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Thursday January 1st 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Happy New Year!

My throat is a bit rough again this morning. 

It's half raining, half snowing here at Birch Meadows and the day is dull.  There is a slight breeze and I thought of going down to the beach, so I walked out to the van to give it a good shake. 

My Spot GEN3 is on the dash and I want to see how much movement it takes to trigger a alarm email from the motion-detection feature before I go out and drive.  I gave the van a good shake, moving it up and down several inches and it did not trigger a message, so I learned that it takes more than a shake.

I also discovered that the freezing rain has made the walkway sufficiently, slippery that walking outside is treacherous, so I may wait a while before going out, and will not drive home soon.

Mom called and her hip is still bad.  This problem began right after Christmas and we have been watching to see if it gets better.  It is the hip that had the replacement, so is of special concern.  She had an x-ray the other day and has medicine, but has still been having trouble sleeping.  Further doctor visits will be necessary, so I shall be headed east soon. 

I've been in a sort of holding pattern over Christmas and held off committing to California or the US national bee meetings, or chartering in the Caribbean, sensing that something would come along to change my plans if I committed to anything.  I intended to spend more time with Jean's family and skiing over the holiday, but everyone has been a bit ill.

Jean and family went for a walk to the beach and I stayed to make a flight reservation east.  I found a 'reasonable' fare, if there is such a thing in Canada these days, and will be in Sudbury Tuesday after lunch.

I followed to the beach in my van, with the  exhaust having grown even louder now, and caught up with them.  (I'm assuming the pipe won't drop off, having patched it before and being aware that it is well attached).

Mckenzie and I tried to fly the small trainer kite out on the ice and we got it into the air a couple of times, but there simply was not enough wind to keep it up, and it kept coming back down and we gave up after ten minutes.

They headed home on foot and I decided to drive around on the ice to see if I could find more wind.  No luck, but I did drive over towards Parkland Beach and discovered where the public access the Lake.  Westlake Road is a half-mile north of Birch Bay and leads directly onto a spot on the bay where there is a veritable village of ice huts. (Not shown in the picture here)

I tracked my progress with Spot and was surprised to see that the track was offset to the west by about a quarter-mile.  That puzzled me until I recalled the manual saying that the Spot Messenger had to be at least a foot or two from another GPS -- and I have my driving GPS windshield-mounted within a foot or so of where the Spot unit slid on the dash when making a corner.  I guess they are right about that because otherwise the track has been spot-on.

Since I have to leave for the east, and there was obviously no kiting to be had, I decided to drive home and start preparing to go.  I have some chores to do around the place before I go.

I drove back, picking up groceries in Sylvan, and arrived at 1700.

On the drive home, as is so often the case, I had been full of ambition and ideas of what I would do on arriving home but once I got into the house, I was dog-tired and lay down for a nap.

An hour later, I am up again and we will see how much I get done on this, the first day of 2015.  Probably not much.

While at Orams', I did a port scan on my computer and was surprised to see a number of open ports, unusual ones.  That puzzled me a bit, but on returning home, I did the same scan and find that the same computer is completely stealthed.

My home router is an ancient Linksys WRT54G -- the kind that we can find discarded in junk boxes or recycle bins -- that Jon and I flashed with free DD-WRT firmware and left on default configuration -- after changing the default passwords, of course.  I'm impressed.

I don't know what their router is, but it is newer and more expensive.  That does not always mean better.

Here is an interesting wind map, centred on my location

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you.
This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
Mark Twain

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Friday January 2nd 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Good morning.  I'm up early and seem to be getting back to normal.  My throat is almost better and my voice is more recognizable.  When I phoned friends the other day they were asking, "Who is this?".

I have a few things to do before I go.  They were in the queue already, but I now have a deadline.

We are in the middle of a big weather change today with snow and much colder temperatures expected.

Strangely, after extolling my old router last evening, and it has worked flawlessly for a long while now, I found this morning that it had done a factory reset and lost its settings, including Internet.  I notice an anomaly in my surveillance hard drive, too, so I am imagining that I had a power bump that affected these devices.

Jean texts me that they are going skiing today at Nakiska, but I think I'll stay here and catch up on things.  Looking at the weather, although fresh snow is predicted, conditions look iffy for driving.

