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  • Charges for Not Using Electricity – Time to go Solar?

    Posted on October 12th, 2015 admin No comments

    We pay really low electrical rates at our little cabin in the woods – an average of about 9 cents per kilowatt hour.   So we started wondering why our power bills are are so high.  There were months when we never even went out to the cabin, and used Cottageabsolutely no electricity at all, yet we paid almost the same as for months when we did use power.  Couldn’t figure out why we were paying for not using power.

    When I phoned to ask about this, our electricity provider explained that the charges are “our share of the distribution costs”.  In other words, they charge us a bit each month for the use of their power poles and wires, as well for a share of salaries, maintenance, etc.

    Seems fair enough in a way, and clearer than rolling it into the cost of electricity.  Our bill shows that, beyond a few bucks a month for electricity,  we also pay for

    • Administration – for the cost of billing us, I guess
    • Distribution – poles & wires, I suppose
    • Transmission – a small fee for shoving electrons along the wires?
    • Riders – various little charges and rebates that come and go

    Now, here is our average monthly electrical consumption for each of the past four years, along with all the surcharges, and the totals:

    YEAR kWh Usage Energy Surcharges TOTAL
    2012 128.63      11.30 74.48 85.78
    2013 74.33        6.91 74.55 81.46
    2014 43.75        3.56 83.60 87.16
    2015 30.83        1.43 90.23 91.66

    Notice that the power usage (kWh) and energy costs have declined substantially over the past four years, while the Surcharges have gone up, especially during the past three years.    We’re approaching $100 a month, just for having the power lines come to the cabin.

    With power costs over $1000 a year, even when we don’t use any electricity at all, off-grid solar is starting to look more attractive.  A couple of years ago, I looked into it.  A simple system could pay for itself in 5 to 10 years.  Will we be using the cabin for that long?  Would a solar system add any resale value to the place?

    The main power guzzler is the water pump; a solar system to handle that would cost a lot.  I can get a small auto-start generator to run the pump (and recharge the batteries if needed) for a few hundred dollars.   But the biggest issue was the size and mass of storage batteries; I would have to build an addition to the cottage, specially heated and ventilated, to hold a dozen stinky acid-filled batteries.

    Now, with the release of Tesla’s PowerWall, I’m revisiting the idea.   Good to -20 Celsius, the thing is only about 3′ wide, 4′ high, and 7″ deep, it has internal temperature controls, is maintenance free, and would mount inside or outside the cabin.  Pricey (about 4 years worth of power bills), but dang, it looks like a sensible alternative to standard bulky batteries.


  • Why I Prefer Paper Books to Ebooks

    Posted on August 31st, 2015 admin No comments

    I’ve got a smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.   Samsung kindly gives me one free ebook a month for six or 12 months, I forget.   I dutifully download a book each month.  I’ve even read a few of them.  I’ve checked the price of ebooks and they’re not unreasonable.   But I still prefer paper.  Here’s why.

    1. A paper book never runs out of battery right at an interesting part
    2. I can trade paper books at most campgrounds for free.
    3. I can pick up discarded books from my local library for free.
    4. I can buy used paper books at garage sales and thrift shops for cheap
    5. If I don’t like a paper book, I can throw it against the wall in disgust.
    6. If I really don’t like a paper book, I can burn it in the wood stove or use it for tinder in the fire pit.
    7. When I’m finished a paper book, I can give it to someone else or sell it in a garage sale
    8. I can use a paper book to swat annoying insects.   I wouldn’t want to do that with my phone!
    9. I can leave a paper book on the dash or back window of my car and it won’t melt

    Probably someone has already published such a list, with more reasons or more humorously written, but these are mine.

    On the opposite side, though, it takes a lot of room for a bunch of paper books; I have eight on my phone and it hasn’t got a millimeter larger or a milligram heavier!  Also, with a paper book I am stuck with the font and size chosen by the publisher.  With an ebook, I can change the type size and screen brightness. As my eyes age and teeny print become harder to see, that is increasingly important.

  • CX-10 Quadcopter from BangGood

    Posted on December 31st, 2014 admin No comments

    My little Christmas present, a Cheerson CX-10 quadcopter, arrived today from Hong Kong.  It was only about $25 CAD from and included free shipping.

