Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pumpkin carving tools and ideas

OK! That was quick. I love this library called the Internet. Here's an early find on the search for what the good tools might look like.
A dry wall saw might be a little course, but it's quite possible that a decent old fashioned hardware store might yield some tools appropriate for the job in a better quality than some of the over priced low quality kits I've seen.

Paul's people mural and parrots of Telegraph Hill

Paul's posted some images of the parrots of Telegraph Hill and the surrounding area.
The first in the series is the wall mural below. I love everything about this mural.

There is a fellow that tends to the birds there. I had missed seeing a film about the parrots and this homeless man, earlier this year. Has anyone seen it?

Clicking on the image below will take you to the first series of images on Paul's site.

Jack-O-lantern 2006

The girls had some fun tonight carving out our pumpkins. We often aren't able to grow our own, but this year was a breeze with all the heat we had. I can only imagine what it might have been like if we had all the water they might have used to grow bigger.

Halloween pumpkin jack-O-lantern with Bonnie and Manon

Bonnie's in the hard light of day

Bonnie's and Manon's in the hard light of day

Manon's in the dark

Both in the dark

Monday, October 30, 2006

sick, fall gardening and Manon at thirteen

I feel like a bag of dirt today, but the gardens are tilled and the garlic is in. I only planted one 12 meter double row though as that's all the seed I had left. I grow it to use, but if I don't designate the best of the crop for seed it gets made into sauce. ehh
I really have to defend myself better around here!

Lots of yard clean up got done yesterday too. The flower beds are in pretty good shape and what's left can wait until spring. The soil in the new garden is pretty sad. I had hoped to get the chicken coup mucked out and tilled into the new one, but that looks dicey now that I'm fighting some respiratory thang. I have to remain grateful to have the garlic in before the big white sleep.

Last spring I tilled the daylights out of the new garden to get started and then quickly planted it before the weeds took off. I didn't lift a finger for the planting, but it is a team effort regardless. Once the produce was off, I invested about ten hours of weeding out the quack grass and got a big third of the space cleaned up well. Yesterday I ran the tiller through the rest of it to break it up a bit. The soil in some places is very shallow and what's underneath appears to be hard pan and gravel.

Fortunately it's been a barn yard for the last seventy years or so and that ensured that it was at least fertile this year. The various crops grew about as well as could be expected this year. The extremely dry conditions meant that we had to water often. I don't remember when we've ever done that before, but it paid off in fruit that was enjoying the heat.

We had some company this summer and one of the prizes left behind was some blackberry jelly that Mum made and brought with her. I was going to give a jar to the city family members, but this morning I succumbed and cracked the last jar open for my breakfast. What a glorious jelly that berry makes. The picking is always plentiful, but the spines and terrain to get to the fruit makes it a labour of love. They are wicked vines, even for hardened gatherers like Mum. Sunshine in a jar.

Snow warnings all across the south of Manitoba this morning make me glad to have a little fire in the stove this morning. I'll fix the dog run line this today then sit in the warm shop and stay quiet as I try and stay upright with this cold infection still building. Do I dare take an easy run? Maybe just a brisk walk will suffice to assist the drainage.

Manon is thirteen now and the tension is building. I expect I was every bit as difficult to live with. It's going to be a painful process to see her through her teens. Maybe it will always be difficult. Knowing how much alike we are has always brought with it the thoughts that her teen years would be challenging. I'm always surprised how much denial goes on around us. I hope by having always embraced the bad news early in the process that honesty will pay some dividends. So much of our parenting has been focused on ensuring that the consequences of the children's actions are associated with their responsibility for those actions.

Irrespective of the skill set in hand, the game is afoot.

Is it enough in life to not tell a lie, or is it that we are obliged to speak to the truth as we see it? Is that conundrum in the same league as the phrase that goes something like, if I'm not part of the answer I'm
part of the problem?

I invested more energy outside this weekend that was likely wise, but so much remains to be done I could hardly do less. I feel a bit like a squirrel preparing for winter though. The snow storm warning in the air is a wonderful booster. The scrap wood pile got cleaned up and the stove lengths got re stacked so they will be easier to attend to if and when we get a snow that sticks.