They did go and had a good day although they said the hill was crowded.  Sure enough, by mid-afternoon, with light fluffy snow falling strong winds and mild temperatures, traction and visibility on the highways was terrible and there were several multi-car accidents on the main route.  I texted them and the amended their route home to avoid the worst of it. 

The road camera at Airdrie, always one of the worst spots, was not working and there are few cameras up our way, unlike the area around Medicine Hat it seems.  Also, the road reports were rather poor and not timely, but better than nothing.

At home, I lay on my back and used a grinder to reshape  the cogs on the furnace auger that drive the clinker ring.  I have had a few issues with the ring jumping up, stalling, and not dropping the clinkers, so I want to solve that problem before I go away.

I had spent time in the morning researching inspection cameras that snake into small places to examine plumbing and such since I need to monitor the cog wheel from a more comfortable position than is possible when peeking into the furnace.  I did order one from Amazon but of course it will not arrive for a while, so I rigged an old webcam to peek into the furnace for me and recorded what it saw on the laptop.

Amazon is now is getting up to speed in Canada, and often offers free shipping to those of us who subscribe to Amazon prime.  It beats eBay now for any items which Amazon carries in Canada since eBay items often have prohibitive shipping and border costs.

I figured that I had solved to problem, but notice that the ring still lifts a bit each time it moves.  I don't know if that is in the design or not.  I should think not, but can't think how to change it and that is probably one reason that the ring is acting up.  I can buy new grate and ring, but that amounts to $1,000, so I want to make sure it is necessary.

Television is the first truly democratic culture - the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want.
The most terrifying thing is what people do want.
Clive Barnes

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Saturday January 3rd 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Good morning.  We're in the deep freeze again at minus twenty with no relief in sight for a few days.

My throat is better today and I am pretty much back to normal, so I hope to get some things done.

My web clients took some time today as I am cutting back on the number and type of websites I handle.  Transfers are a pain.

Then I went down and spent time on the furnace and cleaning up downstairs.  Elijah came over and we brought in drums, moved vehicles and cleaned up some more. 

Even at minus twenty, my old diesel truck started nicely after being plugged in overnight.  I did not need to have it plugged in for more than several hours, but I did not know when I would get around to using it.  At $0.21/KWH, it costs me $0.175/hr to keep it plugged in or $4.20/day!

I notice the ring jumped and stopped again, so I guess I have not solved the mystery.  I examined the video carefully and see that a tooth broke off the ring.  The ring was intact last night.

A video excerpt running at eight times real speed showing the broken tooth and the stall is at right.  The broken tooth does engage, but the distance moved is less and the next tooth derails things.  I'll have to remove the ring and build up the damaged area.  I also have some more insights from watching the video.

Using video this way is magic.  What would be uncomfortable is easy, and events that happen only once or once every few minutes can be viewed over and over, and run through at accelerated speed.

Why is it that I seem to work on the furnace when it is minus twenty and a day or two before I am going away?

After supper, I went down, pulled the burner apart, built up the broken tooth and put it all back together.  I can see that it is time for a new burner.  They last about ten years and then the wear makes them unreliable.

I should have bought a new set Friday and the job would be done now.  Instead, I have to pull it all apart again Monday.

My parents only had one argument in forty-five years.
It lasted forty-three years.
Cathy Ladman

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Sunday January 4th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

It is cold here this morning: minus thirty C, but with no wind.  The day is bright and sunny, but I have little inclination to go outside much.

I am pretty well recovered now, but as I was catching up on some deskwork and around noon, I suddenly felt tired.  I lay down for a rest and slept for more than an hour. This is the second time lately that I have done that.

I'm sleeping quite well at night and the congestion I used to have has not shown up or some time now.  Various conditions come and go it seems and there is no explanation I can see. Life is mysterious.

The furnace is running well, it seems now.  A bit of maintenance now and then always helps.

I wasted spent the afternoon doing books to get caught up to the year end.  It is a thankless job and not quite what I had planned. 

Elijah came over and did some chores.

At 1938 in the evening, the temperature has dropped and the wind is up from the southeast.  I'm feeling the chill here by the south wall.

