Installed Winter Tires on the Car

I got the winter tires installed on our faithful ’98 Subaru Outback today. Will be doing a trip into the BC interior later this month, and while there’s no snow yet, the higher passes could get some any day now.

I’ve always been a believer in winter tires from the days I first began driving in Saskatchewan a long time ago. And as the experts recommend, I put them on all four wheels. (And that’s not because of Subaru’s all-wheel-drive. You should do this for front-drive or rear-drive vehicles, too.)

The “all-season” tires that I use most of the year are rated “M+S” and therefore are accepted as snow tires in BC, but I figure using the real thing adds a margin of safety.

What I changed in my routine several years back was getting winter wheels (yes, those drab steel items). They pay off in just a few years, because if you keep your winter tires mounted on rims, dealers and garages will often swap summer for winter, and vice versa, for free as part of regular maintenance, since they need to take the wheels off to check brakes, etc., anyway.

Or if you just get the tires swapped, if they’re already mounted on rims, it’ll run around $40 rather than over $100.

And if you have a partner with aesthetic sensibilities that are offended when the mag wheels are replaced by black-painted metal, you will find that they will be eager to ante up for fancy wheel covers : -).

But what about the cost of those extra winter tires?

The way I see it, if you keep your vehicle for many years, like we do, there is no extra cost. You’d be buying new summer or all-season tires more often if you weren’t using winter ones, eh?

Watching Closely as Midori, Our Turtle, Readies for Winter

I posted this on FB the other day, and it got a positive response from pet and animal lovers, so I’m expanding upon it a bit here. It rings a tad sanctimonious, but really folks, a pet IS for life, and you shouldn’t consider having one if you can’t fulfill that responsibility.

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We’re keeping a close eye on Midori, our turtle. It’s getting colder at night, and she’s starting to follow us around, wanting “uppy” for cuddling and warmth. We’ll be putting her on a heated gel pack in a basket overnight soon.

No, we’re not spoiling her, we’re keeping her healthy. If she gets too cold she starts shutting down. Yet on the other hand, she can’t get cold enough in the house to properly hibernate. We’ve discovered over the years that this “not quite here/not quite there” situation over winter is not good for her, as she starts to lose calcium etc.

We had a bad scare a few years ago when her limbs began puffing up during a semi-hibernation. After a costly vet visit, it turned out that in her semi-somnolent state her body was still “consuming” minerals, etc., but since she wasn’t eating anything, her system was sucking the calcium out of her own bones.

So the last few years we’ve kept her warm all winter. It’s a lot of work, but she’s much the better for it.

As I’ve said many times before, we do NOT recommend turtles for pets. Keeping them healthy and happy is a lot of work, and they can live for 40+ years. We didn’t know that when we got her 21 years ago.

But we will never give up the responsibility we took on when we made the (then admittedly uninformed) choice to take a red-eared slider into our lives.

And we will never dump her in a local pond or creek. She doesn’t belong in the Canadian wild. She’s not a native species. And she’s so used to humans that she’d likely follow anyone she saw, begging for food. And we all know that not all members of “our” species are good to other animals, eh?

She is ours, for better or worse, in sickness or in health . And you cannot divorce or just dump a pet, eh?

Burnaby RCMP Open House 2014

Burnaby RCMP held their second annual open house today, and it was a fun, informative event on a lovely, sunny day.

Burnaby RCMP have done a great job on community relations for many years, with four community police offices in addition to HQ, and lots of programs that involve community and volunteers.

Burnaby RCMP Open House¬†Surprise visitor, a Burnaby boy who sings a little ūüôā

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burnaby_rcmp_open_house_2_20140927 Checking out bomb squad gear

burnaby_rcmp_open_house_3_20140927 Emergency Response Team was also popular

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burnaby_rcmp_open_house_6_20140927 Anti-Graffiti Program. The City of Burnaby and the RCMP have done a great job on this issue over the last several years

burnaby_rcmp_open_house_7_20140927 Burnaby Emergency Program Office Рare you and your family prepared for a disaster?

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burnaby_rcmp_open_house_9_20140927 Great view to the north from Burnaby RCMP HQ

burnaby_rcmp_open_house_10_20140927Staff Sergeant Major John Buis sports an 1870s Sergeant’s uniform

Made Borshch Today – You Made What?

Being of Ukrainian descent, I spell¬† –Ī–ĺ—Ä—Č as borshch in English. Ain’t no “t” in Ukrainian borshch.

So what’s in my borshch?

It varies by what’s in the fridge, and I have no fixed recipes or quantities or proportions of ingredients. Whatever looks good. But I do make it on the filling side, almost like a vegetable stew, though I never add a thickener like flour.

I am proud of my hearty peasant borshch. It’s nearly a meal in itself, not like that pale pink, liquid-only stuff served at some hoity-toity Ukrainian events.

You know, the stuff that looks likes someone wiped an empty borshch pot with a wet dishrag, then wrung out the dishrag into a small bowl or cup, and served it to you : -).

Today’s borshch began with a tablespoon of beef bullion in a fairly large pot of water. A big onion, diced. Two large beets sliced and diced. A couple of chopped carrots. About a quarter of a small green cabbage, shredded.

