve.  Classy.

Got Mom's new (to her) desktop set up. Transferring the files between the Dell and the new HP was a little tricky; when I tried to mount the Dell's hard disk in the HP...it crashed.  The HP has been acting a little un-stable since.  I can see I've already got a maintenance call ahead of me in the Spring (or Summer, whenever), when I go back for a visit.  I set up the Dell with the spare monitor and keyboard the Folks had kicking around, so there are now two PC's living on Mom's desk.

Mom and Dad are in California on Art's (dad's boss) dime.  They were unable to make it to Disneyland as there was some unseasonably WET and WINDY weather in LA (more than typical in California in December, I mean).  Too bad; Mom still hasn't been on "Soaring over California".  The reason I mention it is because Mom was profoundly stirred by the "America Sings" presentation in 1976.  That building, in Tomorrow-Land, has since been re-purposed.  "Soaring over California" is the new "America Sings".

Going back to C.B.I. for physio on Monday...and I have to drop by the HBC offices in the morning, or Tuesday morning, to get some vouchers signed off.  Also must remember that tax information form for WSBC so they know how much to keep paying me before my "early and safe return to work" plan kicks in.

Next on the Agenda is to set up the remaining HP desktop unit + goodies for Susan.  She'll be without a PC come the new year 'cause her ex took theirs with him.  She's got a work-from-home gig coming up and she NEEDS this unit.  All good to me, 'cause it means I can empty one of the storage bins that are crowding the project table that Colin and I want to build Rockets on.

Got to see Keith.  He's living just north of Lethbridge, and working for the GEEK SQUAD of the Lethbridge Best Buy.  He ROCKS this gig.  We went to dinner on Friday eve and I was supposed to get him at 6:30 for his end of shift.  Instead, I arrived late to find him poring over a macbook pro that had apparently run out of hard disk space.  Wouldn't boot, wouldn't do anything.  Watched as Maestro Keith did a command line re-write of the drive and convinced it to dump about 2 gigabytes of superfluous log files and backups.  30 mins later, the mac is working brilliantly and the customer happily paid the 104$ OS install fee.  That's not what he did...but that's what they decided to bill it as.  What he actually did is the kind of thing you would normally send a unit back to the national service center in Toronto for.  A manufacturer-level fix.

Speaking of manufacturer-level fixes:

Since I've got the time, I'm going to tell you how I got that mainspring back into the pull starter on VJ's echo line trimmer.  Newer models have a sheet metal "keeper" that holds the spring even if the pulley that holds it inside the housing is removed.  As I mentioned before, this early model trimmer lacks that refinement.  SO: the problem is to keep the spring wound, and immobile long enough to get the pulley in place over top of it, then bolt the whole thing to the starter housing.  At the factory, this is done with a jig, and a special press.

I don't have those.

Winding the spring was no problem; put a couple nails in a scrap of wood and use the fitting on the center of the pulley to wind the spring up until it is slightly smaller than the diameter of the pulley.  Keeping it wound is no problem either; use 3 zip ties (in a sort of triangle configuration) to hold the wound spring around its circumference.  Getting it back into the housing with the zip ties around it ... that is a problem.  The zip ties around the circumference of the wound up spring make it too big to fit into the housing.  Even if you could slip the spring out of the zip tie "keeper" and into the housing, there is no way to keep it in there.

I used three copper paper clips, tapped and formed with a kraft hammer and using a door hinge pin as a tamper.  The clips slipped into the spaces provided by the three zip tie clasps (at each corner of the triangle, as it were), and once wound tight and formed around the spring , they held it in place and allowed me to remove the zip tie "keeper".  The clips were only a couple of mm thick, so the spring fit quite easily into the housing.  Next step was to use two 4" c-clamps to hold down the spring while I cut the clips.  I backed off one c-clamp just enough to cut away and remove the first two clips; then re-tightened it and loosened the other c-clamp, then cut away and removed the third clip.  Now: how do I remove the clamps and get the pulley back in there without the spring flying out of there again?

I froze it.

I used wax (thanks, Babybels!) to plug the hole the starter cord comes out of, then filled the housing, c-clamps and all, with water - up to the top of the fitting for the pulley.  After a couple hours in the freezer, I took the assemblage out and fired up the old 65 Watt soldering pencil.  I melted the ice around the foot of one of the c-clamps, and removed it.  I re-filled the melted hole with water and stuck the starter housing back in the fridge for a couple more hours; then removed the remaining c-clamp, re-filled, and re-froze.

So now I've got the spring wound up, in the housing, held in place by a 1/2" cake of ice over top of it.  I removed the wax plug, and melted the ice immediately around the fitting in the center of the housing where the pulley attaches.  I bolted down the pulley...and waited for the rest of the ice to melt; tightening the bolt a little more every few minutes while I waited.  After the pulley was bolted down completely, I treated the starter with compressed air, aerosol part cleaner, and WD-40.  Installed the pull cord and VOILA' - good as new!

I'm just that good sometimes.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

There are times when a major inconvenience can be a blessing in disguise.

Our most recent move, for instance.

Grant and Kathy got their move out of the old place done by the 27th of October.  All their worldly goods had been moved out of the old place and crammed into the new.  This caused some logistical problems.  I had a few larger items: the TV and cable drum it sits on, my couch and my waterbed.  I gave Grant until the 31 to clear me a passage through the garage in the new house so I could get at my door and get these items moved in.  He did so.  I arranged for help on the night of the 31st and the 1st to get the items moved and give myself time to clean the carpets, counters and the kitchen appliances.

I got up at the usual time for work on the morning of the 31st, and made the usual trip to the bathroom for my morning communion with the water-closet...

...to find an inch or three of standing water in the bathroom, and more coming from under the kitchen counter.

My bedroom, with the still-full queen-sized waterbed bladder (sitting on a flimsy particle-board sub-frame), is between the bathroom and the kitchen.  I realised I wasn't going in to work...as I had to get that waterbed drained before the frame got soaked and collapsed under the weight of the bladder.

That took two hours, by which time the water did soak the sub-frame and rendered it unusable.

S'Okay.  I had no room for a queen waterbed in the new place anyway.  My lovely waterbed, with its now-damaged frame, went to the landfill.  I'm sleeping on a brand new loft bed with a brand new foam mattress.

