Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Waking up to the smell of burning plastic…

As the lazier member of this particular family unit I usually manage an extra hour of uninterrupted sleep while the spousal unit enjoys an hour of peace and quiet with her first cuppa every morning. That’s normally a good thing and I awake to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee brewing. But this morning was different as I was disturbed by the distinct odor of burning plastic and a wall of smoke when I surfaced from the Land of Nod. Our Bosch dishwasher had burst into flames. Fortunately my wife was right there at the time and was able to extinguish the fire before too much damage was done, but it was still a frightening experience. Who expects their dishwasher, of all things, to catch fire?


Well, it seems like the manufacturer does. Apparently Bosch made a number of dishwashers in the early- to mid-2000s (this one’s vintage) that are known to be a fire hazard, and multiple recall notices were sent out to have defective units repaired. We never got any notice but there was a move in between so maybe it got lost in the mail (giving them the benefit of the doubt). The recalls had limited success it seems as Internet searches indicate that 10’s of thousands of these machines are still out there with this ticking little firebomb in their circuitry.  (So far two Facebook friends have learned they have affected Bosch units in their kitchens so, if you have a Bosch dishwasher, check their web site ASAP.)

I have reached out to Bosch to see what they are prepared to do by way of compensation but I’m not holding my breath. The machine was nearing its end of life and had served us well until this morning, so I expect the standard warranty disclaimer letter in response. Whatever will happen will happen and eventually we’ll acquire a new dishwasher. And the burnt countertop will be a conversation item for the foreseeable future.

But the real lesson here is about attending to operating appliances.

Over the years we have become so habituated to the ubiquitous presence of these labour saving devices that we simply assume they will function, and function correctly and safely, every time we turn them on. We set the dishwasher (or clothes washer, or dryer, or stove …) and then head out, expecting it will go through its normal cycle and then shut down, just like it did the last 1,000 or 2,000 times it was used. Had we done that this morning I would be writing quite a different post about today’s experience, so I think we’ll be doing a lot less of that in the future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

“I’m from Missouri”

Not really (although I understand it’s a beautiful place to be from, if I was), but this post reflects on how, in these times especially, we should all be “from Missouri”.

“I’m from Missouri; show me” entered the public domain some time in the 19th century. It was, apparently, popularized by Willard Duncan Vandiver, a Democrat from Missouri who said, in an 1899 speech, “I’m from Missouri, you’ve got to show me”.

“Believe half of what you see and nothing that you hear” is another common idiom. Attributed to many, including Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allan Poe, it also cautions against blind acceptance.

Bowling GreenWhat brought this to mind was the recent foofaraw over the Bowling Green Massacre. In case you have been living under a rock and missed it, President Trump’s spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, referred to the Bowling Green Massacre as justification for one of the President’s policies.  As no such ‘massacre’ ever took place she was forced to backtrack, claiming she “misspoke” (or, in common vernacular, lied). Of course the twitterverse exploded with riotous indignation but the damage was done and some actually took her statement as a truth that had been suppressed by a complicit media. Not to be outdone, we also had a recent example in the Conservative leadership race in Canada where a political operative tweeted information he knew to be false, not to help his candidate but just to “make the left go nuts”. And some did, for which he, somewhat unwisely in my opinion, then claimed credit. Then there’s the whole fake news industry that enriched a handful of teenagers in Macedonia over the course of the US presidential campaign and continues to befuddle attempts by social media companies to control it.

All of which is to say, with the (possible) exception of this blog, IT’S ALL LIES! Welcome to the post-truth world.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Perusing the ads

Sometimes when I have nothing better to do, or am grounded for whatever reason, I will browse the various online markets in search of that elusive interesting old motorcycle that is actually complete and runs and for which the owner isn’t demanding a King’s ransom. So far it has never quite worked out.

Here’s what I’m looking for:


And here’s the kind of thing I usually find that’s in my price range:


When I do find something interesting and affordable it’s nearly always encumbered by one (or both) of two caveats. It either has “no ownership” or it “needs nothing to pass a safety”. (In Ontario a vehicle cannot be licensed until it passes a basic safety inspection.)

No ownership is an immediate red flag. Especially for older motorcycles for which the provincial records no longer exist (or were never digitized and put on line). If it wasn’t stolen it may have been an insurance write-off or have other dubious pedigree and who needs that aggravation? And the safety? If the advertiser claims it “needs nothing” for a safety that’s code for “I have no idea how bad the condition of this bike is and I don’t want to take it to a dealer because he’ll tell me and then I’ll have to either tell you or fix it before selling.”