    My first impression on opening the package was, “Man, that’s small!”  At 4.4 cm square, it is tiny indeed.  When it came out

    Tiny CX-10 Quadcopter

    Tiny CX-10 Quadcopter

    (spring 2014) this tiny toy was said to be the world’s smallest full-function quadcopter, and it may still hold that distinction.

    Despite its small size, it has full control over throttle (up/down), yaw (rotate), pitch (forward/backward) and roll (left/right) along with three operating modes (beginner/sport/expert).

    It’s fun to fly, and seems tough enough to take the inevitable smacks into walls, ceiling, and furniture that is involved with learning to fly.  By my fifth charge, I had it set for a stable hover, and was beginning training flights (forward and back, left and right, “walk the dog”, fly over and land on the sofa, etc.)

    It’s a good trainer for the larger and more costly quad and tricopter I’m building.

  • Christmas is A-comin’ and the Goose is Getting Fat

    Posted on November 12th, 2014 admin No comments

    My son and daughter-in-law have an obese feline that they call Goose.

    So a few days ago, Beck was on facebook and mused, “Christmas is coming, The Goose is getting fat.” And if we eat her for Christmas dinner, I won’t have to clean her litter every morning.

    I sent her a link to Cat Recipes, a spoof site.    Another friend said, “Eeewwweee Tom! LOL  Don’t encourage her!”

    Fresh cat, awaiting his fate in the kitchen.

    Fresh cat, awaiting his fate in the kitchen.  From

    The exchange continued:

    Rebecca – There are instructions about carving turkeys, but we might have to initiate one about carving cats.

    Rebecca – I was thinking the other night if she’d taste good with cranberry sauce and what kind of gravy her au jus would make. Also, with what does one season a cat and is there a recommended wine to go with her?

    Tom – A cat, like a rabbit, is not carved, but dismembered. A cat may be seasoned in a variety of ways; follow wild game recipes, especially those for small game such as rabbit or squirrel.  A simple recipe for Beer Roasted Cat, along with suggestions for skinning and butchering,  may be found at Don’t go there if squeamish.

    Now for wine, may I suggest Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush, by Cooper’s Creek Vineyards of New Zealand — an aromatic and flavorful sauvignon blanc. You might also like Sally Cat Pinot Noir, or Tom Cat Merlot, by the same vintner, or Fat Cat Chardonnay by Fat Cat Cellars of California. Since cat meat tends to be dark and strongly flavored, you might prefer the merlot, though an aged pinot noir, with its vegetal and barnyard aromas, might well complement a vintage, fat-marbled cat.

    To be continued?

  • Can’t Trust Leduc Chrysler Service

    Posted on August 12th, 2014 admin No comments

    Today I took my truck in to Leduc Chrysler, 6102-46A Street, for an oil change and their 15-point “Peace of Mind Inspection”

    Invoice 158364 reads “1D Lube, oil and filter change, checked and topped up all fluids, checked and adjusted tire pressures [my emphasis] and performed a 15 point visual inspection.”

    Noting that the tire pressure was not on the inspection form, I suggested to the service advisor on duty, Chuck, that I’d appreciate it if he would confirm the tire pressures, as one had been low.  He had me drive into the service reception bay and found one tire at 45 psi and three at 60 psi.  A check of the door sticker showed they should be Front 50 psi and Rear 40 psi for light loads or Front 60 and Rear 70 for heavy loads.

    It was pretty obvious that the pressures had not been “checked and adjusted”.   (A second issue was that the passenger side windshield wiper is torn.  I had been planning to replace it, but thought I’d just leave it to see if it turned up on the inspection.  It didn’t.)

    Chuck did all the right things — fixed the tire pressures,  admitted the error, apologized on behalf of the company, said he would raise the matter with the tech and service manager, and did the best he could to make things right by waiving the cost of the “Peace of Mind” inspection.

    But there is NO peace of mind in this case.  I have absolutely no confidence that anything was inspected; how do I know that the tech didn’t just blithely run down the list checking everything?  For that matter, how do I know that the oil and filter were actually changed?

    Obviously, this will cost Leduc Chrysler a customer.  And if you’re in Leduc and reading this post, you might consider going somewhere else too.

    By the way, Chuck kept the POM inspection form, and I didn’t receive a copy of it stapled to my invoice.  I think that’s odd too.  I wonder if it will somehow miraculously change to show the tire pressures.   Peace of mind, indeed.