We suspect the flooding is a result of the property owners refusing to pay to have the foundation drainage of the house connected to the new storm drain line the city installed a few months ago; after which the city also filled in the drainage ditch on the west side of the property.  That house didn't have terrific drainage to begin with, and the flooding in the backyard, the garage, and eventually the house, (which is still on-going as of this writing) seemed inevitable.  It made some hurry for Grant and Kathy to get their stored stuff out of the garage before it all got waterlogged.  Ironically, they had just got finished cleaning the carpets downstairs the night before the flooding started.  I, of course, didn't bother cleaning the carpets in my place as they were going to have to be replaced anyways.  The landlords still made me clean the oven, fridge, and counter tops (splish splash) and would not release the Hastings' damage deposit until I had done so.  Some people, I tell ya!

With the closure of the Annex I had hoped to be back to work as usual in the Central Stock department at our main building.  Not a chance.

Central stock has gone from 2 shifts (down from three) and 16 staff; to 1 shift and 8 staff...or less.  Wade, Barry, Heather, Mike, Sanjee, Gurmej, Marv, and Amresh.  All of whom are higher on the seniority list than I.  For all practical purposes, this means there will be no further vacancies in Central Stock until someone retires...or dies.  All other W2 staff formerly associated with the department have been "loaned out" to other departments.

This is how I found myself in Major Home Fashions ( the department formerly known as Big Ticket).  My day now consists primarily of wrestling mattresses and humping refrigerators...

That's not a pithy witticism...that's what I actually do all day.

Or rather, that's what I did all day: up until November 6th, when I tried to haul a walkie battery weighing several hundred pounds with a crate hook - sideways - and succeeded...in straining my lower back.

We've been here before, haven't we?

Lucky me; because of the previous experience with Lower Back Injury, I know now that one does NOT wait a few days while the discomfort and pain get worse and worse before doing something about it.  I went and reported the injury immediately, and got Dave to put some ice on it at the First Aid station.  They sent me home in a cab, which I had drop me off at the clinic on Scott Rd and 84th, after which, I got Grant to take me home.  My car had to stay where it was for a the next 5 days.  Armed with doctor's orders to rest, and a prescription for Naproxen and Benzaprine; I did my best to stay "off" my back for a few days.

Of course...our HR department at work started jonesing right away about their "Safe and Early Return to Work Plan".  Huzzah.

After a week or two, WorkSafe BC got involved (the department formerly known as the Workers Compensation Board).  I now have a case worker / nurse whose first bit of advice was to immediately find myself a physiotherapist.  I did so, in the person of Coral Bates of the Scott Road Physio clinic.  She's a real sweetie!  Easy on the eyes too...

Alas, my Physio Nirvana was not to last long, because HBC ran out of modified duties for me to perform at work.  (I was doing six hour shifts hanging garments in Put To Store for the Top Shop project.)  I was put on layoff for a couple of days, at which point my WorkSafe case worker informed me that as I was on layoff, I had to enroll in Occupational Rehabilitation Therapy right away...or they couldn't keep paying me.

Both my Doctor and Physiotherapist felt OR Therapy might be a little premature...but not to worry; by hook or crook, I've managed to delay the actual onset of the WCB Health Club for Broken People for a few days and the financial downside hasn't been bad at all.  So: next week (after a follow up with my MD to get my blood pressure checked - oops!, I forgot that last time!) I begin daily sessions of physical training and exercise designed to build me up and equip me with the knowledge I need to maintain that physical level so I DON'T get another back injury in the future.

Know what else would prevent me getting hurt at HBC?  Finding another job that doesn't require wrestling mattresses and humping refrigerators!

I'm going to discuss scheduling with my OR Therapy clinic tomorrow.  I want to take a day out next week for a Career Development Seminar at LDS Employment Services.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Okay...time to clean house.

I'm at the folks place in Cardston, Alberta.  Been here a couple of weeks now.  Helping Mom get a few things done around the house and putting out some feelers in the area for a new job.  Still; I'm heading back to the Lower Drainland come the 26th of this month, which is next Friday.  I took a few weeks off (unpaid) to help the folks and look into a few new career possibilities, yes; but what I really came out for was for an unfinished project: Mom and Dad's 2002 Mazda sedan.

I just don't have the vinegar in me to finish this sucker.

It started out as a ring job.  Straightforward, no?  Just pop off the cylinder head, pull the oil pan, remove the pistons, hone, re-ring and re-install...simple, right?

Wrong.

The year previous to this model, a new 2.0 liter engine was offered to replace the standard 1.8 liter.  Slightly bigger engine in the same size engine bay has the same effect as the same size engine in a smaller engine bay: stuff gets moved around.  In this instance, the "stuff" was two of the bolts used to hold on the "engine baffle".
Part number 14 in the Diagram I pinched off the 'Net.

Okay, see the red circle up there?  That's where a couple of bolts that hold the "engine baffle" in place are.  Notice how the "engine baffle" is an actual solid bulkhead between the crankcase and the oil pan -- with some drip holes, sure, but it makes it impossible to access the crankshaft and pistons without removing the baffle first.

Now note that those two bolts circled in red are inside the casting!!!  Positioned immediately next to the transmission bell.

Which means...?

YOU HAVE TO DISMOUNT THE *&^%$#@@!!! TRANSMISSION TO GET AT THEM!

If there was an Academy Awards for automotive engine design, I would happily nominate this engine for Stupidest Design Flaw That Could Have Been Avoided.

I was game to try, I admit.  I tried last time I was here in March.  I tried again (and again) this week.  I've thus far come within a hairsbreadth of dropping the transmission onto the garage floor -- twice!  I've spent 200$ on tools and sundries to try to make further progress on this car and I just...can't.  Everything I've tried to do, I've had problems with.  I broke both front ball joints, I broke a new breaker bar.  I've gone through TWO sets of 1/2" extenders.  I've practically dis-assembled the entire front end of the car and even if I somehow manage to get that baffle off...I'm still going to end up screwing around with re-assembly and dis-assembly before I can get the rings swapped, the engine re-assembled, and the transmission re-mounted.

I really just want to chuck it all, you know?

