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 January  2016 





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Background Image: Gull Lake in winter

Friday January 1st 2016
New Years day 2016

Today Sunny. High minus 4.
Tonight Clear. Low minus 19.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

Happy New Year!

I'm at Gull Lake still and I am without an accurate scale at hand, so no weigh-in today. 

I stayed close to my calorie budget yesterday, but did not manage the sort of daily deficit I have been running lately.  Eating with others tends to offer calorie-rich foods that are easier to avoid when eating alone.

Weather at home (below) is running right around seasonal normals (right). We still have only about eight hours between sunrise and sunset and the sun is only 16 above the horizon at noon, but the days are lengthening and the sun ascending.  Progress is slow and imperceptible at first, but in a month or two, the daily changes will increase and by March days and nights will be roughly equal in length.  The sun will be much higher in the sky.

What to do today?  I can think of a thousand things I should be doing, but leaving them aside, I see it is already 0850 and I am three hours from the mountains, so that option looks impractical.  I'm two hours from home and all is well there, but the plants could use some water.

I'd like to kite somewhere, but where? I trusted the forecasts yesterday, but they were far off and I was skunked.  I had a good day of driving, but that was not in my plans.

I decided to go home and drove east.  Buffalo Lake is sorta along the way, so I went there, arrived around 1400, found the lake access, and drove out a way to get out, clear of the ice fishermen and auger holes, and to get into the wind.

I measured anywhere from 4 to 9 knots, and I decided to rig the 8.5 metre kite, figuring the wind would be stronger higher up and farther from shore and did not want to be overpowered like the other day on the 18 metre monster kite.  No sooner had I done that and the wind dropped to nothing. 

I waited a while and the wind resumed at five knots, so I rigged the big kite and launched it.

I had learned to inflate the leading edge a bit more after last session with that monster, and that improved the shape, but frankly I was a bit afraid of that kite and what it can do if the wind gusts. 

The other day, that kite had pulled very hard, was not easily controllable, and seemed to want to lift me off the ground.  I want to stay right on the ground, at least until I get more experience and  better control.  "Can't dance and too fat to fly".  That's me.  For now, anyhow.

If you have ever carried a sheet of plywood across the yard on a breezy day, you know what can happen.  A sheet of plywood is 3.3 square metres in area and I am talking about hooking onto an airfoil with an area of 18 square metres -- 5 times that of the plywood.

The super kite did not want to fly at first, as the wind had dropped again, but eventually the wind came back, the kite went up and I was being pulled along as fast as I cared to go.  Faster sometimes.

My main concern, other than not being lifted up twenty feet and dropped, or killed or maimed by being dragged across the lake, onto shore, or into something hard, was not to find myself pulled two miles downwind and walking back at dusk in stiff downhill ski boots.

Fortunately, the kite performed better today, maybe due to better inflation or more appropriate wind strength, and I had no problem returning to my point of origin.

At 1600, I packed up and left.  The sun had never been high in the sky, but by that time of day the shadows were lengthening. 

I drove home, arriving around dark and turned up the thermostat.

That was a good day. 

The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

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Saturday January 2nd 2016

Today Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 3 except minus 7 in low lying areas. Wind chill minus 28 this morning.
Tonight Clear. Low minus 20.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

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Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I weigh 228.2 today, but after less than a full night's sleep.  I only slept five hours again.  I guess I'll just have to go to bed earlier if I want to get more sleep.

My weight has not dropped as expected from the calorie deficit and I am realizing that in addition to fluid effects adding weight, I may be building muscle.  I've been on skis almost every day in the past two weeks and am not feeling it, so something is happening. 

Nonetheless, for whatever reason, the holiday seems to have disrupted my weight loss progress and I am still above where I was on Dec 22 when I weighed in at 226.4.

I have no plan for the day.  It is Saturday, so probably not the best day to go to a ski hill.  Besides, I have things to do here at  home.  My housekeeping has suffered and I need to tidy, water plants, re-pot some and vacuum.  If I see some likelihood of wind nearby, I'll go for a ride.

While too many people on a ski hill are a nuisance and even a hazard, finding at least a few other kiters at a kiting location is a bonus.  Just as on a ski hill, there are risks and it is nice to have others around.  Kiters watch out for one another, and companionship and information exchange can help kill time if the wind is not co-operating.

My friends are either ill or recovering from a bug.  I think Meijers have  recovered from the flu now, but Fen is still down and Bert has a shoulder problem.  I'd like to have a supper here one of these days, but it seems more difficult to round up the Usual Suspects.

I've been thinking I should walk by my beehives today.  Maybe I will.

First, I made a vegetable stew, then had a nap.

A big pot lasts me days and provides pretty good nutrition, especially when I supplement it with other things like a salad and an occasional burger or meal out.  A cup  of this is tasty and quite filling, and it only amounts to 125 calories or so.

In contrast, one ten inch whole wheat tortilla is 190 calories before I put anything in or on it!

After that, Zip and I walked over to the Quonset yard and took a look.  I see that critters have been visiting and there is a hive I should pull a wrap over before too long.  Hard to believe it is January already.  In a month or two, the bees will start raising brood in earnest and they will need protection from weather.