SE winds are the worst for the bees and I pity them tonight.  They are on their own in their insulated boxes with open auger holes and open entrances.  They seem to be able to stand this, though.  I also pity the horses and cattle out in the field, too, and it's only minus twenty, not minus forty -- yet.

I was pretty much sedentary all day, so I walked a mile -- barefoot since I was too lazy to walk upstairs to find my sneakers -- on the treadmill while the sauna heated up and then had a steam. 

I should have weather-stripped the sauna door years ago.  I had no problem getting it up to 130 -- and higher.

The wind is up to 20 MPH now.  There will be drifting.  Good thing the snow blower carburetor is fixed and ready to go.  My van with the winter tires has muffler issues and I doubt that I can get it fixed.  I managed a fix previously, but the exhaust is broken in a bad spot.

I really need to get new keyboard.  This one skips letters far too often.

The winds were forecast at about half of what we are getting.  I wonder how the weather will be Tuesday at 0700.

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.
James A. Michener

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Monday January 5th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

We've warmed up to minus twenty and the wind has dropped.  Eight provinces have weather warnings, there is an ice storm in Quebec, and I am scheduled to fly tomorrow.

I'm not looking forward to it.  I have to drive 60 country miles to the airport at 4 AM, then hope the planes are flying out of YYC and YYZ and into YSB.

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Becoming cloudy near midnight then snow. Local amount 2 cm. Low minus 20.
Tuesday: Periods of snow ending in the evening then cloudy with 30 percent chance of flurries. Amount 2 to 4 cm. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 17. Wind chill minus 27.

Today is going to be a big day.  There is lots to do before I go.

*   *   *   *   *

At 1000, I met Ruth in Drum to hand over Zippy then spent a half-hour visiting every muffler shop in town trying to get the exhaust fixed.  Everyone was too busy or still on holidays, or both.  I roared my way home, made space in the shop downstairs, then drove the van in.  After  was in, I realised I should have brushed all the snow off and kicked off the ice, too.  Oh well.  I set up a fan and turned up the heat.

Then I did some desk work and rebuilt the furnace timer.  I have decided that the grate  is working fine and I don't want to bring on new problems just before I leave with brand-new parts that mightn't mesh with the worn drive cog.

I am really really so not looking forward to leaving.  I am comfortable here in my old schoolhouse and just know that the flights will be screwed up again.  I may get out of YYC only to find that I spend tomorrow night in Toronto instead of Sudbury and/or wind up driving to Sudbury from Toronto the way I did last year.

Once I get packed an on the road I'll feel differently but right now, I'm not happy. 

I've been chasing my brother on the phone for a week now and finally caught him.  Poor him.

He's in California chilling at his house on the golf course in Palm Desert and I am about to plunge into the deep freeze. 

I'm so crabby today that I wonder if I am coming down with a bug.  Hope not. I'm sneezing, too, but I'll blame it on premonitions of the coming adventures in flying -- or adventures in not flying and waiting in a departure lounge -- or on the runway.

Next, I vacuumed up the water under the van and I am now waiting for the fan to dry the floor so I can slide down to take a peek.

I had to thaw the van anyhow since the back door was frozen shut and my kites are in there.   I could climb over everything to retrieve them, but decided to take an easy way out.  I also want to examine the exhaust and measure it up in case I can get a part in Sudbury the way I did last time.

I'm thinking to take a kite or two to Sudbury.  I have no other baggage, really. The lake is 100 yards from the house and a perfect place to kite-ski.  I may have to buy some old skis or snowboard, but that is minor.

Oil went below $50 today on the spot market.  Panic! Panic!  Wouldn't one think that is a good thing?  Apparently not.  Any change from the status quo is cause for panic. 

Today the Canadian dollar also dropped to 84 cents US and the Canadian stock index dropped 360 points.  Now that is cause for sorrow!

I am listening to the radio and flights out of YYC are being delayed already.  Oh joy!  I fly in thirteen hours and I'll bet they let me drive to the airport before they announce what they know or suspect right now:  flight 174 cancelled or delayed.

