December 29, 2009

Getting Into Hot Water

In response to a series of negative posts regarding on-demand water heaters on a mailing list:

While we have a gas-fired tank hot-water heater in our townhouse, I'm a bit surprised at the number of negative anecdotes regarding on-demand heaters.

As mentioned, they have been in widespread use for decades in Asia and Europe. I had several apartments in Japan with on-demand heaters and never experienced running short of hot water, or being subjected to spurts of cold water. And no matter what the outside temperature, it never seemed to take more than 10-20 seconds to get a steady flow of piping hot water -- certainly not any longer than it takes now for us to get hot water in the upstairs shower from the tank heater in the basement.

My wife's parents' place is in northern Japan, and it gets bloody cold up there for 4+ months each year, yet the suitcase-sized on-demand water heater in their house has never exhibited any such negative behaviour in 20 or more years of use.

If I may be so bold, I'd also venture that Japanese are among the greatest lovers of hot water in the world, and most have a tolerance, nay, an affinity, for soaking in water so hot that simply dipping a foot in it makes me want to scream :-).

Many Japanese shower/baths have faucets with a colour-gradated blue-red dial, accompanied by degree C markings. The top end of the red zone abuts a safety interlock button, which one can depress to be able to turn the faucet even further.

I wonder if some of this can be chalked up to a lack of experience in NA? I admit that when our hot-water heater died several years ago, we replaced it with another tank heater, but that was mostly due to the limited availability and greater initial expense of on-demand heaters here, combined with seemingly little knowledge or experience with them in local stores and among local plumbers.

Posted by Paul at 09:26 PM

December 28, 2009

Frosty Ramble 'Round Deer Lake

Combating the seasonal overeating, Yumi and I trundled all the way to Deer Lake and back, doing the route in a bit less than three hours. It was a frosty, cloudy day, but I worked up a good sweat, fell on my butt on the icy Sperling stairs, and got a few decent shots, too.

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View from the canoe dock

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Frosty mooring cleat

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Yumi testing the ice near the beach

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Frozen cattails near the beach

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Foggy view of Metrotown from the north shore of the lake

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Spotted this little furball sneaking through tunnels of grass
near the trail - a vole?

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Frozen dew

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We were surprised to see a salmon carcass in
Buckingham Creek near the beach parking lot.
We've never seen salmon in the Deer Lake area.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get at it to ID it.

Posted by Paul at 08:11 PM

December 26, 2009

Foggy New Westminster Quay, Boardwalk

A stroll along the quay and boardwalk in New Westminster on a socked in, foggy afternoon produced some moody photographs.

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Posted by Paul at 07:59 PM

December 25, 2009

Christmas Jaunt up the Sea to Sky, Squamish, Brackendale

A Christmas daytrip up the Sea-to-Sky highway to Squamish and Brackendale resulted in some nice shots, though there were few eagles to be seen.

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Stonework pattern on washroom at Shannon Falls

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Spawning salmon, green water, stones make for an impressionistic shot
near the Tenderfoot Hatchery

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Great Blue Heron watches salmon near the Tenderfoot Hatchery

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An American Dipper keeps a sharp eye out for wayward salmon eggs

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Lots of people at the Eagle Run at Brackendale, but few eagles

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Squamish River with mountain background

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Heading back home we stop at Porteau Cove - Yumi against the sunset

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Moon at bottom with Porteau Cove pier structure

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Rocks and ripples at the ocean's edge

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Chains anchor the sunset

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Bench and rails frame the setting sun

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Trees, sunset along the Sea-to-Sky highway

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The sun dips in to the sea beyond the mountains

Posted by Paul at 07:13 PM

December 24, 2009

Byrne Creek Ravine Sunset on Christmas Eve

We did a quick loop of Byrne Creek Ravine Park in SE Burnaby late this afternoon as the sun was going down.

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Posted by Paul at 08:28 PM

December 20, 2009

Foggy, Icy Rice Lake in North Vancouver

The Rice Lake trail in North Vancouver is a short, flat walk that's refreshing even on a rainy day.

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Posted by Paul at 08:56 PM

December 18, 2009

When All Indicators are On

When all indicators are on, all the time, on an apparatus that is supposed to indicate network traffic, that doesn't tell you anything.

I'm happy to be back online, back on the Internet, having replaced my dusty Terayon cable modem with a brand-spanking new Motorola SB5102 modem from Shaw.

But it concerns me that all of the indicator lights on the new modem are ON - all the time.

Power? ON, and steady.

Receive? ON, and steady.

Send? ON, and steady.

Online? ON, and steady.

PC/Activity? Flickering like crazy, ALL the time. . .

So what does this tell me? Nothing.