I see I'll have to put plugs back into the auger holes.  I had plugged most of the holes, especially in the backs of the hives, but the plugs appear to be out, possibly due to alternating heat and cold, being pushed by bees, or due to some animal's actions.  I don't see any reason to suspect critters although I see a skunk did the rounds and found enough bees in front of one hive to do a little digging and that deer have been walking through.

There is a kite race tomorrow at Gull, so I plan to go up, to watch, not participate.  I considered going tonight, but am very tired today and plan to put the trip off until tomorrow morning.

Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel,
Go out and buy some more tunnel.
John Quinton

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Sunday January 3rd 2016

Today Sunny. Wind south 20 km/h becoming light this morning. High minus 8. Wind chill minus 29 this morning.
Tonight A few clouds. Low minus 18.

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Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

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Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I am feeling better than I have for a long time.  No aches, no pains.   After nine hours of deep sleep, I weigh 227.0 today.  Fatsecret warns me I am losing 9.8 pounds a week at this rate.  Wouldn't that be nice?  It has to be all fluids. 

I seem to be moving towards a more vegetarian diet and have to remember to include fish, fowl, and meats occasionally. That is not hard when I am out, but at home, I tend to stick to my stews and salads by choice. I do eat eggs daily.  They are a breakfast that does not make me feel 'off' the rest of the day.

I really should try fasting, but when  I have in the past, I discovered that my schedule revolves around meals and it upsets my sense of time.  Days drag on. Actually, that -- time disruption -- is probably one of the biggest benefits of fasting, but at the time I was not ready for it.

Today is race day at the Sunnyside boat ramp at Gull Lake, so I have to be out of here by ten if I want to be on time.

I won't race.  I'm too inexperienced, having spent maybe fourteen days -- at most -- kite skiing, and that is counting days when I just put on my skis or snowboard and flew a kite, but did not have enough wind to go anywhere. (Hmm.  I had never tallied the days before).

I stay as far away from other kiters as I can, but racing means crowding a lot of fast-moving kites into a small area, all moving at high speeds and each generating tremendous power.  Traction kites are  connected to their owners by thin, extremely strong lines that can be very dangerous if they tangle or contact anyone.

The forecast is now predicting less wind that it was, so we may all be standing around.  That is windsurfing or kiting in Alberta -- buying gear, driving distances and then standing around waiting for wind.  It can be very social.

Although I don't have a lot of time to get ready to go, here I am writing.  By now, this diary is an addiction it seems.  It is 0818 and the sun is rising in a clear sky.  It is going to be a beautiful day. The deer are back.

I am breaking the first rule of windsurfing today. At 1000, I am leaving home, comfortable temperatures and a promising breezes to drive for 2 hours on a chance there may be wind at Gull Lake. 

If I were only going for kiting, it would make no sense, but I expect to see a large group of kiters there today and if the race takes place it should be interesting. Also this trip gives me a chance to visit with Jean and her family.

I left just before 1000 and arrived at Jean's at 1145.  I said hello then drove to Sunnyside and out on to the ice.

There weren't many there yet when I arrived, but before long there were 25 kites in the air.

After watching a while, I decided to launch my 18m kite.  I inflated it and set up to launch, but had a terrible time keeping it in the air when I did manage to get enough wind for it to lift off.  Even when I was able to get the kite overhead, any time the wind dropped or shifted, the kite turned downward and went uncontrollably onto the snow. 

Another fellow had an identical kite on trial and he was able to keep it flying, so I have to assume that there is something wrong with mine as I did adjust lines and did all the things that normally make a kite fly.  I'll have to speak to the dealer.

So, I had a good workout and only a few successful runs.  After four hours, I went back to Jean's.  I had planned to stay over, but tomorrow is school for them and the stores are open.  I decided to go home and shop along the way.

I arrived home right around 2100.  When I arrived, the wind was still blowing nicely at over 7 MPH and had been ideal for kiting all day right here at home. 

If I had stayed home, I could have ridden as much as I liked, but I would not have learned how terrible this new kite is in low wind.

In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.
Andre Maurois

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Monday January 4th 2016

Today A mix of sun and cloud. Clearing late this afternoon. High minus 2.
Tonight Increasing cloudiness late this evening. Fog patches developing overnight. Low minus 19.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I weigh 225.6 today.  Fatsecret again warns me I am losing 9.8 pounds a week at this rate. Although fluids enter into this, some of it has to be real weight loss.  I am now back the weight I last saw last September on leaving the hospital.  Considering that this is happening at a time of year when my weight is usually up about ten pounds over my summer weight, this is an accomplishment.

Before my hospital visit, I was losing weight, largely due to the strenuous bee work I was doing at the time.  Diet was also a factor.  After I left the hospital, I paid little attention to my weight and it climbed back up.  I'm currently making a point of reducing, beginning December 3rd.  At that time, I weighed 234 pounds.

With this accurate scale and careful record keeping, I am noticing that drinking alcohol over some small amount causes fluid accumulation in the body that endures for about a week.  People talk about 'drying out' an alcoholic.  Maybe that is not just an expression, and the drying is not just alcohol.

That is an interesting question, so I got to work Googling it.

From here:

"I always gain after drinking especially if I do a post waffle house thing like you mentioned. even if you allowed for the diner food in your daily calories, the sodium level in that kind of food + the alcohol probably doubled your water retention. the last time I did that I was SEVEN POUNDS HEAVIER the next day. SEVEN!!! I almost cried. And it did not come off in a day or two. It did come off, but it took over a week - about a lb. a day. even with a ton of water and whole foods...so I would allow 5 days, but it WILL come off. Promise.