It's not like I don't already have other projects waiting on me here.  Karen gave me a Dell laptop that needs to have its screen connector re-connected.  The Acer laptop I fixed for her lost its wireless.  In that instance; I'm going to recommend a mini-USB wireless adapter.  

I also have other projects waiting at home.  Colin and I have model rockets to build.  With the help Erik gave me with the Passat, I now know the car is in good shape and I ought to get it back on the road.  Baaska's laptop needs a new hard disk, Ramesh wants me to fix his kids' computer again...

Sometimes it's hard not to feel overwhelmed, you know?

I have been able to get a few things accomplished with my time here.  I spent a day at the LDS services center in Lethbridge, going over my work experience and getting my new resume' done.  I've now got an account with LDS services and with the Job Bank.  I'm checking daily, and sending out resumes' to anything that looks interesting.  Tomorrow I'm going to try to arrange for a few minutes with a company in Lethbridge that has definite career potential.  Just to be thorough, I'm also sending out resumes' to companies in the Lower Mainland.  It's nice to have a job to go back to...but only if I have to.

The only other major accomplishment was getting the garage cleaned up (apart from the dis-assembled car in it), and finally dealing with that unholy-travesty-bio-hazard-eldritch-terror that was my parents' (accidentally defrosted for three weeks) freezer.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Been a long time...again.

I'm not sure I like Bloggers new look, but I suppose I can live with it.  For this entry, I think I will start where I'm sitting...and move outward.  

First is the new computer.  A Dell Precision 490 workstation with WAY more power than the custom Asus machine I was using.  I've got it sitting at the foot of my massive waterbed on a little Ikea-esque desk I bought from JYSK a few months back.  It has all the toys; webcam, mike, internet phone link and a printer/scanner/copier that is sitting on a rack above the desk...bolted to the wall.

I am so going to miss this place when we move out.

Oh yeah; I suppose I should mention us getting evicted.  This summer, and past spring, the Landlord spent a little money sprucin' the place up a bit.  We got a new coat of paint, a new backyard fence, some new woodwork on the back deck...

Note that exactly none of that was requested, or required.  This is just how the management company that acts as Landlord for the Owners decided their yearly budget ought to be spent.  I can hardly blame them; between the brand new United Church on the north side of our property and Mr. Avtar's new house on the south side, this place was looking like a dump.

Mind you, what the place needs is new double-glazed windows and new non-drafty-and-non-dry rotted doors.  A new furnace would have been nice.  Kathy told the Landlord that we would not be signing the lease renewal unless they could at least address the furnace issue.  They said; "see ya!".  Silly people.  Mind you, we're still probably going to fix the garage door for them...'cause we need for it to be able to open in order to get our stuff out of it.  This will require dis-assembly of a very heavy (and ALSO dry rotted) solid wood garage door about 10 ft wide.  Has some damaged hardware too...

Hmm.  Got sidetracked a bit there.  What was I doing in the garage already?  Okay, lets move over to the living room next...

Starting at the fireplace, we've got the toolbox holding all the Model Rocket Gear...

I got Colin into Model Rocketry.  Just like his old man, the boy has taken to "blowing stuff up" (under controlled conditions) really well.  His catch phrase when pressing the launch button on our Estes Electron Beam Launch Controller (tm) is; "SUCK IT, PHYSICS!!!".  We've lost 4 ready-made models this summer after about 18 launches (or six packs of engines, if you prefer...).  Our most reliable model was an Estes Loadstar, with 10 Launches and 9 successful recoveries.  That's right, the remaining three models accounted for only 8 launches between them.  Heck, the Cosmic Cobra didn't even open its parachute!  The shuttle express had 4, and the Athena had 2, and a "frankenflight" of the Loadstar with the Athena's nose cone had 1 flight...which crashed.  The Loadstar was repaired after the crash, but never really flew straight after that.  It's up a tree somewhere east of Crescent Park School's ball field.

We learned from our mistakes.  Our current ready-made is a bit fancy: an Estes SkyTraxx, with a 3 piece nose cone suitable for carrying a small payload.  We've also moved up to D class rockets.

The back story behind the move to bigger and better goes like this:  One of my many Facebook friends is a former Single Adult Ward alumnus named Roger Tewson.  Rog is a EMT these days and he's been following our rocketry exploits on my page for awhile.  A few months back he asked me how best to get himself and his boys started in the hobby, and I obliged.  He bought his youngest son the Estes Moon Mutt mini-A class kit...and himself and his older son the starter kit with the Estes Amazon and Crossfire models.  The Amazon is 34" tall...way bigger than our somewhat battered Loadstar.  That's right folks...I got Rocket Envy.

So, our next model was a level one D class kit: the Estes Stormcaster.

It's very similar in design to a Canaroc kit I built when I was Colin's age: the Black Brant V.  The Black Brant series is still in use in Canada and other Commonwealth countries...but sadly Canaroc, and the models based on the Black Brant sounding rockets are no longer available.

Okay, so what else is there in the living room?  Well, there's my workbench.  I bought a PVC folding table and a couple folding chairs for it.  It's the nexus for most of my Projects.

Ah yes...my Projects.

I have discovered that I need Projects to keep me...sane.

Currently there's a couple of HP workstations that I got from Sister Williams.  One has been donated already to my friend Tony, and the other is being used by Colin; 'cause he killed his Dell laptop after spilling water on it.  Teens with expensive electronics?  Buy the extra warranty coverage!  I still have another of those HP's and the previously mentioned Asus system to find homes for.  I've got Colin's system hooked into that boom box that used to belong to Laurie's Opa.  Sounds awesome.  I've been using it to dub my CD collection onto tapes (reversal of fortune, no?) as the new mini van's CD changer doesn't work (I removed it), but it's tape deck does.  What else gets done on there?  Well, we built the Stormcaster on it, (and when I say "we", I do mean both of us; Colin helped) and I performed a Minor Mechanical Miracle there.

The MMM came about when Vijay was trying to replace the pull cord on his Echo gas powered line trimmer.  I've read the manual for that model and there ought to be a warning something like this: "CAUTION: under NO circumstances should the user of this trimmer EVER REMOVE THE PULLEY FROM THE PULL STARTER UNIT."

