Finger in the Dyke

This morning, we finally fixed the humidifier on our furnace. It had been inoperative for the better part of a year since I broke it.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and on that day long ago, I was intending to remove the tray in the humidifier in order to clean it. It had a substantial amount of hard water buildup in it. Unfortunately, when I was putting it back together, I overtightened the float valve and cracked it. I tried for days to come up with a solution that would fix it, but was unsuccessful. I could not figure out if I could buy a replacement part, and the entire humidifier unit cost over $100. So I did what any self-respecting homeowner would do: I turned off the water valve and left it alone.

That is, until I was in there the other morning. I went down to get a loaf of bread from the freezer, and of course, the humidifier was there, mocking me. I popped it open, noted that it was bone dry, and for giggles turned on the valve. A little bit of water flowed into the tray, but then I turned the valve back off.

Then I went down to the freezer again the next day and found water all over the floor. I guess I hadn’t closed the valve tightly enough. I did a better job on closing the valve, and resolved to fix the humidifier this weekend.

I went to Home Depot and forked out the money for the whole replacement, but intended to only replace the floater valve. I managed to do that pretty quickly. I was careful not to over tighten it this time, and I turned the water back on. We also replaced the drum and sponge inside while we were waiting and checking that the repair was good.

Then Tammy noticed water coming down the furnace duct from behind the humidifier. I wrote it off as a splash of water out the back when I replaced the drum, but Tammy insisted that it was coming from where the water line was tucked through the aluminum of the duct. When I looked a bit closer and tried to shift the line to look for cracks, it broke.

So, the replacement unit had a replacement hose and all the fittings, which was good. I removed the brass nut at the end where the hose connects to the water line, and then when I tried to pull the hose out of the valve, it broke there, too! I think this hose was past its best-by date. I would not be surprised to know it was originally installed when the house was built, and that was 21 years ago. That then led to removing the valve from the water line. Which resulted in a stream of water from the hole in the water line. Thus leading to Tammy having her finger on the hole like the little Dutch boy for the next ten minutes or more as I prepared to replace that valve as well.

Eventually, the valve was replace (no leaks). Then I fitted the hose and attached it properly to the valve (no leaks). Then I fitted the other end of the hose to the floater valve, after running the line without any pinches or kinks. Then we turned the water back on, and all seems to be fine without any leaks anywhere.

Tammy with our refitted humidifier

The one thing that has me scratching my head, though, is when we were done, I noticed some schmutz on the corner of my Apple Watch screen. I wiped it with a finger, then used a cloth, and then realized it wasn’t coming off.

Cosmetic damage

I have no idea what I did. It’s not cracked, and I don’t recall this rubbing or anything. Considering what this watch and its predecessor had been through, I can’t imagine what I did. As someone who takes care of his toys, I am pretty bummed right now.

NaNoWriMo Excitement

It’s nine days into the month, and would you believe that we are all going strong? You can track Tammy’s, Miranda’s and my word counts on our NaNoWriMo page, but Ian is doing the Young Writers’ Program, and we can’t make a word widget for him.

But he’s been the most exciting one of us! He was reluctant to do it, but I got him set up with the older iPad and the keyboard cover and his Google docs and he started typing away. He started running out of gas after day 2: his original idea of writing about his predictions for an upcoming iPhone SE2 ran its course. He talked to me about it and I suggested to him that he needed to have something happen. Have himself in the story, and have our cat Squeaker be a character like Snowy in the Tintin comics who sarcastically commented on things. The next thing you know, Ian’s excitedly writing each night and tonight he really went all out. His target word count each day is 150 words.

Well, tonight he wrote 386.

Ian’s word count by day so far. Grey bars are 150 words.

I’m very proud of him. It’s great to see him having fun with this. That’s what it’s supposed to be about.

Busy Day

What a busy Saturday it was today. It started right after breakfast, vacuuming the lint from behind the dryer and in the dryer vent. I know, woo. But it got more exciting after that. Miranda read that today the Calgary Transit was free from 7 am to 7 pm so that Calgarians could come down to the new Calgary Public Library Main Branch, which is having its grand opening. So she asked if we could do that, and it was a great idea. We hopped on the C-Train and visited the library.