I loaded the truck to the hilt and made a run to the dump with lots of metal bits dug out of the ground and hauled away. I mostly worked by myself, but dirty Phil (has no smeller organ and always needs a shower!) lent a hand for a while. I built a bonfire and raked up all the nasty wood chips that make mowing a hazard and burnt it all. The smell of burning leaves in the fall is a classic that I never tire of. My allergies complain, but one can't have everything one wants all the time now can one?

Today I'm limiting my only outdoor chore, besides the critters, to retying the dog run line. That's it, that's all, that's everything.

Echinacea is weird stuff. I took a maximum dose of the stuff as I felt this cold coming on and it stalled it in it's tracks. The bad news is that I think the onset has been lighter, yes, but the bug has just gone deeper, or so it seems. I was surprised to see coloured phlegm from the top of my chest, but today it feels like it's growing and making my chest feel tight and a bit uncomfortable. Sheesh! I hope this thing doesn't get too carried away. I'll continue with the echinacea through this cold, but I don't know if I'm convinced the merits are for the best over all.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Chicken foot pull / Gibson L6-S (1978

When a guy marries a science major, you can expect at least a few unique parenting skills. Here is a short video clip from this afternoon's adventures in butchering chickens. There are no blood or guts in the clip, only a chicken foot.

Lessons in tendons - #732

Today was the day that the young cocks that didn't make the grade for next year's genetics went to augmenting the food supply. They are always small birds because they are for our back yard flock of layers. They mostly come from old dual purpose heritage breeds. I lost a bunch of birds to a dog this year, but managed to almost duplicate the twenty odd years of genetics from a friend's flock, so I'm back in the groove waiting to hatch more in the spring.

We plucked and cleaned eleven today, but tossed one that had an odd growth on it's breast. I'm always happy to have these guys simply because the flavour is so good. They make a great excuse to make a really hearty chicken soup or stew. It will be a few days before I feel like eating chicken though. It's a smelly job to put them away.


On a lighter note, a young friend brought me a toy to play with last night. I don't know why I don't have an electric. I have such a gas playing them when I get the chance.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Grey Tiger Salamader

A friend dropped his little find off for a visit tonight.

Grey Tiger Salamader - Ambystoma tigrinum diaboli




Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tarantula update

Tarantula update

I'm thrilled these little ones have done so well in my care. They are growing like weeds. The one that burrows, I never see except at from the underside of it's enclosure, but this one is out and about all the time.

Aphonopelma seemanni sling - Costa Rican Zebra Tarantula

I'm not sure what to do with this one. This is the one that Bonnie found in her laundry this summer. It's produced three egg sacks now, but none have produced babies. I've tried different temperatures and humidity's, but nothing has improved the situation for her. Now she seems a little stressed and I'd like to let her go, but I'll have to wait for a warm day now. The big white sleep is close now.

Dolomedes triton - Six-spotted Fishing Spider


The images of this tarantula always come out a little goofy. This is a shot of her munching a cricket this morning has her legs look striped in yellow much more in the image than they are in person.

Grammostola aureostriata - Chaco golden knee


This little one has been with me for three weeks and it's already molted into about twice it's original size.

Lasiodora parahybana - Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater


Macro test


Estevan Model Engineeers Show - 2006

There's nothing quite like working models to get the imagination of a mechanic fired up.

Estevan Model Engineers Show - 2006
It was good to be back among like minded folks. It's always a bonus to be with birds of the same feather, but there something special about being in the company of these guys. I suppose maybe there's a bit of uncommon enthusiasm for being out of the shop, given how many hours of solitary work go into so many of these fine models.

Esther Cox recognised me and insisted I wear a name tag like a vendor even if I was not showing anything this year. What a sweet heart to be so welcoming. I was happy to see Dixon still around with a full bag of tricks. His little engine made of odd little scraps around the shop was entirely entertaining. I have an image posted here, but I also have some short video clips of some of the running engines and his is included in the videos.