Newer model trimmers made by Echo and other manufacturer's now include a sheet-metal retainer inside the pull starter housing to keep the clockwork spring in place...but this was an older model and it lacked that refinement.  So, Vijay removed the pulley, the retaining bolt flew to the far corner of his shed, and the clockwork spring SPRANG out of its housing and darn near took his eye out...

...and he asked me to try to put it back together.

I did some due diligence: I had a consult with the guys at Fraser Valley Tools in Surrey, and reviewed a few YouTube videos on the subject.  The consensus from all sources was that getting that clockwork spring re-wound and getting it to sit still long enough to get the pulley back in place over top of it was absolutely and unquestionably IMPOSSIBLE - without the factory tools and jigs used to put it in there in the first place.

Took me nearly a month to figure it out.

I have discovered a native talent for mechanical assembly:  If I can envision it in my mind, I can make it work.  If I can't see it...that is, if the "simulation", the mental model I've built of a procedure in my mind doesn't work...I can't do it.  If I can see it working, I can do it.  If I envision it, and I can't see it working...I keep thinking about it until I find a way that it can work.

I would love to describe how I pulled this off, but I think I'll leave it for another post.  Are we at the front door yet?  Yes?  Good, let's go outside.

First thing in view is the Van.  I'm rather pleased with it.  It really proved its worth today as we participated in the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for the Surrey Food Bank.  We picked up two routes in Delta and transported a third to the depot at the 126th street chapel.  We also did a little overtime chasing missed pickups in the area.  I had to bribe Colin to get him to come along, but it worked.  It's going to come in handy when I move.

Further outward yet and what do we have?  My neighbor Roy Crabb.  An incredibly interesting man.  He's recently joined our Ward and is a fellow Ward Missionary.  I have a lot of respect for the man.  He's also going to be the subject of another, later, post.

Beyond that there's Church, and Work, and Phil's hobby hut; that last being a place that Colin and I have made frequent pilgrimage to in search of engines, models, and other Rocketry sundries.

Oh! Church! I almost forgot; my eldest niece, Shayla Marie Hastings...is getting married next week at the Vancouver Temple.  I will be attending.

Work has been awesome...and it's about to end.  I am saddened by this.  I'll tell ya more about it later.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I once asked; "is this a journal, or a quarterly?".

Guess we know the answer to that one.

Spring is on its way here in the Lower Drainland.  Pollen is BURSTING forth from dormant flora...and sales of Benadryl are at their yearly high peak.  Allergy season is upon us...but I'm not having any sinus trouble.

I'm getting nosebleeds.  Much more fun.

No unfortunate incidents as yet, but it is annoying.

On to the news; let's begin with the vehicular situation:

I sold the Golf.

I'm selling the Passat.  Once it's ready.

I bought a Mini-Van.  I guess I really DID miss ol' Mean Green.

It's a 1997 (thank you, AirCare!) Nissan Quest GXE.  All options except the sun roof and the integrated multimedia system. It does have a Kenwood (tm) multi-CD changer under the passenger seat.  I still haven't completely figured out all the gadgets on this van.  There are buttons on the dashboard that I still don't know what they do!

Next item is computers (what else?), and how I seem to be in the re-homing business.  I don't go looking for these machines...they just show up.  I thought I had only one desktop tower to get rid of and then my Ex up and asks me if I wanted back the custom Acer that I traded to Colin for the Dell I bought him last year.  The Dell itself was upgraded to the max and offered (along with a flat screen monitor) as a door prize at our Scout Troop fundraiser.  It's living at the Inlayo's house now.  I was also fixing a laptop for Marv, and it seems I'm not done there yet as he was phoning me at odd hours yesterday to set up the wireless networking on it.  I wasn't all that available yesterday as I have been spending odd hours myself fixing Kathy and Grant's Sony Viao tower upstairs.  They got a piece of malware on it and while the malware got removed fairly easily, it took pieces of Windows XP networking utilities with it.  Patricia Williams spent a little time consulting on it over the phone and reached the same conclusion that I had: wipe out the hard drive and re-build the Windows XP install.  However, since this is a "work" system, it wasn't that simple.  I had to install a secondary drive to take all their data and programs off the primary before I wiped it.  Of course, not all the data came along...but so far Kath says she can re-construct what is missing.

There were unforeseen difficulties: like re-installing proprietary Sony Viao device drivers, and getting rid of the Windows Genuine Advantage notification tool; somehow in those 130-plus updates it managed to sneak in despite the best Black Magic I could install.  At least it won't ask to be activated...ever.

I was going through an online guide to get rid of the W.G.A. tool and was failing miserably in the "delete the executable and .dll file from the system32 directory".  Kept running into a system flag.  After 20 minutes of this pointless exercise I facepalmed and exclaimed; "I am going about this all wrong!"...and re-started the system in command-line mode.

DOS can be your friend...but how many users today remember 25-year-old DOS commands and syntax?

Anyways, W.G.A. tool has been banished to a carefully made dungeon and shouldn't be bothering the Hastings' at all.  Just like any other piece of nagware, spyware, malware or other things that go bump on your hard drive.  I don't care if it IS an offcially liscensed MicroSoft product!  I don't want it on my system or any other system, for that matter!

Number three on the list is work.  We are finally getting a handle on Manhattan.  We've spent the last three weeks on Cycle Counts; attempting to make our actual inventory match up with our virtual inventory.  By and large we have done this, but human nature dictates that mistakes are still being made, so this is something we'll have to stay on top of.  My section lead, Jackson Jang, is having fits over some of the things I've been doing to keep this process moving forward efficiently, but his boss, Reggie Mahendra, is loving me for it.  I'm able to do more with a handheld RF terminal than some of our more "highly-trained" people can do with a system terminal and full access!  It just takes a little longer.  In short: I know enough to be dangerous...

I thought I had booked off vacation time for Spring Break this week and a vist to my folks in Alberta next week, but I am informed that I actually booked off next month.  Will have to look into that. I also have Paul coming for a visit and we'll see what we can do to get together and catch up.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Write while the writing is good...

We had, as is customary in the Lower Drainland this time of year, a fierce windstorm last night. We awoke this morning feeling fortunate, as the City Faeries only had to hack up one of the trees out front, and the only cable that came loose from the house was a 2-wire AC line that had been used by former tenants for...Christmas Lights, I think.