There was a big crowd

We split up, with Miranda and Tammy circulating and Ian and I exploring on our own. There are four floors and lots of stairs.

Looking down into the main atrium

I don’t think we’ll get there that often, but it was really nice. My favorite spot was the reading room on the fourth floor. They also had a bunch of typewriters set up where people were encouraged to write poetry.

Ian and I finished our tour first, and he and I left to go and see the Telus Sky and Brookfield Place buildings. Ian’s a real sucker for those tall buildings. He loves looking up at them, but claims it makes him dizzy.

Holding on for dear life looking up at Brookfield

We took the train out to Dalhousie, where we had lunch at DQ, and Ian and I got haircuts at the barber there.

Ian getting shorn

Then we finished our train tour heading home, and we all did our writing, and then I got on my bike and rode 30 kilometers on the rollers. We had a light dinner, because then it was time to put our costumes on and go to Mark and Darlene’s house for Halloween at Hogwarts. Mark is the President of the Bow Cyclists Club, and he extended an invitation to this party to the BCC Ambassadors. I ended up being the only one who showed up. Tammy, Miranda and Ian and I mingled with a mix of Darlene’s relatives and co-workers. I met lots of people and we all had fun, even if some of us mingled better than others.

The party was very amazingly themed with Harry Potter. There were decorations everywhere, and all of the food was themed as well. More than half of the people who came to the party were dressed as Harry Potter characters or Hogwarts students. Mark was a pretty convincing Hagrid, and I spent much of the evening in the company of Severus Snape.

Check out the floating candles

Now it’s ten o’clock and we’re home and everybody’s full of sugar. (And alcohol, in Tammy’s case 🥴)

What a day!

NaNoWriMo #11

Last night we kicked off our eleventh edition of participating in National Novel Writing Month! And when I say “we”, I mean everybody. I was pounding away at my IBM Selectric III, Tammy was pecking at her MacBook Air, Miranda was typing next to me on the Mac Mini in the dining room, and Ian was at his desk with the iPad 4 and the Bluetooth keyboard cover.

That is awesome on so many levels, but selfishly it meant that I didn’t have to wait until the kids were off to bed before starting my writing. In fact, I was finished my 1,885 words before the kids’ bedtime.

This is a momentous Nano for me: I will be writing the second part of the last book in a trilogy that then is itself a set of prequels to the novel that I have been trying to write since I was 18. I am pretty darn excited about that.

Hello? Halloweenies?

Where is everybody?

It’s now 8:45, and I’ve turned off the pumpkins. The count from years past and now 2018, too:

  • 2013 – 61
  • 2014 – 78
  • 2015 – 57
  • 2016 – 50
  • 2017 – 52
  • 2018 – 25 😵

Twenty five??? I was handing out handfuls of candies to the kids and still have a large amount of candy left. I had the pumpkins brightly lit in the front window. The weather was clear and about nine degrees, which is superb compared to the snow we had last month.

Can’t miss them

Ah well. The kids went out trick or treating this evening. Rather, Ian went trick or treating, and Miranda took him around. She felt too old to do it herself, but walked Ian around our street. Tammy was teaching again tonight. She wore her Musketeer outfit. I wore my samurai outfit to answer the door. Miranda was dressed like the singer from Panic! At the Disco, in one of their music videos. Ian was a BC Ferries Captain.

They were back pretty quickly. Ian’s bag wasn’t as big as in past years, and when it was full they came straight back home.

Candy, candy, candy

Happy Halloween! Anybody want some candy? 🍬

Hello From Edmonton

Wait, wasn’t I comatose in bed three days ago?

Yep. But there’s a workshop with EPCOR tomorrow. I am feeling better, but there are signs that I’m still not well. I’ll be resting in my room as much as possible. The bus ride on the Red Arrow was peaceful.