A child hood friend and mechanical engineer finally broke down and joined me in the pilgrimage this year. He's setting up to do some brass casting, so he had burning questions for the foundry guys that were in attendance. I don't think I got a single shot of the casting crew that were busy all weekend in the parking lot. Kelly had them casting up a little plaque for everyone that participated in the show. I wish I'd brought even some little token to show when I saw that! eheh In the bottom image you can see Kelly's little aluminium plaque at the bottom centre of the shot.

We had really good weather albeit a bit gusty on the way out. It was all seamless on the way home. I was so glad I took the time to go. I'll try hard to finish something new to show next year. I'm thinking a gear cutter would be a perfect fit both here in the shop and at the show.

Estevan 2006 show - beam engine

Big block


Cam shaft


Dixon's scrap engine


Twin gas


Gatling gun


Gatling gun again


Locomotive cab


Locomotive - close


Locomotive panned back




Locomotive - black northern




Rotary original image documentation


Rotary model


Steam feller close up


Steam feller feed ratchet


Steam feller


Tie clip engine


Vapour engine

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tiny baby tarantula

I got a bad shot of the L. parahybana sling today. Ugh!

If I can keep this thing alive, it will grow into one of the largest tarantulas on the planet. I have one, the one that lost a couple of legs recently for those that follow such things and it's about 10cm across now that it's about 18 months. It won't likely be much more than 8" when fully grown, but they have been known to grow to 25cm across.

Lasiodora parahybana sling


Winnipeg Reptile Expo 2006

A couple of new additions for the tarantula collection were brought down from Thompson for me this weekend. Lindsey is helping ramp up the collection at a terrific rate. I also got a tiny Lasiodora parahybana sling. I don't have any shots of it yet, but it can't be much more than 3mm long.

I also got some lobster roaches so I can hopefully get away from those nasty crickets. These guys will climb glass, but that's easily rectified and no they can't get carried away here if they escape. It's colder here than they are programed for. It's easy enough to make a slippery edge on the enclosure anyway, just in case.

Grammostola rosea - Chilean rose


Grammostola aureostriata - Chaco golden knee


Winnipeg had it's first Reptile Expo this weekend and it was a big hit. Here's a short clip of the buzz. Man were there ever some neat looking animals there! I came really close to buying a neat little corn snake, but managed to escape without it.

Tell me this kid won't be changed forever. ehhe


Monday, October 9, 2006

Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon Challenge


Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon was a great way to run my first half marathon.

The goods:
21km - 13.1 miles
Average heart rate = 89% of maximum
I began thinking that I'd be lucky to finish without cramps or passing out from fatigue or some other failure, but had a surprisingly strong day instead.

Mr Wordy says:

It's been a rough year. This was a race I signed up to run purely out of spite for not having met a single one of my running goals this year. I'd talked myself into doubting whether I could even run the distance. I ran 12.5 miles once last year and I managed one 8 mile run this year. I've been running shorter distances, but generally faster. Usually just three days a week with mostly 3 mile runs with the odd 4 mile and occasional 6 mile juant.

Those maniacs wiser than I soon swept me up in the things that make maniacs so attractively nuts. Colleen teased me into this thankfully! I'm no record breaker, but to come home in 2:17:49 was beyond my most wishful thinking. To finish the last several miles at the pace I did, gives me hope that maybe next year won't be without it's rewards.

My records are a mess. I missed a bunch of mile markers.
Mile one - 11:27
Miles two through three - 24:45
Miles four through five - 22:16
Mile six - 10:14
Miles seven through eight - 20:20
Mile nine - 10:45
Miles ten through eleven - 20:01
Miles twelve through thirteen - 18:04
The last tenth added another 55 seconds, so I think that should all add up fairly closely.

Over all that makes for a 10:35/mile pace and a 6:35/km pace.

I have Dwayne to thank for almost all of that success, but I'll weasel some of that gratitude in as I go. < g > That hoodie he's got on is from his first 100km ultra marathon this year. The big cat picking it's teeth with a bib pin has the caption, "mmmmm lean meat". Love it!