  • Skeletons in the family closet: The Demented Loiterer

    Posted on July 15th, 2013 admin 2 comments

    Every family probably has them.  Black sheep.  Disgraced cousins.  Uncles that nobody talks about.  Skeletons in the family closet.  Here’s one of ours:   Ova Surfus, the demented loiterer.

    Orva J. Surfus was born about 1847, son of Calphenus Surfus (what a wonderful name!) and Catherine Eliza Gray.  Catherine was eldest daughter of Thomas Gray and Sarah (Houser) Gray and grand-daughter of Gray patriarch William Penn Gray.  The family farmed in Noble Country, Indiana, where according to the 1880 US Census Calphenus worked for his father-in-law as a farm laborer.

    Orva, youngest son of four little Surfuses, gained brief notoriety in 1921 at about age 47.  Old Ova was arrested for loitering… while carrying a package of 10 sticks of dynamite tucked casually under his arm!

    As described in The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel (Friday, Feb. 25, 1921, page 23, col. 2):

    Rode Around on Street Cars With Enough Explosive to Blow Them to Bits.

    Judge J. Frank Mungovan, in the city court this morning, Ordered Orva Surfus. giving Columbia City as his home, held until Monday morning for investigation. The man, who is believed to be demented, was picked up Thursday by Detective Donald Wood, of the Pennsylvania [Railroad Company] special police department, who found that a package which he carried under his arms contained 10 sticks of 40 percent dynamite, weighing five pounds.
    Many Fort Wayne people who calmly rode city street cars yesterday would have lost considerable of their complacency had they known that a man thought to be mentally unbalanced, was riding with them armed with enough dynamite to blow the car to atoms.
    The authorities learned that Surfus had ridden on many city street cars yesterday and that he had also spent considerable time hanging around the plants of the S. F. Bowser & Co., and the Western Gas Construction company, always carrying the mysterious package under his arm. Surfus, according to the police, was unable to explain where he had gotten the dynamite or what he intended to do with it.
    The state law makes it unlawful to carry dynamite on any conveyance which carries passengers.  The railroads even refuse to transport 60 percent dynamite, according to a member of the Pennsylvania special police department.

    Poor confused Orva, wandering around town with his package while back on the farm the home folks are grubbing stumps and wondering where he’s got to with that dynamite?

    Stop by the family tree to check out the Surfus family and find their relation to the Grays.  Anyone with further information about this incident, and about the family, is welcome to comment on this article.

  • It is illegal for clear or non-dark sodas to contain caffeine in Canada?

    Posted on January 16th, 2012 admin 4 comments

    For years, “stupid law” sites all over the web poked fun at Canada, saying that “it is illegal for clear or non-dark sodas to contain caffeine”.

    Now non-dark sodas can contain caffeine in Canada

    Well, it was true.

    But the ban is over!

    Since March 2010, you and your children have been legally able to enjoy a dose of caffeine in 7-Up or Mountain Dew as well as in Coke or celebrity porn Pepsi.

    Yep, the caffeine commeth.   “Health Canada has determined that adding the food additive caffeine to non-cola soft drinks at concentrations no higher than 150 parts per million (ppm) poses no health risk to consumers who consume caffeine in moderation…” notes a Food and Nutrition page at the Health Canada site.

    “For many years, caffeine and caffeine citrate have been permitted in cola-type beverages to a maximum level of 200 ppm caffeine. In March, 2010, after an extensive review of all available science, Health Canada authorized the broader use of caffeine and caffeine citrate in all carbonated soft drinks (both cola-type and non-cola-type carbonated soft drinks). The maximum level of use in cola-type beverages remains 200 ppm and the maximum level of use in all other types of carbonated soft drinks is 150 ppm. ”

    Dang.  If you really want a caffeine soda kick, you’ve still got to guzzle a Jolt cola!


    PS:   2014/11/12 – Alas, Jolt Cola is no longer available in Canada.  However, a number of “energy” drinks are on the store shelves and I have no doubt that many of them contain high doses of caffeine along with ginseng and other stimulants.