*   *   *   *   *

I really did not want to go though that -- get up extra-early, drive through blowing snow on snow-covered roads, park, and get there just to sit for hours, so I took a chance and went to the reschedule web page.  Even though tomorrow is not listed for rescheduling yet, guess what -- they allowed me to take a later flight with no change fee.  Now I can sleep later and fly after 1100 -- and I can check from home to see if there are further delays before making the drive.  I'm betting there will be further delays.

Last year, I put off flying until it seemed I could get through and I was

  • travelling under time pressure
    (Mom was staying in a hotel since her house had flooded)
  • finding multiple cancellations at YYC every time I checked online
  • finally getting to YYZ after the chaos is over several days later
  • a forced overnight in YYZ (paid by Air Canada) due to Sudbury weather
  • sitting the next day at noon on the taxiway at YYZ in a Q400
  • then learning that YSB was closed again
  • turning back and driving to Sudbury in a rental car with several other passengers.

I worked downstairs until I was too tired to do more and then watched some video. 

What am I watching these days?  Light, fluffy stuff: Chuck, Veronica Mars, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  I like light entertainment, obviously.  All are rated 8.3 or so on IMDb, though and that is not too bad.  Wonder how they decide.  Listener votes?

Next: early to bed.  Tomorrow is another day, and another, and another...  It could be a long one.

Wish me luck.

Live authentically.
Why would you continue to compromise something that's beautiful
to create something that is fake?
Steve Maraboli

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Tuesday January 6th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I slept until 0500, Leaving three and half hours to pack and leave.  I checked the road cams right off and see snow-covered roads, but no snow falling except up near Carstairs.  A lot can change in the next few hours, though.

So far, my flight is "on time", but the plane is likely en route from somewhere and we will see what the status is nearer 0830, when I have to head out for YYC.

At 0643, there are reports of traffic problems in Calgary, but not, so far, north of the city, however, my flight is delayed forty minutes.  Since I had a one hour and twenty-one minute layover, I'm guessing that means I'll miss my connection and I should totally reschedule or expect to spend a night at YYZ.

I now have two hours before I have to make the drive south to YYC, so I have time to decide.  Why did I wake up so early?

I checked my original booking that left at 0700 and it is getting into YYZ early.  How about that?  I could have caught it and I'd be in the air right now.  Maybe I zigged when I should have zagged.

As it happened, though, I'm glad did things the way I did.  I avoided driving in the dark of early morning and had lots of extra time to pack and check the van before leaving, not that I packed much though.  I have extras of pretty much everything at Mom's and actually mostly packed two power kites, plus my computer and phone stuff.

I had time to lift the van and measure up the exhaust.  It had broken, as expected, at the Mickey-Mouse fix I did a while back (left).

I put a clamp on it and hoped that might cut the noise a bit.  As it is, the sound right off the exhaust collectors is quite amazing.  I can buy a flex pipe piece in Sudbury -- I know where -- so I measured up the piece I need to replace. (Interesting shot of my fingers.  Although I see them every day, seeing them close-up though a camera lens is very different).

The noise is no problem for anyone but me in the country, but is something that could get me into trouble in a  city.  I'll park in Airdrie and take a cab.  That way I don't have to walk to the airport from the economy lot or risk possible long delays on a Park and Jet shuttle.  The cost is about the same.

The cab driver is new in the country and we got to chatting on the way.  His wife and children are coming to Calgary and he wants to buy my red van and will call me when I get back.  I need to upgrade my rides and have to many vehicles anyhow.  This should be interesting.

I arrived at the airport very early, having made allowance for the roads and then found that I could drive at 100 KPH+ most of the way, regardless.  

We had an extra hour extra of delay, too, after I arrived at the airport, but then we had a good flight to YYZ. 

I watched Hector and the Search for Happiness and it did a fine job of killing time.  I found the flick quite excellent until the Hollywood ending. (Strange since it was listed under 'Avant Guarde', not 'Hollywood').

I often find that good films and books are ruined by the need to tie things up.  I often quit before the ending, knowing they will pour on the syrup at the end.  I'd have been more satisfied Hector was run over by a bus after reaching enlightenment, frankly.

When I got to YYZ, my next flight lifted off less than an hour later and Bill picked me up at YSB at 2040 and drove me to 1207.  We had coffee with Mom and, all in all, things worked out.  I don't enjoy these treks as much as I used to, though.