I've withdrawn energy from posting here and elsewhere, to try and focus more on bed times and ensuring recovery is what it can be. It stings to accept peoples support on the running mania board when I've been unwilling to contribute much in the last while. Every time I see a race report go by it bites at me. Maybe the next year will be a stronger one for me. Runningmania.com seems to be doing just fine though! :D

I have a long way to go, and it's been somewhat painful to come up against what I really am as opposed to what I'd like to be... again! However, I've been able to keep running even with a lot of congestion and fatigue, just not as much as I would like to run. I should mention that two years into this adventure I remain injury free at 47. I like that!

Yesterday morning on the drive in I was blowing my nose all the way into the city, but for the most part I felt like I'd had enough sleep this week and kept the stress levels down to a point where I didn't think I was going to make myself sick with a cold if I ran, so I was content to arrive at the starting line with those credentials and low expectations.

I had a couple of disappointing racing efforts this year that were haunting me and I had a reminder of a common characteristic of those races last weekend. Namely that going out too fast is brutally difficult to rectify once under way.

Last weekend I had run a quick (for me) 9:43 min/mile pace over 5.5 miles with a budding local club group run in St. Pierre. It did not feel good to go out that fast and I had a heck of a time trying to keep my heart reeled into sensible levels throughout the run. I vowed not to be sucked into a fast start on this one and fortunately Colleen took me off the start on a sensible pace. I'm so grateful for her company, as it helped set the tone for what for me was a good effort, particularly later in the day.

Like the Santa Shuffle last winter, going out slowly payed some handsome rewards later on.

Before the half way mark, Colleen had taken to running with Natalie and Dwayne had caught up to me after running back and forth through the team for photos and checkups. He was running faster than I was, so I figured I'd try and pick up the pace a bit. It was Dwayne's second tour of that course that morning, and he was still going up and down like a youthful pup out for some fun! Once we were turned around to head home at the half way mark, and the wind was at our backs, the pace became a bit easier to take.

Dwayne was a brilliant companion. Lots of race experience, a keen sense of empathy to the racers lot, and a wicked lust for competition. This packaged up in an under stated delivery, was as near a perfect prescription for what I needed as I could have hoped for.

He periodically plied me with details about pace, eventual finish times at various paces, etc. Never enough information headed toward me to be overwhelming, but enough to set the gears in my head in motion. He was an expert motivator! Never pushing, always leading from the rear... if you can follow that reasoning. :P

Without his insight into the character of racing, I'd never have been able to exert myself to this degree. Thank-you again Dwayne, you were primarily responsible in making it a race I can be proud of.

I take a great deal of comfort in knowing I was able to run the last part of the run strongly. I just need to figure out how to add more now without hitting the ditch. < insert experiment of one >

By the last mile I was making quite a bit of noise, but I was too tired to care about pride at that point. The last half mile was brutal, and guttural sounds of struggle were to be heard. In that last half mile there was a loose sand playground to get through. Foul language was perilously close to utterance.

Pam was there to greet me as we crossed the finish line to hang my finishers medal and deliver a big warm hug of congratulations. Pam will likely qualify for the Boston marathon at the 2007 Manitoba marathon. She ran on ahead to be prepared to greet us. She had made up the cool race bibs and finishers medals. It was a great way to have my first half marathon. It was a great celebration to be able to share it with other runners in such a small group setting.

Bibs were full of detail. The internet, software, printers and a bit of packing tape really do go a long way!

The fine print.

Medal side #1.

Medal side #2.

Not too shabby! What a great crew of people to hang with.

The support here and through the Winnipeg maniacs team has been remarkable through a difficult year of health issues for me. Through that support has come a consistent application of "doing what I can" and my first half marathon is mostly the fault of maniacs.

It will no doubt be a memorable day for me as the years roll on.
Thanks everyone that played a part.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Blacky the wonder scorpion

Ian handling blacky the emperor scorpion

Manon handling blacky the emperor scorpion

The upstairs is crawling with hundreds if not thousands of ladybugs and flies and I'm all creeped out about that, but this guy is a peach!