While looking at fluid retention, I stumbled onto alcohol withdrawal.  Now, that is an interesting topic with plenty of references.

From time to time, I don 't drink for three weeks for various reasons.  Maybe there is nothing around or nothing to  remind me and I don 't think of it. 

Smoking was the same way.  I smoked several packs a day for years, then for some reason slacked off.  Then I just smoked socially for years off and on, but seldom smoked at home. In recent decades, although I seldom smoked, I had the occasional cigarette or pack -- until Ellen had lung cancer.  Watching that unfold cured me of any desire to inhale smoke, even socially.

When I don't drink, I never notice any withdrawal symptoms, but then I have a drink or two and get back into the habit of having a few drinks and then sometimes I quite predictably forget and drink too much and regret it.  I'm thinking I'd be better if I avoided drinking altogether.  Having a social drink is a hard habit to break, though.

What Alcohol Actually Does to Your Brain and Body

*    *    *    *    *

This is how my days get wasted.  I get onto a topic and then chase it down the rabbit hole.  Next thing I know, it is noon. I like a more active life than this.   My increased activity over last several weeks has been exhilarating, and action is good for me.

What I am doing sitting here typing, instead of moving, I do not know.

One thing that I find invaluable in writing this diary is that I continually discover my blind spots and misconceptions.  Over and over I find that what I thought I did, when, and why is inaccurate, incomplete, or simply wrong.  My powers of observation are unreliable, my memory is selective and my rationalizations are amazing.

I imagine, as I assume others also assume, that I am fairly typical.  If that is true, it is a wonder that we can accomplish anything.

This awareness of how little we know about what we are doing and why is one of the reasons I find 'reality TV', at least the little I've watched, pointless.  We are treated to voice-overs of vacuous participants explaining what they were doing and why.  The lack of self-awareness and self-deception is unbelievable.

*    *    *    *    *

One problem I m experiencing is lack of active people to associate with.  Everyone seems to be too old or too busy.  Maybe I should join the Ski Patrol again or become a ski pal at a ski hill. 

Maybe I should go to church.  Churches are active social settings and as far as I can tell most people who attend, whether they know it or not, do so for the connections and belonging.  As for dogma, that is very flexible.  I notice that most churches change their central tenets diametrically over time, or fade away.

That is another topic, and one that is bound to get people worked up, but I callz 'em the way I seez 'em and I have been watching for seven decades.

The kiters I encounter are young, active and friendly, but I don't have any ski pals.  Most people think they want to go places and do things, but when the rubber hits the road, they do what I am doing now: find excuses and stay home.

*    *    *    *    *

Today, I plan to do a bit of maintenance on the furnace.  Since I put the bin buddy back to work, I have a lot more confidence in this system that has served me so well for almost fifty years.

At some point, I need, however, to pull the transmission apart and change a few gears.  That will wait until a warm day.  That would allay my one remaining fear of breakdown.  For years I could not find the parts, but now I have access to what I need to restore it and that is a fairly simple task.

I also need to get the gas project planned and the spaces cleared, but I have tremendous inertia working against me.

Outdoors, I can find far more work than I could do in a year and in the house, I need to do some housework.  Books need updating, and bills need paying, too.

I did a few hours of housework, but have a lot left to do.  My plants shed leaves and the dog leaves hair and the floors accumulate dirt over time. 

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.
Christopher Lasch

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Tuesday January 5th 2016

Today Mainly cloudy. High minus 8.
Tonight Mainly cloudy. Low minus 12.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

The scale said 225.2 this morning, then 225.6 a few minutes later, then 225.4.  I think that maybe the scale is losing its accuracy.  At Wal-Mart the other day, though, I noticed that accurate digital scales are now under twenty dollars, so maybe I should replace this one.

I am tired today, for no particular reason

Yesterday, I wrote to Patrick, my instructor and kite supplier about my poor experience with the 18m kite at Gull the other day and we may meet at Spray later today to troubleshoot. He has an identical kite that works well, so we'll compare the bridles.  Spray is a two and a half hour drive from here, so we'll see.

*   *   *   *   *

We decided not to go to Spray today, but Patrick did call me to verify some measurements.  At the time he called, I was out burning up some old bee boxes.  The van was right there with the kite in the back,  so I pulled out the kite to check. He told me what to look for but we could not find anything wrong.  He will get measurements for the bridles.

I have thousands of old boxes that we were using in my commercial bee operation, but threw aside as surplus when we culled frames. I have been planning to burn these boxes for a long time, but putting it off because it is a big job and because in summer there is a risk of fire spreading.

With snow on the ground, fire hazard is nil.  I could haul them to the landfill, but that is a huge job, too, and then the county has to deal with them.  If I can burn them here, that will take days, but is simplest.

I have offered these boxes around, but no one is interested.  The stack has been picked over a bit, but there are lots of boxes there I would have used when  I was starting out. 

It seems these days that the labour to do the necessary minor repairs would be more than the value of a new box.  Nobody s broke enough to want them.  Nonetheless, the bees do not care and are perfectly happy in any box, no matter how ratty and many of these would make someone money.

Just after three, the wind steadied out at over 5MPH from the east.  That is enough wind for my large kite, so I dressed and drove down to the strip. 