Surprisingly, I had a good meal on the flight, too.  Air Canada's food is usually OK, if you don't count the soggy breakfast sandwiches, but this chicken wrap was extraordinarily good. 

They have also changed their wine brand and the red shiraz was excellent. The coffee was good, too, but the water tasted of chlorine.  (That is probably a good thing, though, considering what I have heard in recent years about the safety of drinking airline water).

Although I love my Nexus 4 phone and it is the best phone I have ever had, it has an Achilles heel.  The decorative glass on the back has cracked again.  It seems that just putting anything solid in the same pocket can crack it.  This time it was a tiny flashlight.  I'll have to order a new back, and I think I saw some on eBay that are not glass.  I hope so.  I lived with a cracked back for almost a year last time.  This time, I'll do something sooner.

Enlightenment is the key to everything, and it is the key to intimacy,
because it is the goal of true authenticity.
Marianne Willliamson

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Wednesday January 7th 2015

 

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Thankfully, the weather at home is moderating, lessening the load on the heating system.  Elijah did the furnace chores last night, so things are looking good.

I slept in until 0930 local and had breakfast.  I'm groggy today after my travels.  It has been a stressful three weeks.  I'm here now, and have nothing in front of me except, possibly the Vancouver Boat Show and maybe the Toronto one.

I don't much like Christmas and New Years at the best of times, with the fuss, expectations, and disrupted schedules, but the colds that Orams and I experienced truncated our visits and activities.  Jean is still coughing, three weeks after the onset.  I am okay now and only experienced a touch of whatever they had, but that was bad enough.

I had planned to spend the first part of the holidays with Orams and then go to California to visit Jon and perhaps drop in on the ABF meeting (currently underway), then come to Sudbury at some point after that, and then attend the Vancouver Boat Show sometime between the 21st and 28th of this month.

I was vague about when I would visit Sudbury, but Mom's hip problem clinched the decision, and put me under pressure, so I am here.

She had an x-ray a few days ago and apparently the problem is not the artificial hip as feared, but something in her back, and maybe, as my brother suggested, sciatica. Sciatica can be pretty scary until you find out what it is, then just painful and debilitating until it goes away, often just as quickly as it came on.

So, at any rate, I am here at 1207.  Mom is out having further tests and I am waking up.  The sun is shining brightly and the temperature is minus twenty-seven with wind chills of minus forty, according to the radio.

I strongly dislike wind chill 'temperatures' since they usually refer to the conditions at a wide-open, windswept airport location, not where most of us are, in sheltered areas, and the scary numbers make us fear going outdoors.

These days the media always emphasize the wind chill.  If we just went out properly dressed, and not thinking about the cold, we might not even know that it is too cold and find we are enjoying ourselves.

When we were kids, we went out in all sorts of weather, and yes, we did occasionally get frostbite, but we also had fun that cannot be had in an artificially heated environment.

I recall standing on the hill as ski patrol one day at minus forty (real minus forty) and that was cold, but some of us were out there.  Not only that, Jon and I were staying overnight in the truck camper in the parking lot.  It's doable -- and memorable.

I called Bill and we are going on a hiking/shopping adventure this afternoon.  We like to go for hikes to get some exercise and in this bitterly cold weather, we sometimes do it in the malls or Wal-Mart, especially if we want to do some shopping, too.

We estimate the distance around the inside of the Wal-Mart at right (image from Bing maps) is about 1,200 feet or about 1/4 mile. Interestingly, Bing's images are up to date, but Google Earth and Google maps images are from 2004, long before this Wal-Mart was built.

George Carlin: How language is used to mask truth

We went out around 1500 and looked at snow blowers.  Bill wants to replace his old machine as it is getting hard to start.  We then continued on to Wal-Mart and did a bit of walking, then Bill dropped me at 1207.

Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers;
 it comes from being open to all the questions.
Earl Gray Stevens

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Thursday January 8th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

The weather here in Northern Ontario and at home is continuing well below normals. The Sudbury temperature has moved up to minus fourteen.  We have a snow squall watch in effect.

I monitor the temperatures and conditions at home, both indoor and out, regularly and have set alarms of several sorts.