Something that was a bit different this time was a handful of sliced shitake mushrooms, which add a distinctive, but not overpowering flavour.

And I usually add some sort of canned or fresh beans or peas to give the soup more heft. Today I tossed in a can of chick peas, rinsing them first.

It was very good, and healthy, too!

Burnaby’s Byrne Creek Smelled Foul Today

As I did one of my many rambles around Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today, I noticed as I reached the bottom of the stairs in the ravine that there was an odd smell, somewhat akin to a cross between kerosene and toilet-bowl cleaner.

The odor was most noticeable in the narrow portions of the ravine, and very strong at Griffiths Pond in the upper watershed near Edmonds Skytrain station, where a storm pipe empties into the pond.

I did not observe any dead fish, or ones in distress, but water visibility was near zero due to the rain.

I called it in to City staff, but noted that since I wasn’t seeing dead fish, it was not an emergency. But something not quite right went down the creek today.

Oh, Please, Not Another ‘What Computer Should I Buy’ Thread

Today someone asked that question again in one of the groups that I follow on Facebook: “I’m looking for a new Windows notebook computer, any recommendations?”

This set off a massive number of replies, of course, including, as always, Mac Missionaries expounding upon their love for their machines. About 50 posts into the thread, someone finally had the sense to point out that the original question was about Windows.

As far as I am concerned, such threads are silly.

Let me state that I have, and use, Windows, Mac, and Linux machines in my home office.

These long-winded, highly opinionated threads erupt because folks love to chat and ask for advice, and give advice, but why not go to a reputable source like PC Magazine that runs annual surveys of hundreds of users and dozens of brands in relation to satisfaction, reliability, service issues, likelihood of repurchase, etc. (and yes, the surveys include Macs). Choose a couple of brands/models that are highly rated, and go check them out in a store.

Try them out. Use them.

On Facebook, or in other forums, we’re just trading personal biases and one-off experiences. There is no hope in hell that what’s good for Greg will be pleasing to Mariko, or comfortable for Janet, or beloved by Paul.

For example, my wife and I both have ASUS notebooks (the brand chosen mostly because it tends to have pretty good bang for the buck, and is often found on sale), but very different models. Different uses and preferences.

Mine is a small, highly portable 13″ model with a processor designed for long battery life on the go. My wife’s machine is big, with a 17″ screen, and a built-in numeric keypad because she’s studying accounting, and rarely carries the machine anywhere, though she can take it to class if she needs to.

I’ve had Mac, IBM (now Lenovo), Toshiba, and ASUS notebook computers. They have all been reliable. My office towers for decades have been no-name, custom-configured machines, aside from the odd Gateway or hand-me-down Dell. They have all run fine, too.

So please, do your research, and most importantly, take the time to try out, and find, the computer that suits you, and fulfills your needs.

Paul’s Photo Tips — Tip 6 — Carry Extra Flash Cards, Extra Batteries

Carry extra batteries for your camera(s), and an extra storage card, or two, or three.

It sucks to be out in the field and run out of power, or run out of card storage space. This is particularly important if shooting video, which fills space rapidly, and depletes batteries quickly.

As I noted in Tip 5 “Take Lots of Photos” storage cards are dirt cheap these days. So stock up on cards and carry extras.

Batteries? Depending on the camera, not so cheap. If your camera uses a proprietary battery, it’s likely going to be expensive to get an extra one. I’ve got extra batteries for each of my DSLRs, at around $75 a pop. Not cheap, but think about it — if you take a photo ramble or photo trip, and you run out of juice, that $75 is going to look darn cheap compared to the time and cost of your venture.

And if you’re shooting for money, for a client, “sorry my battery ran out” will be a major setback to your career.

Again, if you’re shooting video, go for at least a pair of backup batteries.

You could try no-name batteries that mimic the output and dimensions of the maker’s ones. I do this for my cheaper point-and-shoot cameras. But I’m sticking with “official” manufacturer-approved ones for my DSLRs.

Don’t forget your other gear that uses batteries, too. I carry double sets of batteries for my flash units, for my remote camera trigger, etc.

One more tip within this tip:

Dedicate a drawer in your office just to batteries and chargers for all of your equipment. That way you know where everything is. Have a shoot scheduled for tomorrow? Have a charging station set up into which you can plug all your chargers, so that they are not spread out all over your house where you can forget them.

More power to you! : -)

Slow-Charging Samsung? Swap Cables

My Samsung S3 has been charging extremely slowly for awhile now. I can leave it plugged in overnight, and it will show only a 40-45% charge in the morning.

And I replaced the battery recently.

Searching online shows that many folks have resolved this by using a different USB cable — apparently the phone can sense if there’s any problem with a cable and will draw less if it thinks a cable is damaged.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, others say to try a new charger. I’ve got lots of USB chargers and cables around, so will try the different cable solution first, and if that doesn’t do anything, try a different charger.

UPDATE: An hour after I began writing this post, and, er, obviously before I posted it — my phone is apparently fully charged. The different cable, on first blush, appears to have solved the issue.