When I got out of the van, the breeze felt more like 8 or 9 knots, so I went back for my wind gauge. Sure enough, the wind was mid-range for the big kite and almost adequate for my medium kite. I am careful with the big kite since it seems to run away if the wind picks up.

I started to set up, but realised I am really, really tired.  Actually, that is why I quit burning boxes when I could have gone on for another hour or more and it was going well.

I could have gone ahead with kiting, but the wind was chilly at minus ten and the sun was getting low. I was exhausted, even before rigging the kite.  Maybe I am getting a bug?

Reluctantly, I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and although a perfect wind like this is rare here, I would be better to pack up and quit.  I picked up the kite and drove back up the drive to the house.

Although a vegetarian diet is supposedly healthy, and my blood pressure and blood sugar is amazingly low on my (primarily) vegetable stew and salad wrap diet, experience has shown me that I get tired without some meat, fowl or fish. I took out a turkey thigh for supper.

I think I'll have a sauna tonight and go to bed early.

Alberta Climate Records is a site that shows how the growing season has increased in the various regions of Alberta since 1950.

I skipped the sauna, watched a bit of video, then, feeling exhausted, went to bed around seven.

If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style.
Quentin Crisp

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Wednesday January 6th 2016

Today A mix of sun and cloud. Becoming cloudy this afternoon. Fog patches dissipating this morning. High minus 10.
Tonight Cloudy with 30 percent chance of flurries this evening and after midnight. Light snow beginning overnight. Temperature steady near minus 10.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

The scale said 225.2 again this morning at 0138, but I had to move it around a bit before I got a steady reading.

I think the scale may be shot.  Either that or it has become sensitive to uneven surfaces.  At the condo a few weeks back, the floor was made of a very uneven ceramic tile.  I noticed some problems there and the scale has never been as consistent after that.

Yes, I'm up at 0138.  My phone rang once at 0045 and stopped.

My Android phone is set to automatically turn off notifications during my normal night hours, but phone calls from contacts is an exception.  I want to be available if an emergency arises.

After dozing a while, I realized I was not going to go back to sleep.   I checked and the display showed Bert's number.  This was the second night his number rang me once, well after midnight and hung up.  I figured, this has to stop.  So, I got up and called him back, figuring he must be awake.  He was, and had no idea what happened.  I took the opportunity to invite him to supper Thursday.

By then, I had already racked up about six hours in the sack and so I had breakfast and coffee, planning to be up two hours, then try for a few more hours of rest.

Before eating, I checked my blood pressure and blood sugar.  Although checking these stats was a longstanding daily habit, I have been neglecting it lately.  I was pleased to see, once again, that the readings are good.  BS is 5.0 and the BP is  114/73 with a pulse of 51.  Of course they were acceptable before my heart event, but they are even better now.  It could be partly the drugs, or it could be diet -- or it could be both. 

Previously, my morning BS was 6.2 (112) quite consistently, a borderline number.  5.0 (90) is much better. 

Canada uses different numbers from the US. (Chart | Converter)

Around 0300, I went back to bed and slept until 0850. I weighed 224.2 when  I woke up. That fits with my earlier observation that I lose 0.4 lbs/hour sleeping.  I assume that it is largely water loss.

What to do today?  The day is starting off cold and I'm a bit groggy from all that sleep.  There is nothing pressing, but many, many possibilities.  Too many, actually.

I've invited ten friends over for supper tomorrow and have to plan.  I have enough food on hand that I do  not need to go shopping.  I still have  a little housework to do, but not a lot.  I vacuumed yesterday.  Vacuuming is a big job, but it makes a huge difference.

People are writing now about buying bees.  I'll have to draft a response and and a web page, but frankly my heart is not in selling bees right now.

Bee work begins in March, but March is also the month when the skiing in the Canadian Rockies is at its best.  I'm tempted to rent a condo in Canmore for the month.  There are some tremendous deals... 

Sailing on the west coast gets good around then, too.  By the end of March, day length has increased to over twelve hours from the current eight, allowing more time for transit and hikes, and bringing warmer weather.

My goals for the year include cleaning up the yard and getting the gas in.  Of course, I have merely made a start on each, but a start is a start.

The yard cleanup is just a matter of putting in time, and if I  had devoted as much time to that task as I do to this diary, the yard job would have been done long ago.

The gas job is not as simple and straightforward.  Getting the pipes and meter in is just the beginning.  Planning the job properly is a huge recursive task and a moving target.  The technology keeps changing and improving.  What looked like the clear choice a few years ago now looks less optimal.  I need to re-do my research.

Both jobs begin with committing to them. So far, I have not been able to do that.  When  I watch myself, I see that I move from focus to focus and get deeply involved with whatever is in my sights at the time, and forgetting, relatively, my previous focus.  When I go away, on returning I usually forget to pick up where I left off.

A month ago, my focus was on meditation, diet, weight, sodium, kiting, skiing, burnout, and I weighed a full ten pounds more than I do today.

Between then and now, I rented a condo in Canmore for a week, pushed back my limits and became familiar with The Spray Lakes area, downhill skied and/or kited every day for one entire week and more. I spent Christmas with family, and actually continued the yard cleanup I had begun in August.  I also lost ten pounds at a time of year when I usually gain. I resolved several issues that were causing me anxiety, including my fear of home freeze-up.  

There is probably more.  Not bad.