I tend to be a worrier and the cold weather gives me something to worry about.  I've had people close to me experience home freeze-ups and really don't want to go through that.  In really cold weather, disaster can happen in a matter of hours.  When the outdoor temperatures are closer to freezing, there is much more latitude.

Mom is going out to have her hair done this morning.  Susan will take her, and do some grocery shopping, so I am free for the morning.  I have various matters to catch up, so I imagine I will stick by this desk until noon.  Mom is taking about going out for lunch, but we will see.  Sudbury is not a big city, but I find I burn a lot of gas running from Minnow Lake to the South End almost every day, and sometimes twice in a day, plus spend a lot of time in traffic.  Driving is no longer the joy it was when I was a kid.

I was talking about worrying about my home.  Here is an interesting discussion of a real problem: Cheap RV Living.com -My View of Christmas.  One quote (below) from comments under the article in particular nails it. 

"My dear, belated parents were children of the Great Depression. They didn’t give a rip about “keeping up with the Joneses,” but because of their experience during the Depression, once they had the financial resources they hoarded lots of useful and not-so-useful “stuff.” I now am responsible for going through all of that to determine what needs to be saved for sentimental reasons (photos, my mom’s beautiful paintings, etc.), stuff worth keeping, selling, etc. I have no idea how long this will take. Add to that, I’m trying to get rid of my own extraneous belongings – and I don’t care about the Joneses, either! I’m definitely drowning in a sea of materialism.

"My parents never would have intentionally put this on me – they just didn’t think about their own mortality and who would have to do all this.

When we retired, more than a decade ago, I figured we should start downsizing.  I knew it would take time, but living as old folks in a huge place with stairs, far from towns was going to become unworkable at some point, especially if I died in my 60's as my father's side of the family did and Ellen had to carry on alone, and she did tend to prefer to be alone.

My wife would have no part of such thinking and her plan was to live to 90, minimum, so we actually accumulated more, then she died and I have no idea what to do with it all.  Just about any solution would appear to suggest a lot of work and/or expense for me -- and decisions.

I ask my kids and they don't have answers, but it could become their problem in a heartbeat.

I love my home and all my stuff, but could be just as happy somewhere else with far, far less 'stuff', but how do I get there from here?

In the afternoon, Bill and I went looking for skis, and stopped at the YMCA to check out the facilities on the way back. We were given a tour and I suspect we will be back.  I'd like to use the exercise equipment and the pool, and I can get day passes when in town.

I returned to 1207 for supper, spent a quiet evening, and went to bed early.

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening
when you'd have preferred to talk.
Doug Larson

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Friday January 9th 2015

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I slept ten hours last night.  That has to be a recent record.

Too bad I don't have skis.  Today, the Lake is untracked wind-blown powder.

Mom wanted to go shopping at Smiths, a high-end produce store that took over an old government liquor store location, so we went there this morning, then Herberts' Fish restaurant for lunch.

Mom asked me what I thought of Smiths and I said I liked it better when it was a liquor store.  As for Herberts, the people were nice and the fish was fresh, but it was deep-fried until it was dry and tough.  The batter was thin, and that is good, but somehow, it just did not work.  Maybe it was just a one-time thing, but it was noon and the place was not full.

I had a nice nap after lunch, then drove out to Lively to a ski/snowboard shop.  I'm itching to get kiting on the lake and my Kijiji ads are not getting me what I am looking for.   I looked at lots of gear and can see that they would love to have me spend double my budget on the 'stuff'.  I might get desperate enough to do just that, but maybe I'll distract myself by driving to Toronto to attend the Boat Show.  That way, I won't be tempted to spend a lot of money, right?

I looked at the drive from there to Round Lake NY to see Aaron, since at TO I'm almost halfway there, but RL is another six hours down the road and probably Bill will be along, so I'll just go down and back.  I'm hoping I can hit a used ski equipment store along the way if I do go to Toronto as we pass several ski areas.

I appreciate the comments in the forum the past few days.  Obviously people can see through me fairly well.

Although I was not looking forward to coming here this time, or the trip, now that I am here I am really glad I came.

Truth never damages a cause that is just.
Mahatma Gandhi

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