BUT...we did not escape entirely un-scathed, for we discovered to our horror that our Internet Connection was no longer with us.

For those who aren't aware of my current living arrangements: Kath and Grant were evicted from their old place last summer. Not their fault; their Landlord wanted to retire and had sold the property to a new owner who wanted to put a new house up on the lot. There was a concentrated search to find a rental property in the same neighborhood, suitable for a family of seven. At about the same time, my divorce was being finalized and I too was looking around for new accommodations. The suggestion was made that perhaps Grant and Kathy and myself could combine forces (and rental funds) to lease a place that would be more amenable to our needs than we could afford separately. We wound up in a much-storied former duplex just off 75Ave on the Delta border. The place has pluses and minuses, but on the whole it is livable and the Landlord has been mostly diligent in keeping up repairs and maintaining the place.

We have only the one internet connection.

Grant and Kath pay for the TELUS DSL line that provides access. They've also got a D-Link wireless router that provides a "meh" signal to most of the house. The signal is weak enough that it was next to useless down here at the other end of the house where I am. I didn't want to pay to have a second DSL line run in, so I came up with an ingenious solution: a pair of D-Link PowerLine adapter nodes. Grant and Kath have two systems upstairs, one wired to the router and one on a Cisco USB wireless adapter, and I have a CAT 5 connection to my system downstairs via the PowerLine node.

None of which was working this morning after the 2Wire Advanced DSL modem TELUS sent with the account decided to pack it in. TELUS was nice enough to provide a new modem...which will arrive next Wednesday...

SO: what can we do, uncle Brian?

I had a look down in my "trunk o' junk" downstairs and lo and behold...I found a Siemens TELUS modem. The kind TELUS used about five years ago...Didn't know if it would work, of course.

It didn't.

That was that, of course...I couldn't possibly have anything else in my Vast Tickle Trunk of Obsolete Computer Hardware, could I?

Well, yes, yes I could. After several more minutes of digging, I dredged up an old D-Link 300G DSL modem. With adapter.

Not fancy, not "high-tech", no wireless broadcast or built in multi-port LAN switch...just one socket for the DSL line going in, one socket for the Ethernet line going out, and a plug for the power supply. In short, the bare minimum requirements to serve the purpose. If it worked, which it did. I literally had only to hook it up and plug it in and BAM! - we were online again.

I've no clue at ALL where that modem came from, much less why it works so well. It's kind of old and decrepit, and it isn't as robust as the 2Wire unit. I expect that it will also fail sometime in the next two weeks or so, but since we only need it for the next six days...that shouldn't be a problem. If it is still functional when its replacement arrives, I am SO keeping that sucker.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My 200TH POST!  I suppose it looked for a time as if I wouldn't make it this far, eh?

In keeping with previously established tradition, I'm going to make this here "post-Christmas" post a thing of weirdness and wonderment.

Let's talk "magnetizing".

I served a two year mission for the LDS church in the Arkansas Little Rock Mission. Much of the time spent in the Memphis, Tennessee area.

In one area (Tupelo, Mississippi I believe), we had an investigator who was really into "new age" reading and study. When we shared the Gospel with her she gave up a lot of her "new age" books.  That was how I got to read "Illusions" by Richard Bach.  A book which introduced me to the concept of "magnetizing". Briefly: the way to bring anything into your life is to (vividly) imagine that it is already there. There are a few other details involved ("imagine the object surrounded by golden light"), but as I already mentioned, it is a New Age book.

Sounds like a lot of Hokum, right?

I've already used this technique, 'tho perhaps not for its intended purpose. I use it to find things that I've lost track of. Also, it has been some time since I last used it.

I've been quite forgetful lately. (Which reminds me, I've got to go retrieve that Xmas card Kathy and Grant gave me on Sunday last - I think it's still stuck in their couch.) One of the things I recently misplaced was the key to my new(ish) VW Passat.  I last remembered having it in hand on or about December 12th.  I first noticed it missing on December 20th. Way to maintain that mental acuity, eh? After fruitlessly searching for it in all the places I thought it could be, it dawned on me that I could have, in a moment of paranoia, hidden the key...and forgot all about where I had hidden it. It looked like I would be paying my local VW dealer to have a new key cut for the Passat.

As I have used the "magnetizing" technique to find lost objects before, and as I was at a loss for what else to do (apart from giving up and calling the VW dealer), I decided to use the technique once again to see if I could make the key "magically" show up. The key is a familiar object, as is the Teamsters key fob it's attached to. I know the size, shape, heft, texture and surfaces of that key so well I would know it even in total darkness.  So I sat down a couple days ago and spent a few minutes meditating on it, as if it were already in my hand. I spent a little time yesterday focusing my thoughts in like manner.  Then this morning, as I was waking up, I spent a few moments on the exercise...and I got the distinct impression that I had left the key (paranoia, remember?) in a jar on top of the fridge.

And there it was. On top of my fridge. In a glass jar. In plain view. I had probably been looking directly at it at least a dozen times in the past two weeks and simply had not seen it...until then.

If I'm this good with "lost" items, I wonder how effective this would be in finding a new career?

...or a slimmer, healthier body?

...or a new companion?

...or anything, really?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

December 7th...a date "which will live in infamy".

Or not.

I'm getting a jump start on my New Year's resolutions.  I'm going to be writing a lot more on this 'blog.  Whether or not I'll have anything noteworthy to write remains to be seen.

So...it's been several months; what's up?

I joined the Ward Choir.  Then I joined the Stake Choir.  It's Xmas time!  Time to get my Cantata on!

We perform the night of the 11th.  Should be a good program.  It's not actually a Cantata as such...that's just what we've been calling it these past few years.  Our Choir Mistress, sister Ashton, has selected an interesting and even challenging  repertoire.  I do hope my voice will be fully recovered by then, because I've been sick with a chest cold these past two weeks.

Our Ward Choir will also be performing, although I'm not sure exactly when.  I've also been invited into a quartet to sing "With Wondering Awe".  I'm supposed to be learning the Tenor part for it.  With my voice in its present condition, this has been a little difficult.