Although one never really knows, my mental and physical health seems to be as good as they get.

My state of health is always a mystery to me.  At various times in the past, I have had aches and pains that sent me to a chiropractor, a doctor, or even the hospital.  A year or two ago, I had a trigger thumb. This fall I had a pain in my side that seemed to be related to ribs I broke years ago, but similar to a pain that resulted in a liver ultrasound and Cat Scan a few years ago.  Last summer, I experienced a series of what seemed like visual migraines quite frequently.  I had almost never experienced anything like it previously and never after the summer.

Right now, nothing hurts and everything works. Odd.

Supper tomorrow: probably the turkey I have in the freezer, but maybe not. 

One of the big hassles in cooking a turkey is thawing it.  The job takes time and is messy, plus potentially contaminates the kitchen and refrigerator surfaces with dangerous bacteria.

As it turns out, thawing before cooking is completely unnecessary. We can just as easily cook turkey from frozen as from the thawed state.  Cooking from frozen is even recommended. 

Mom never told us that.  Isn't the Internet wonderful?

...Plus vegetables, rice, and salad.  Ice cream for dessert.

*   *   *   *   *

I've decided.  I am going to build a web page for hive sales so I can deal with the queries, then go out and burn more boxes.  Maybe I will throw the best ones into a pile.  Maybe not.  I need them gone.

One of the things that has made me put off box and pallet burning -- other than the work involved and the potential for some subsistence beekeeper to use them -- is the huge waste of firewood it entails. There is enough wood there to heat my house for a winter.

The problem, though is the wood is out there in big chunks and not cut up in my furnace room.  The saying is that wood keeps you warm twice: once when getting it ready to burn, then again when burning it.

Also my furnace is not set up to burn wood.  Even if it were, would I want to be feeding fast-burning softwood into it every thirty minutes? Obviously not, but that is how my mind works.  I am a saver and hate to waste anything, even to the point where I waste other things like time and opportunity. 

Can't help it. This is my nature, an if that is my greatest vice, I can live with it.

I went out and plugged in the truck.  I want to use it today and also to warm the engine up so changing the ICP sensor which arrived some time ago will be less uncomfortable.  I'm interested to see if changing it will improve starting. 

While out there I noticed a significant breeze from the north that is not showing on my weather station.  On checking, I see that Windguru predicts the wind to build up and continue all day, overnight, and into tomorrow. 

The wind might affect my plan to burn boxes since the wind is blowing toward the Quonset.  We'll see.

Also, I see, unfortunately, that in spite of wind, the temperatures are predicted to be cold enough to discourage kiting , especially when skies are overcast.  Sun makes a big difference.

 I've become used to action outdoors and I was itching to get outside, so I started the truck and went out to burn boxes.

I was out there over an hour and burned at least a hundred, and maybe two.

My efforts made a dent in the stack, but the pile is still huge.

I did not realize it at the time, but after I came in, I began to think that I breathed some smoke.  Not a good idea.

The truck is running well, but I did not install the new part yet.  Later.  Soon.  I don't look forward to having to climb up on top of the engine.. 

I heard from Patrick tonight.  He is planning to go to Weed tomorrow, and suggested I meet him there to compare kites.  He'll also have some line extensions along.  Apparently the big kites work better with longer lines.

I'm putting on a supper tomorrow night and need to be back by at least four to do so, but should be able to have a few hours on the lake and that will be enough for one day.

I had planned to do a turkey tomorrow night, but with snow in the forecast there is some doubt how many will come, so I'm doing chicken and ribs.  I invited twelve and expect ten, but fewer might show up, so it is hard to plan.  The turkey is a big one, so I want to be sure that if I cook it, there will be enough people to justify cooking it.

The murals in restaurants are on par with the food in museums.
Peter De Vries

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Thursday January 7th 2016

Today Periods of snow. Amount 5 cm. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light this afternoon. Temperature steady near minus 10.
Tonight Cloudy with 30 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 16.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I weigh 225.0 today if the scale can be believed. That is up a little.

Yesterday was fairly inactive and I indulged in 100g of tortilla chips plus salsa last night. I also enjoyed a package of Mr. Noodles Spicy Chicken Soup at noon.

I was still well within my calorie budget, but calories are not everything.  Chips are high in fat, salt, and refined carbs and the soup is high in sodium (1000 mg).  Fat, sodium, and refined carbs encourage water retention.

I also forgot my medications yesterday due to my odd schedule.  BS is 5.7, though.  BP is higher at 137/83 than my recent normals.

Just when I figured I can  trust the furnace, this morning I smelled a hint of coal smoke. 

I went down and found the firebox filling with burning coal. It is minus eleven today with a light wind, so I'll have to deal with the furnace fairly soon.

Apparently, the ring has stalled again.  This ring is old and worn.  I had intended to replace the ring last time I serviced the furnace, and I replaced the burner but the ring was temporarily unavailable.  With a replacement unavailable, I repaired the old ring and put it back into service.  All was well, until now.

I'll get a new ring today and maybe the transmission parts as well.  My trip to Weed may be off.  I'll have a full day with the furnace service and the dinner for ten tonight.

Healthy Heart Score | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Okay!  I was wrong.  The problem was not the ring.  The problem was that last night, after ten days without taking out the ashes, I looked into the furnace and figured it would be okay until the morning. 