Not much to say about the trip so far. Just hoping my health holds.


It’s taken a few years, but I’ve finally bought myself a set of cycling rollers. Here they are, set up and ready to go tonight.

Norco Valence and Tacx Galaxia

I’ve borrowed rollers from other cyclists twice in the past: once from Brian and once from Kurt. As an owner of two cycling trainers and a regular user of Zwift, it took a fair bit of thinking to get me to add the rollers to our jumble of gear. If I had to sum up the reasons why:

  • It’s a singular sensation, balancing on the rollers. Always feels like you’re one twitch away from disaster (see video below). And interesting is always in short supply in the long winter.
  • It’s a different workout. I can already feel sore muscles from my short ride this evening. It works the core when you are balancing and it forces a smooth pedaling stroke.
  • Higher cadence, lower resistance. Should be healthier for my knees in the long term.
  • It gives months of bike handling practice. Things like learning how to turn your head without your bike drifting, and things like that.

I’m not cancelling my Zwift membership. I expect to intersperse trainers and rollers through the winter.

Thanks to Bow Cycle for granting me the staff discount for being an ambassador with the club. It makes a big difference.


I made some adjustments before my ride today:

  • Raised my handlebars
  • Shortened the rollers from #3 to #4 (Tammy helped me measure the axle length)
  • Put a hard surface (some wood) under the rockers/rollers on the bottom to allow them forward/backward movement.

These all were very positive changes, making the rollers much more stable. I’m still the weakest link, but it’s good to know that things are set up more optimally.

Exercising My Inner Geek

I have been hosting this website for a long time on a series of computers. There has been a succession of computers in the 16 years: my old PowerMac 7600, my Titanium PowerBook, a Grape iMac, a blue and white G3, a Windows computer bought from Esri, the 2009 Mac Mini, and most lately the 2013 Mac Mini. I upgraded the hard drive in the 2009 Mini back in 2014, but it’s been doing a light load of odd jobs.

I have been using MacOS Server for the web server stack for years now, but I found out lately that the new version of Server that is compatible with the newest version of MacOS (Mojave) removes a lot of functionality, including the web server. I was content to worry about this someday, but now that Mojave is out, I needed to figure this out. I toyed with some different options, but this weekend I thought I would try setting up the old Mini (Tiny).

It took most of the weekend, but in the end, I was successful. What I did:

  • Installed the latest version of macports.
  • Used macports to install apache, MySQL, PHP, BIND, phpMyAdmin and a bunch of other packages.
  • Then I got to work configuring everything, and transferring database info and other content to Tiny.
  • As the pièce de resistance: I set up a proper CA-signed TLS certificate for via LetsEncrypt. The whole site is now HTTPS.

It took a long time, especially setting up HTTPS, but it’s all done. In some ways, it’s a downgrade, going to the old computer. But in other ways it’s an upgrade:

  • The latest versions of the software,
  • HTTPS,
  • Everything automatically restarts when the computer does,
  • It leaves the “main” computer with fewer jobs (iTunes, Plex, UniFi).

And now we can install the OS update at will.

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians everywhere! 🇨🇦

The dinner spread

It was a quiet affair around here. I was supposed to have a bike fit with Tara at Bow Cycle today, but she called it off because she had a cold. Among the extra things I accomplished today because of that, one was ordering Miranda’s school photo prints. Her proofs looked nice, but it was an ordeal to pick exactly what we wanted. Tammy suggested that we just take our own photo and get prints of that if we couldn’t figure it out.

That led to the suggestion that we could do that with Ian instead of getting his reshoot. His proof had come back completely horrible. I took some time and got some pretty good pictures of Ian with the good camera and the tripod. Then, since everything was already set up, we took some family pictures. The problem is, there are three different ones that we think ended up pretty good.

Since we’re only going to be getting prints for the family, if you want to let us know what picture you like best, we’ll get you a copy of that one. Here’s the gallery of options:

This one’s my favourite

“Family with herons”

“The old standby: in front of the bookcases”

Let us know which one you like best.