In other news, Mom and Dad are not coming to BC for Xmas.  I was really hoping my kids would get some "bonding time" with their Sanderson Grandparents.  They have elected to stay home in Cardston to be near Karen and her kids; who may be needing a little extra support this year as Chad's health issues have come to a head of sorts and it's causing problems for Karen and their kids.

I should still be able to see my kids and get some good "Daddy" times in.  I'm spoiling those two rotten, and it's showing in my finances.  Of course, if I weren't spending my largesse (such as it is) on my kids, I'd probably just spend it on myself.

Speaking of which; I've decided to sell Max come the spring.  The VW Passat is a fun car to drive, but this particular example is just plain annoying.  Cosmetically and Mechanically the car is fine.  Electrically, however, it has revealed numerous bugs and glitches that mean I will need to spend some cash and time getting the car up to par.  I'm also selling the little Golf - still not dead yet - and Lord knows what I'll be driving next.  I'm even starting to get nostalgic about that Caravan!  Despite its age, it was a solid, mechanically reliable and easily-maintained vehicle.

I am slowly - oh so slowly - taking care of the numerous loose ends still left after the divorce.  Selling off items of property I don't need, banking, bonds, taxes, etc.  I really hate dealing with ANY sort of bureaucracy.  I should have everything wrapped up by the time Kath and Grant's lease on this place expires at the beginning of April.  No idea what they/we are going to do/move into next.  We'll see what happens.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Here's some pictures of Max:


Where to begin...


...At the beginning, of course.

Okay, here's how I'm doing:

I'm divorced.

I've moved into a bigger place.

I bought a better car.

Now for the details.  The divorce became final a week ago.  Co-incidentally, today is my 45 birthday.  Happy Birthday to me.  Dad is over and he is taking me and Kath and Grant (and kids) out to dinner to celebrate.  I hardly know what to do with myself and while I would like to say I've been sleeping better lately; I haven't.  There are still a few details here and there to take care of, and I'm still not feeling myself yet.  But I am slowly getting better.  I'm dealing with it all, is what I'm trying to say, I guess.

Readers of this 'blog will already have read me moaning about the inadequacies of my new residence.  It's not actually that bad. I've made a few minor fixes here and there that have helped.  I'm still waiting on the new counter top and sink in the kitchen, however.  This has been a longer "just a week or two" than I have ever waited for in my life up to now.  The last hurdle is usually the hardest, and I console myself that once that sink is fixed the place will be just about PERFECT...except for the new light in the bathroom and the laundry I'm planning on installing in the niche next to the furnace.  Where would I be without projects to keep me occupied?

Speaking of projects: that brings us to the Car.

I bought a 1999 VW Passat Turbo.

...Because it felt right.

I've been using that phrase somewhat lately, haven't I?  I saw the ad for the car listed in Craigslist and almost immediately got an inspiration that this was the car I was looking for.  I hadn't even done any research on the Passat model yet!  My original plans were to replace the Mk III Golf with a Mk III Jetta.  Then, as it became evident that I would have a bit more money to play with than I had originally anticipated, I began looking into the possibility of a Mk IV Jetta...perhaps even a TDI model!  I soon found, however, that a VR6 or TDI model was out of my budget (hey, I'm not going to go crazy here!) unless I wanted to buy a "fixer-upper"; and the required fixes that most examples I found would need were a little outside my skill set.

The Passat (I have named him "Max"), did not require any mechanical fixes...that I was aware of.  However, the dealership (Technique Auto Sales, 225 Kingsway, Vancouver - tell 'em Brian sent you) had the car listed for one half of its Book Value.  Well within my budget, but the lowball price listing gave me pause and made me wonder what the dealership wasn't telling me.

They wouldn't tell me.

So I brought it home, and after some cursory examination found the following:

-one of the tires had been slashed.
-the dealership had rotated the tires around the car in order to take the photos for the ad.
-the ABS system warning lights on the dash were on.  Permanently.
-the passenger side lock had been removed, and the dealership had stuck a plastic cover over the hole from one of the rear doors of another Passat.  Said cover fell off before I got the car home.
-The brakes and one of the brake sensor lines had been completely replaced.  Probably in an attempt to remedy the ABS system fault.
-Volkswagen wants 1950$ to replace the entire ABS assembly on a Mk V Passat or Audi A4.
-The anti-theft code on the stereo has been erased, rendering it inoperable.
-The moon roof had a tendency to open by itself.
-The one-and-only key the dealership gave me (the Passat model originally comes with 4 keys AND an alarm remote) would not arm the anti-theft system, or open the trunk, OR close the moon roof remotely.  I know the Master Key is SUPPOSED to do all that because I insisted that the dealership provide me an owner's manual for the 1999 Passat. The key I've got is the "Valet" key - it opens only the driver's door and will also operate the ignition; but will not operate any of the car's accessories.
-The passenger side rear door has had its lock and window servos disconnected.

Now, the guys at Technique Auto Sales said nothing about this car being in an accident, or having been stolen...but I think the car may have been in an accident and I know it's been stolen; and recovered.  The theft-and-recovery is probably why the former owner traded it in on a 2010 model Passat (yes, the dealer actually showed me the transfer from the previous owner - to show that the vehicle had Clear Title, I guess).

My conclusion after all this?  I bought a LEMON...Arrrrrrgh!!!

That probably explains why I heard the guys at the dealership laughing as I drove it away...

Now, after further examination...

-the ABS fault is quite common due to a design glitch in the ABS control unit that Bosch never did get around to fixing.  You can have the unit re-built for 100$-300$...or you could just pop it open and re-solder the loose wires yourself.  Fair Warning: do not attempt this repair yourself unless you are an electronics technician; or a hobbyist who has done component level repair on a circuit board with surface-mount components.  Also, there are specific tools and materials you'll need before attempting this kind of thing, or you'll probably just destroy the unit, rather than repairing it.

Do I have the techniques, tools, and materials to attempt this repair myself?  Oh yes.  Yes I do.

All the other issues with the car's locks, keys and electrics are fairly easy to fix, and will be done in short order over the next few weeks.  Except the moon roof.  I cranked that closed with the back-up mechanical system - and then disconnected the switch and the power to the actuator.  That sucker is staying put.

Technique Auto Sales supposes that they sold some sap a car for 3000$ that needs 2500$ + in repair.  At first, I thought I was that sap.