It was not. Far more ashes than I expected were thrown over last night and when I shoveled the ashes, I discovered why.  There was black sand in with the ashes.

Coal is not a homogeneous, manufactured product.  Basically, coal is just dirt dug out of the ground and it is found in 'seams', i.e. layers of earth. 

The very best coal is pure carbon and has almost no ash.  Our local prairie coal is sub-bituminous and has a considerable ash content. That ash content is normally predictable and therefore ash production is fairly predicable for any specific amount of coal burned.

The quality (heat content) and non-burnable (ash) content of coal varies from layer to layer and while the coal itself varies a bit in quality, shale is the wildcard that can upset estimates of ash produced per day. 

Layers of shale may occur above, below, or between coal layers and shale can occur in pockets within the coal seam. Shale can look much the same as coal, but is mostly just unburnable rock. 

Although the miners try to mine only coal, they sometimes unavoidably mine some shale and it goes through the crusher with the coal.  Usually it mixes in with the other coal, but sometimes there will be a pocket of crushed shale in a load of coal.

Shale has almost no heat content and just goes through the furnace and drops into the ash pit without generating heat.  The furnace continues to run until it obtains enough good coal to warm the rooms enough that the thermostat turns it off.

That's what happened.  There was not enough room in the pit for the extra waste, so shale and ash built up and lifted the ring off the grate. 

If the coal entering the furnace overnight had been good coal, I would have been alright and just shoveled ashes this morning, but the auger picked up a pocket of shale sometime during the night and that went straight into the ash pit, adding a lot of unexpected bulk, but no heat.

If the ash pit had been empty or only partly full, I would not have noticed, but the unanticipated extra bulk filled the pit and then lifted the ring so it could no longer turn.  Then ashes and burning coal continued to pile up.

Lesson learned.  Don't push my luck.  Shovel the ashes several days before absolutely necessary.

I decided not to go to Weed Lake, but I did change the ICP sensor on the truck (right), then tried to start it. 

At minus eight degrees C, the engine cranked freely and started right up as soon as the oil pressure was up.  There is a lope in the idle, but it started, and with a little throttle, the lope went away.   It wouldn't start below zero before., so I guess it is fixed.

Reliable starting is very important if I plan to go to the mountains in this machine.  This heavy 4 X 4 with snow tires is an ideal vehicle for heavy snowfall days, but I may want to be able to go home at some point and if my truck won 't won't start at the end of the day, then what? 

I do have a plan B and that consists of a small propane bottle and a big torch, but wouldn't it just be better if the truck started without having to warm it with the torch?

My friends came for supper.  Three cancelled, so we had lots of food.  I had decided to forget my diet for the one night and ate more feely that I have been.  I also decided to take a chance and drink some wine and see how it goes.

My conclusion? All that was pleasant enough, but in the end the wine and food was hardly worth it since indulging disrupts my sleep and throws my weight loss off schedule.  I'm writing this at 0244. 

Sleep is precious, but I doubt I will learn or that this will keep me from doing it again. It has not in the past. I imagine my weight will be up a few pounds in the morning.

Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
Will Rogers

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Friday January 8th 2016


Today Cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries. Temperature steady near minus 14.
Tonight Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries this evening and after midnight. Wind up to 15 km/h. Low minus 20. Wind chill minus 27.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I weigh 226.6 today. My Fatsecret weigh-in page says.

That is what four - 5 oz glasses of red wine, a few handfuls of mixed nuts, some tortilla chips and general disregard for care in eating for just one evening can do. I did not even stuff myself or overeat. I just made poor choices and did not monitor and record what I ate.

I trust the gain is temporary and mostly or entirely fluid, but it is a gain just the same. Was it worth it? Not really. I slept poorly until well after midnight and found myself worrying about things I had already settled.  Not only that, my aches and pains are back today. They are mild, compared to how they can be at times, but the message is clear: "Smarten up, Allen!"

Otherwise, I feel fine.

I'm pretty sure it is just fluids. I don't think it is possible to gain that much fat overnight.

Plus, after such indiscretions, for a few days after, I typically lose more weight per day than can be explained from simple calorie restriction.

Regardless, this self-examination is an exercise in deciding if I really do want to get smaller and I _really_ want to quit alcohol.

I am of two minds on this, as I expect everyone who is trying to reduce is. Otherwise I would not be trying. I'd have done it by now. There is something satisfying about being fat, so I have to find some good reasons for giving that up.

To turn a popular saying around, "Inside every thin man there is a fat man trying to get out."

So the big job is convincing myself I want to lose weight and keep it off -- and keeping myself convinced. For people like me, understanding where I am now, where I want to go and why is key to fully engaging and eventual, permanent success.

Why do I want to be this large? I must have reasons good enough to allow me to get and stay this big. After all, losing weight is pretty simple -- if I really want to.

As the smoker said, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it twenty times or more..."

We all have an idea of how big we are and being big has its psychological advantages. At 225 and five ten, I am not at all uncomfortable with my current weight. I sail, ski, snowboard and ride kites without problems. When I got to over 250, though, I was uncomfortable.

At any rate, I keep reading that my current weight and BMI is unhealthy. Word is that I should weigh somewhere between 135 and 180 for optimal health. I try to imagine that, but cannot. Being that small is beyond my ability to imagine, although I was that thin for at least a decade or two.