So, as with most things advertised and sold on line, it’s buyer beware. But I remain optimistic that eventually the perfect deal will surface so, like buying lottery tickets, I continue to spend time on eBay, Kijiji, Craig’s List, and other sites hoping for that rare win. In the meantime I just have to resist deals like this:


Monday, January 30, 2017

A bad few months for cars.

Coming home from a dump run yesterday, minding my own business, listening to some good tunes, and out of nowhere, boom, two deer in full flight land on the road mere inches in front of the car. Even if the roads hadn’t been ice covered there’s no way I could have stopped. Fortunately I hit them just as they landed on the road so they connected with the grill and not the windshield, but still lots of damage to the car. Not so sure about the deer. By the time I pulled over they’d scarpered, and I wasn’t in any mood to follow them into the woods to see how badly they were injured.


And so here we go again with police reports, insurance adjusters, repair estimates, and deductibles (always the deductibles). I’m hoping the car can be repaired but I’m not sure the insurance people will agree, given its age.  Fortunately no airbags deployed, so perhaps… I’ll know in a couple of days.

I’ve had numerous close calls before as deer are a constant threat on these roads and it’s pretty much inevitable to experience a deer strike at least once around here (there’s something in the order of 1,200 a year in the Ottawa area). I’m just thankful it happened when I was on four wheels and not two.

UPDATE: $6,000 damage. It's a write-off.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017. Already?

Yup, it’s 2017, whether I like it or not, and it’s time to check in since I haven’t posted in quite a while. I wish I could say I’ve been AWOL, spending the last month riding in some location that enjoys sunnier and warmer weather this time of year, but I can’t. I’ve been right here through every perverse cycle of snow, thaw, rain, snow, thaw, freezing rain, thaw, blizzard, rain, –30, +8 that have so far defined this as absolutely the worst winter in my memory. With conditions like these it’s nearly impossible to actually enjoy being out of doors so the best place to be is in the garage.

And that’s where I’ve mostly been.

The Hondas (remember them?) are proving to be a bigger challenge than I expected. IMG_20160509_095141753Both bikes were abused, but the S65 (the red one), which was the one I had the most hopes for, was both abused and involved in an accident. As I dig into them I’ve concluded I may only get one usable machine out of the two, but first I want to have a running engine before spending any time or money on body work. So I’m rebuilding one engine to S65 specs (the C65 is automatic). The cases have been reassembled and I managed to get one good top end out of cannibalizing the second engine for parts.  Now I just have to bolt it all together and see if it runs. If not it will be decision time – continue or part out what I have?

IMG_20160925_113842892webAfter getting the Kawasaki into the shop it didn’t take long to determine that at least part of the problem was a badly rebuilt carburetor. The throttle slide had been installed wrong causing it to jam the choke butterfly open. That, and a few assorted springs and o-rings that were missing from that rebuild, would likely have caused the poor running condition. It took a while to find carb kits but eventually eBay came through. Carbs have been rebuilt (properly this time with no left-over pieces) and the bike is now ready for a good tune-up, which can wait for warmer weather. Still not sure what I’ll do with it at that point.

Elm and mahogany vaseAnd it’s not only been old motorcycles demanding my attention.

The lathe has been getting a workout since I acquired a few cords of good dry elm from a neighbour. I didn’t realise what a nice grain pattern it had until I started turning some of that firewood into small bowls and vases. It’s been fun to get back in touch with a machine that I’ve all but ignored for a few years, but the missus is now complaining about running out of space to display my creations.

And then I came across this ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9-ltPsbw9g) and got interested in 3-string guitars, and then, more specifically, 3-string cigar box guitars. I don’t play, but I do have access to lots of cigar boxes and a keen interest in the oddball, so I built one. It actually sounds amazing but I made a few mistakes and discovered some areas where it could be better so I now consider that to be the prototype. I have started on version 2 which will be similar but electric. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even learn to play a bit. I mean it’s only 3 strings, right? How hard can it be? And if I can’t figure out 3 strings there’s always the diddley bow.


So I’ve been ignoring the weather as best I can as I suffer through another winter of PMS. But the days are already noticeably longer so spring can’t be too far away. Can it?