Then I discovered that what actually happened was that I got a 6000$ car for half its book value because I did my homework...and the dealership didn't.

But I didn't know that until after I bought it...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Perfect for a Monday...

I got up and walked into my kitchen a little after 5 AM this morning...

...to find a haze of smoke hovering about a foot off the ceiling and a strong burning smell coming from the vicinity of my fridge.  After staring aghast at the fridge for a full minute I realized two things:

1. I needed to open up the doors and windows before the new smoke alarm went off.

2. I wasn't going to make it to work this morning.

The fridge was cycling on-and-off every minute, but the compressor was LOUD and running more or less constantly.  I moved all the bric-a-brac off the top of the fridge and pulled it out of its niche in the corner.  Once around the back of the fridge, I was able to see the scorch mark on the linoleum and noticed the distinct tang of burned motor bushings.  With the fridge unplugged the smoke cleared and I waited an hour or so (about 6:45 AM) before calling my sister Kathy.

For those who don't know my living arrangements; I moved out of the house L and I owned and moved into a new place with my Sister Kathleen and Brother (in law) Grant...and their five kids.  I've got the downstairs suite and they've got the upstairs plus the other half of the downstairs.  It's worked out really well so far.  I figured I had to move out once the Divorce was final...more on that in a moment.

Anyways; I got all the frozen food into Kath's freezer in the garage and put all the items from the cooler section in a shopping basket to keep temporarily in their fridge.  Now I'm waiting to place a call to the Property Management Company who takes care of this place...I need a new fridge; and maybe a new stove while we're at it?

This place has been BEAT on!  The maintenance has been minimal and looks as if it were done by the Marx Brothers, Incorporated.  I have a tub in the bathroom that sits, no joke, 22 inches off the floor.  Got that?  The rim of the tub is three feet off the floor!  Makes getting in and out of the shower in the morning mighty interesting.  I may have to install a safety bar on the side of the tub surround.  Essentially, they left the old tub surround in place and simply parked a new steel-side tub ( the kind that doesn't need a surround) on top of the old surround.  A tub on top of a tub (that isn't there any longer), so to speak.  I shudder when I think of the re-plumbing of the drain that must have been necessary for this "kludge".  Then there is the kitchen sink that is slowly sinking thru the dry-rotted counter-top.  Then there is the oven with no bottom element (and no-where to plug said element into, the wiring has been ripped out).  Finally, there is the smoking fridge.

To be fair, the P.M.C. has fixed a few of the more pressing items.  The constantly leaking drain in the bathroom sink; which had rotted out the lower half of the sink cabinet, for instance.  The sink and cabinet were replaced and the drain line was re-done.  Not the most aesthetically pleasing job, but at least it works.  The holes in the wall have been patched...poorly.  The carpets and other fixtures that suffered damage from a minor flood that the P.M.C. rep didn't see fit to mention to us were replaced.  Although the over-sized, mismatched, and amateur - installed baseboards are kind of a dead giveaway.  At least the carpet was correctly done.  Indoor-outdoor, low pile, high traffic Berber; A.K.A. "airport carpet"...classy.

I really shouldn't complain too much.  We've only signed a one-year lease.  The P.M.C. has insisted that I take out Renter's Insurance to cover any damage done by my waterbed.  I think I'll be replacing the waterbed bladder with a foam mattress and the P.M.C. can have their Renter's Insurance once all the broken items are properly fixed around here!  Fair enough?

Now, speaking of "properly fixed"...

The case of Sanderson vs Sanderson was heard June 13th at the Vancouver Courthouse.  Because all parties were in agreement, the J.C.C. was wrapped up rather quickly and it was arranged to have His Honor hear the Plea for Divorce almost immediately.  So the Decree was issued from the Bench and goes into effect 31 days from that date.  This will be July 14th...Bastille Day.  There's some irony in there somewhere, but I'm too tired and annoyed right now to go looking for it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is this a monthly journal or a quarterly?

Okay, here's how the divorce is going:

First, some background; I have tried on several occasions to get my Ex 'round the table to hammer out an agreement about property and custody that we could take to court.  No success.

I contacted an Internet-based divorce mill and had them draw up the papers for a simple, no-fault claim based on separation.  I figured a good start date would be when I moved into my own basement: March, 2008.  I was ready to file in March of 2010, or shortly thereafter, but the Ex asked me to hold off until after October of 2010; until she could finish up her college courses at VCC. After thinking about it a bit, I agreed.  Final decision on filing the papers was set for last quarter 2010, or first quarter 2011.  I filed at the Vancouver Court Registry on February 2nd, 2011.  She was served her copy of the claim nine days later on Friday the 11th of February.  She didn't speak to me for the next three days...

Then she hired a Lawyer.  Then she invited me to sit down with the Lawyer and hammer out an agreement about property and custody that we could take to court. Success!...at least as far as she is concerned.

BC law states that the respondent to a claim has 30 days in which to file a response, after which the claimant is free to file for a Bench Decree in the matter.  The 30 days ended on Sunday, March 13.  I was told the Lawyer filed the challenge to my claim on March 1st, but I went down to the courts on Wednesday the 16th to discover that they had filed on day 31: Monday, March 14th.  I was too late to file my request for a Decree.  Should have planned that one better.  It is now March 20th.  I have yet to be served with my copy of the counter-claim.

I have, however, got a pretty good idea what form our property agreement is going to take.  It's a good deal - for my Ex.  I will likely have to hire a Lawyer of my own before this is all done.  The only advantage I have in this situation is knowing exactly what my Ex's expectations are...and how much she may be willing to give up if I let her have them.  My own needs are far more modest.

On to the work front; I finally signed up for our new online payroll accounting.  HBC stopped giving out printed pay statements sometime last year and I waited until now to sign up for them online.  I was dismayed to discover that I have not been paid for a full pay period for the last three months.  I have missed a number of days with my neck injury, but it seems all those days were paid out consecutively as Sick Days.  I have no Sick Days left.  Still, I haven't taken any days off recently and I am fully expecting my next pay statement to be a full hours one.  Watch this space for further bulletins - or flying fur.  I don't want to have to ask our HR department to audit ALL of my pay statements for the past year, but I'll do it if my next statement comes up short.