When I think about it, however, I visualize carrying a fifty pound sack of nothing with me everywhere and realise I would be much lighter on my feet if I dropped that excess.  That would pay off when walking, skiing, and snowboarding.

If only dropping fifty pounds off my frame were as quick and easy as dropping that imaginary sack.

*   *   *   *   *

Today is overcast, with ice fog and hoarfrost again. I have no plans, but have lots to do.

Will I go outside for some exercise?  Maybe.  The driveway could stand clearing, and running the snowblower is quite a workout. There is a 2.7 MPH breeze from the SSW, though and any amount of wind makes snow blowing a chilly job since the wind blows snow back in my face when turning corners.

*   *   *   *   *

I need to reconcile my accounts today and that will take hours.  Then I should examine my kite.

I think I'll begin by going out to blow snow and see how that goes...

Well, on the way out, I walked through the kitchen and the sink still had a few things in it, so I was instantly distracted. 

Although I can be quite messy, especially when it come to putting tools away after shop work, or tidying my desk, I do rather compulsively keep my kitchen tidy.  I'm not as bad, however, as folks who, if you set down a cup for a moment, stash it instantly in the dishwasher.  I do keep (clean) pans on the stove and spices on the counter, a no-no for some, but I think I am pretty tidy.

It is minus sixteen out.  When  I go out to blow snow, I'm going to try to start the truck without plugging it in.  I doubt it will start, but we'll see.

*   *   *   *   *

I've long wondered why we waste time driving to and sitting in doctors' offices when we can bank without ever setting foot in a bank, except for a few essential actions.

With artificial intelligence, educated users, instant communication, why are we stuck with a century-old model?

Healthcare as it is delivered now is hugely wasteful, rife with duplication and redundancy. The waste of time and money extends far outside hospitals and clinics.  As much time and money is wasted by clients trying to access services and infrastructure to transport them as in the bureaucratic institutions themselves.

Big Blue also unveiled what it boasted as the first app and wearable combo that concretely demonstrates Watson's potential for healthcare.

*   *   *   *   *

Well, I went out and blew the snow off the vehicles and started the truck, cold.  The mercury stands at minus seventeen, so I am pretty happy.  I was going to blow snow from the driveway, but it is very light and fluffy so I wonder if it is worth it.  The wind has dropped to zero, though, so it might be a good time to do it.

The forum has been slow lately, but people noticed I was burning boxes and wished they could get some.  I sympathize, but have to do what I have to do.  They have been sitting there for fifteen years.

Re: Burning Bee Boxes In The Diary.  Here is my reply:

Well, the long and the short of it is that people dream , but when it comes to showing up with a big truck and doing more than picking a few out and taking up my time, nothing of any significance happens.

Although some of these boxes look sound, they vary in height and length and the rabbet depth. The ends may be warped out a bit. No commercial beekeeper wants them.

When you walk in to a commercial beekeeper's storage, the stacks are all exactly the same height, not higglety pigglety. Many of these reject boxes are homemade by people who could not measure or had bright ideas on how to 'improve' on standards -- and the standards varied between manufacturers.

It's a crime, but different manufacturers still make boxes with differing dimensions and mixing suppliers can be problematic. That is why I so love EPS boxes. All the mfrs use the same dimensions (almost). These boxes served for me while building up since I bought a lot of stuff cheap, but are now no longer interesting to most beekeepers. New stuff is too cheap and money is too easy to come by.

I need to clear the property of such junk and the way to do it is fire. I considered loading all this wood junk onto the trailer and hauling to the landfill, but that is a huge job. This I can do a bit at a time and it will be done.

I'm sitting here waiting for a fire permit.  I burned without one the other days, but Joe said permits are easy to get, so I applied online. Permits are free, but there is a fine for burning without. 

They used to send someone around to inspect and hassle applicants for each and every permit application, but now apparently they just want to know so if someone phones in about smoke and flames leaping into the sky, they can say,  "Oh, yeah, we know" and go back to polishing the fire engine, and not have call up the brigade and rush over to what turns out to be a bonfire.

I was told a half-hour, but that was an hour ago, so I phoned.  Still waiting...

I got my permit and went out to burn at about 1430.  By 1630, I had made a fair dent in the stack, but I am now, maybe, one quarter done.  It is a big job.

Although I stand back, I think I am breathing some smoke and that is not good.  I have a slight headache. Maybe I should just stack the boxes first and then torch them instead of lighting a fire and tossing them in as it burns.

Oh, yeah.  It gets dark early here at this time of year.

I came in, had supper and watched my usual hour and a half of video, then decided to read my diary for the year 2015.  I've spent an hour reading and I am only at January 18.  Interesting. 

The Canadian dollar was at 84ȼ USD at this time last year and is at 71ȼ now.  How things change!

Somehow, I did not go east this January and will miss the Toronto Boat Show.  No big deal.  I see I was kiting on the lake in Sudbury in early January, and their temperatures dropped to minus twenty-seven, but this year the lake has only recently frozen and is not safe yet.  They had a very mild fall in Ontario. 

I decided this year to send more time outdoors in Alberta and I have, in spades. Now I am burning old pallets and boxes.  Will I keep that up, or go kiting?  It is a bit boring.  Will I find some other distraction?  I'm planning fairly seriously to drive down to Mammoth to ski with Jon in February.  Will that happen? Stay tuned.  I'll be interested to find out.