  • Selling Silver Coins at the Great Canadian Roadshow

    Posted on April 21st, 2011 admin No comments

    Took a day off  to drive my folks (in their 90s) to the Great Canadian Roadshow in Stony Plain.  They have a bunch of old coins and silver dollars collected, and they had seen a huge full-page color ad from this show saying that they would pay up to $20,000 for certain old coins.

    “My son Neil said to watch them closely, they’re real crooks,” said my step-mom as we drove up.

    “So why do you want to go?”

    “Well, we have all these old coins and we’d like to see what they’re worth.”

    Okay, we’re selling silver coins and we know we’re dealing with “crooks” doing heavy roadshow marketing

    Mom and Dad mobile porn are okay financially, they don’t really need the money.  These roadshow things are widely recognized as giving only a fraction of what the items are worth, but I think for the folks it was just a chance for a fun outing, something different.

    At the hotel where the show was, we registered, then had a pleasant enough 90 minute wait.  We chatted with the others (mostly oldsters) waiting in the hallway.  I chatted with a young mom who was there for a chance to get away from the kids (hubby had ‘em).  I found a couple of other RVers, snowbirds, and talked about where they’d spent winters past.

    Once we got into the show, an efficient young man spread our coins out on a table and swiftly weeded out the pennies, nickles, and coins newer than 1967.  He then offered $4 for each silver dollar and $1 for each quarter and dime.   Mom hung on to the silver dollars, but we turned in the quarters, a stack of dimes,  and an old worn gold ring for about $25.

    “Just enough to buy us lunch at McDonalds,” joked Dad.   So that’s where we went.


  • Good Sam Membership Benefits

    Posted on April 19th, 2011 admin No comments

    According to Good Sam, there are a dozen benefits to membership.

    1. Highways Magazine – online or in print
    2. Discount (10%) at RV Parks and Service Centers as well as some tourist attractions
    3. Free RV Trip Routing online.
    4. Discounts at some stores & services
    5. Free product giveaways (If you win the draw.  Good luck.)
    6. Web Site  (I can’t see that members get any exclusive access; it appears that you can sign in as a guest and still get to everything)
    7. Member eNewsletter (Don’t know that I’ve ever received one.  Better check my spam filter)
    8. A chance to be a Good Sam Product Tester (I applied, never heard back.  Probably another lottery)
    9. Standby Sams Program (If there’s a volunteer in your area, and he’s free, he might help.  Or not)
    10. RV Advocacy (This one seems to work, from the anecdotes in Highways Mag)
    11. Good Sam Events & Travel — Tours, caravans, cruises, state/provincial/local Samborees
    12. Member discounts on other Good Sam services such as Emergency Roadside Service, Extended Service Plan, RV Insurance, etc.

    Frankly, many of these are “air bumps”  (things that sound good and bump up the price, but don’t really add value), such as

    • Monthly hentai porn product giveaways
    • Product testing.
    • Web site access.

    What are my chances of getting in on either of those product things, one in a million?  Are Canadians even allowed to participate?  The web site is listed as a member benefit but it seems that anybody can join without shelling out $$ for a membership.   These “benefits” don’t appear to be worth much to the average member.

    So far, campground discounts have paid back almost $10 of my membership.  Camping for another twenty nights will cover it all.  I guess that’s doable, but mostly I’m boondocking or staying in provincial and municipal parks.

    Any Good Sam members out there, care to chime in with a yea or nay? Am I wrong or misinformed on any count?   If so, speak up!

  • Bad Credit RV Loans Tops February Articles

    Posted on March 15th, 2011 admin 1 comment

    My top ten articles for last month had some continuing favorites — it’s amazing how certain articles remain top performers month after month — but included a couple of newcomers:

    1. Bad Credit RV Loan
    2. NADA Guides – Used RV Prices on
    3. Canada’s Ultralight RV Travel Trailers
    4. Types of RV Replacement Windows
    5. Pop-Up Trailers for Motorcycles & Subcompacts
    6. Efflorescence and Basement Water Damage (New black porn for February)
    7. Canadian Teardrop Trailer Manufacturers
    8. Best Home-Built Teardrop Trailer (Caravan) Plans
    9. Popular Brands of Teardrop Travel Trailers
    10. Interstate Battery Tips for 12V Battery Charging (New For February)

    The list suggests that as spring approaches, readers are charging up the coach batteries, checking for window leaks, and watching for melt water in the basements of their homes.  Ah, spring!

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