On the Automotive front: I have decided to fix up my beater VW.  In part because I don't have the money to replace it outright (yet), and in part because I've already sunk so much money into it just to keep it on the road that if I simply fix all of its issues, that puppy's going to be with me for another 10 years or more.

Or until I do find that suitable replacement.

I've been getting chummy with Lorne Kintrea lately.  He's been trying to get his mobile auto-mechanic business up and running.  What he really needs is a bigger vehicle.  He ought to sell his Land Cruiser and buy a van.  He could get a van for a song...I got TWO of them that way!  I've been looking on Craig's List and something like a Caravan or some such would be pretty reasonable.  I'll be buying an engine stand for the VW soon, and I've already told Lorne he can use it if he needs to.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Here's how January went so far.
Let's back up a bit first...

In December, my Aunt Audrey made me a surprising and welcome offer.  She had been waiting over three years for an opening at an Extended Care Facility in Langley.  The opening had finally been made, and she was going to be moving to Langley.  However, she didn't want to sell her house as the market is somewhat depressed at the moment.  She needed a Live-In Caretaker...and offered me the opportunity.

To say I was enthusiastic about the chance to Finally Leave the Basement is an understatement.  Audrey and I discussed the arrangement that first day, and I distinctly remember "no rent" and "your overall expenses shouldn't be increased".  All fine by me...'cause I couldn't afford any increased expenses.  I can barely afford the expenses I have now.  I am STILL paying off credit card debt from four years ago!  I haven't paid back  all the money I owe on my current vehicle.  By my reckoning, I've paid for that car twice already.  The trip to Disney was nice...but that was partially borrowed money too.  I've been living it up folks!  Well past time to finish paying the piper...


BUT...the move...didn't...feel...right.

I got some books and bookshelves moved over.  I left the rest of the move until after New Year's as I didn't think I would be able to arrange help until then.  I did try, but it didn't work out.  Audrey's grandson, Jason Laidlaw, did an excellent job of helping his Grandmother move her things out of the house and over to Langley.  He also went above and beyond in leaving the house clean and swept, and packing nearly all of the remaining items and putting them into storage in the garage.  The house was ready for me to occupy.

We spoke in person just before I left for Alberta.  He re-iterated what I had heard from Audrey about paying the utilities and then words to the effect that I would be paying the property taxes as well...

Huh?  That wasn't what I had heard.  Well, no matter, I can call Audrey and see what this is about.  She probably meant the Municipal Services Assessment.  I definitely would pay that; after all, if I'm living there, I may as well pay for the Water/Sewer and Sanitation services I'm using.  Audrey couldn't be expecting me to pay Property Taxes on a house I didn't own, could she?

Back to Jason.  He mentioned that his Grandmother was mostly moved in, and had had her new phone hooked up...but he didn't tell me the new number.  Hmmmm.

Note that nothing untoward or dishonest has been done at this point...but I'm starting to wonder.  So I called Eugenie.

Eugenie Sanderson is my Grandmother, she is also Audrey's sister.  I figured if anyone could tell me Audrey's new phone number, it would be her.  I was correct.

I called Audrey.  It was a somewhat unusual conversation.  It was rather abrupt, for one thing.  No money or Property Taxes were mentioned; but she seemed to be having a fair amount of anxiety over...the trees and shrubbery in the front yard.

So here's what I figured out afterward...I'm mentioning it now, because it will be important later.

Audrey wasn't just looking for someone to keep the lights on and the "hearth fires burning" at her house...she was looking for on call landscaping, trimming and arbor work!  I know that such work was on her mind because I met the nice man she had hired in years past to do the yard trimmings and tree lopping.  He came around while I was shoveling snow off the front walk and the driveway.  The lot that the house is on used to be much larger and it was, back in the day, heavily wooded.  There are still a few of those BIG pine trees along the north and south lines of the property.  Some of those pines are in need of arbor work.  Dead boughs needing to be lopped, etc.  All in all, there's a lot of major yard work needed to get the property more "presentable" for sale.  Audrey can't do it herself, of course; that's why she hires a professional to come in every so often.  I have no idea how much a professional landscaper/tree surgeon costs...but I imagine it's pretty expensive.

I also heard from Audrey, and from Jason, that living at the facility in Langley was going to be more expensive than Audrey had first anticipated.

Still with me?  Okay, here's what happened a few days after I got back from Alberta:

I got a phone message from Jason asking me to call him soon as I could as he had some important news.  I called...and the phrase "Eight Hundred Dollars a month in rent" came up early on in the conversation.

WHAT???

I should add as an aside that 800$ a month (plus utilities) is a really reasonable rent for a 3 bedroom 1 bath bungalow close to schools and shopping.  Especially in this neighborhood.  The rent was not the problem.  The Problem was that I can't afford to pay rent while I'm still paying the Mortgage AND child support HERE!!!

Okay...okay, I feel better now...

So how about it, unseen reader?  Would this latest development have raised any warning flags?  Would you want to tread carefully and diplomatically?  Too bad I didn't...

I asked, plainly and more than a little bluntly, if Jason would mind if I called Audrey to confirm the new stipulation in the deal.  Jason did not know at this time that I had obtained Audrey's new phone number without him.  His reaction, as I most certainly was not taking his word that this was Audrey's wish, was to take offense.  I don't blame him for taking offense at apparently calling his integrity into question...because I was questioning his integrity.  Without any real evidence, as it turns out.

Oops. After calling Audrey I found that yes, her expenses at the care facility in Langley were higher than she had anticipated, and yes, there was going to be a fair expense in getting the landscape and yard ready for sale.

Conclusion?  Audrey needs a rent-paying tenant in the house while she waits for the market to pick up.  Too bad that's not me.

AND...

I owe Jason an apology, I think.  I am probably going to have to talk to the guy again because I still have to give him back Audrey's LifeLine key.  He's already made it clear that he's "done with me" and I have "burned my bridges" where he's concerned.  So maybe an apology note will do?

Finally: Jason went way out of his way to help Audrey with her move and to take care of all the details involved.  It's possible he was already feeling more than a little frustrated with the situation when my slur on his character occurred.  If it had been somebody insulting me like that?  Yeah, I would have been angry...