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator,
but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.
W. H. Auden

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Saturday January 9th 2016


Today Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of flurries. Fog patches dissipating near noon. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 15. Wind chill minus 26 this morning.
Tonight A few clouds. Wind up to 15 km/h. Low minus 23. Wind chill minus 28.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I weigh 225.4 today.  Fatsecret worries.  My 1,500 calorie deficit yesterday could account for a half-pound of that, but the rest is obviously water. 

It takes days to lose the water gained by one indiscretion.  I am a slow learner.  Will I ever learn that the pleasure and numerous advantages of being permanently lighter and thinner trumps the momentary pleasure of eating the wrong things and drinking wine?

I have realised, though that one reason I drink at social occasions is that I get uncomfortable sitting and talking for hours, and drinking wine makes it more tolerable.

I like action. It is not that I don't like having my friends visit.  I do.  Very much. The thing is that I like to be doing something besides sitting and, after a bit of sitting, I prefer doing things.  When  I was a youngster, our family and friends used to play cards and board games.   I  remembered that and set out some puzzles and games, and they attracted some interest, but we have not gotten into them further.

I'm working my way through the 2015 diary and am amazed at how things  fade in the rearview mirror.  So far, I am at January 23rd and came across this quote from  that day...

The stories we tell literally make the world.
If you want to change the world, you need to change your story.
This truth applies both to individuals and institutions.
Michael Margolis

That is a most insightful statement and if we understand it, we understand a lot of things about our human existence and society.  If we don't, we don't.

January weather normals are progressively colder.  Although the days are lengthening and the sun is noticeably higher in the sky, the normals won't warm for a while yet. 

That does not rule out, however, warm spells like the one that Alberta experienced last year at this time. Today's forecast is for continuing cold here at home with a high of minus fifteen but Calgary, just south of here, is expecting minus eight and Nakiska and Spray lakes promise to be warm as well.  By the end of the week we are predicted to be above normal here at home as well.

What to do today?  Nakiska looks good.  Kiting around Calgary looks promising.  I could burn more boxes, but it is cold here.  The effort of stacking boxes and the heat from a fire would keep me warm, though...

Do I really feel like working -- or driving?  Can't decide.

When it comes right down to it, I don't feel like doing much of anything.  I have things to do, like some items to return to stores but am feeling disorganized. All the more reason to overcome this inertia,  get out and get going.

I should try to start the truck.  I know it will be hard on it and I don't think it will start, but if it did, I would be delighted.  I don't plan to drive it anywhere (maybe I should?), but I need to know how cold it can get before it won't start without being plugged in.

Bert brought chocolate cake the other night and it has been sitting in the fridge.  I knew I shouldn't, but I ate the remainder just to get it gone.  500+ calories and the worst kind, too.  No willpower.  Now I have to find a way to burn it off.

I went down and laid out the 18 metre kite in the gym and discovered a kink in a bridle line.  I gave it a tug and the casing parted.  Now I need a new bridle line before I can use the kite.  Drat!

It's minus fourteen at Nakiska, so in spite of a forecast of minus six, I think I'll skip it and stay home or go to town.  Right about now, the effect of the cake is hitting me.  Ugggh.

I donned my snowsuit and went out and cranked the truck.  It turned over well, but did not fire once.  I could have kept it up, but figure that there is no point stressing the batteries and starter.  I knew it would not start.  I just wanted to be sure.  For now, I'll assume minus twelve is  the cutoff without preheat.

It is cold out there, with a breeze from the south that barely registers on my weather station.

Next, I watered the plants.

I contacted my kiting instructor/dealer earlier.  He called back and he will meet me tomorrow at Eagle Lake with a replacement bridle piece.   I have to say he is very responsive and addresses any concerns I have promptly and gives them his full attention.

Having been a sales manager at one point, I really appreciate salespeople who know how to make sure customers problems are solved.   Too many companies and salespeople don't make it obvious to customers that they care about after sales service and they lose business as a result.  There is no advertising that is as cheap, targeted and effective as as good word of mouth.  People are strongly influenced by their peers.

I am now feeling quite sorry about eating that cake earlier.  I really should not have eaten it. Now I am hyper and running in circles.  I can't make up my mind about anything.  It could also be due to the new brand of coffee beans I ground and brewed at about the same time, but I never get wired from coffee.  It must have been the cake.  Chocolate cake.

Besides, I am not chewing my fingernails and I know when I have had too much caffeine when I start chewing. 

Nail chewing after drinking wine is also why I think vintners might want to add caffeine to some wines. Wine relaxes people and puts some people to sleep.  How are people supposed to consume more wine if they relax and fall asleep?   Although foods have to have ingredient labels, booze does not.  Who knows what is in those beverages.  We don't.

I plugged the truck in at 1409, planning to go burn some boxes, but now, forty-five minutes later, it still won't start.  At least it kicks a bit now.  It did not even kick before, but it will take something over an hour before it will start at minus twenty, which has been the temperature all day, it seems.  Good to know.

I did start the truck after an hour and a half on the cord, warmed it up a bit and turned it off.  Too late to go out I figured, and I've been feeling crappy all afternoon.  Lack of action and eating wrong does that to me.

I did some bookwork and watched video, checked out the kite and packed it up for tomorrow. I have to be at Eagle lake tomorrow at eleven-thirty.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
Albert Einstein

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