At least with the old Terayon modem, you knew when your computer, or another one on your LAN, was talking to the Internet. With everything ON, all the time, I now know nothing. . .

OR

During this modem upgrade/router replacement I have been taken over by some evil botnet. . .

Later: According to Motorola, this is normal behaviour, though I still wonder. . .

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Posted by Paul at 10:08 PM

New Motorola SB5102 Cable Modem from Shaw

Got a new cable modem today - it's a long story - and it seems to have resulted in a snappier Internet connection. When my net access went down today, the Shaw cable phone tech advised me to replace our ancient Terayon modem (which entailed a mad rush into downtown Vancouver to Shaw's office before they closed at 5pm). I also ended up having to replace my Linksys BEFSR81 router with a new one (Revision 3.1 vs Revision zip on the old one) - dunno why both the modem and the router appeared to die the same day. . . Anyway, perceptually, the net connection feels faster now, and here are some test results from DSLreports.com:

Speed Test #83733229 by dslreports.com
Run: 2009-12-19 00:15:08 EST
Download: 8794 (Kbps)
Upload: 481 (Kbps)
In kilobytes per second: 1073.4 down 58.7 up
Boost: 8816
Latency: 65 ms
Tested by server: 3 flash
User: anonymous
User's DNS: shawcable.net
Compared to the average of 133 tests from shawcable.net:
* download is 37% better, upload is 26% worse

I should add that the Shaw tech also said that our line strength appeared to be low, and that a service person would come out in a couple of weeks to check it out. Oh, yeah, I also had a splitter on the line in my office so that I could watch news on a small 14" TV as I work (the tech and I tested the connection with/without the splitter and he said it still appeared weak), and today's test results were with the splitter removed. And one last note: we're on regular Shaw High-Speed (stated to be "up to 7.5 Mbps" down and "512Kbps" up), though the new modem would allow us to try High-Speed XTreme (at "up to 15 Mbps" down and "1Mbps" up) or High-Speed Warp (at "up to 25Mbps" down and "1Mbps" up) if we wanted to cough up the extra $$$.

Posted by Paul at 09:21 PM

December 15, 2009

PCs Advocate Rough Treatment for Liberal Senators?

Great editing catch by a fellow Editors' Association of Canada member. B. A. sent this SITW (Seen In The Wild) post to the EAC mail list, as seen on the National Post website:

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The photo caption reads:

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says Liberal Senators who voted to weaken her
product safety bill "are putting the health and safety of Canadian families at risk."

Posted by Paul at 08:58 PM

December 08, 2009

Computer Upgrade: Windows XP to Windows 7

My main Windows XP Pro box became increasingly flaky over the last few days and finally refused to boot yesterday. I have multiple complete image backups and data-only backups, but a combination of needing to get back to work fast, plus a lingering hope that I may be able to revive the XP box for backup, plus plain old techno lust for an up-to-date box with the latest OS resulted in coughing up $669 for a new machine with Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit edition.

Here's what a little over C$700 with tax gets you computer-wise these days:

  • AMD Phenom II X 4 Quad-Core processor at 2.8GHz
  • 6GB of RAM
  • 640GB HD
  • Radeon HD4350 video card with 512MB RAM
  • Lightscribe-capable dual-layer DVD drive
  • Loads of USB 2 ports and a Firewire port
  • A multiple-format card reader built in
  • Keyboard and Mouse (included but not needed since I already have good ones running through a KVM box to multiple computers)

Not bad. I didn't need to cough up for software, because I planned to install all my favourite programs that had been on the XP box. Good thing I got the new machine, because a CHKDSK /R of the main HD on the XP box is now at 74% after running for more than 30 hours.

So here I am after two days of installing apps and restoring data from backups. It's amazing how time-consuming this is. Installing apps is a pain - tracking down CDs, re-downloading some apps, entering all the registration data. . . Restoring data also takes hours: my photos alone tally around 250GB, and that took 4 1/2 hours to copy from an external USB 2 HD onto the internal HD of the new machine. Not to mention several dozen gigs more of My Documents, Music, etc.

So far, so good. I'm finding Windows 7 to be fast and clean. Love the 64-bit OS with 6GB of RAM - can keep lots of programs open without slowing things down. I find Windows 7 quite intuitive and not much of a learning curve compared to XP. I never had a machine with Vista, so can't comment on that OS. So far I haven't encountered any issues with running older 32-bit software on the 64-bit OS. I did have to download new 64-bit drivers for my printer, and I haven't got the scanner hooked up yet.

There have been a few strange occurrences along the way. I recently switched to Outlook 2007 for calendaring and to-do lists after years of Palm Desktop. I sync to an iPod Touch, and somehow the first sync with the iPod after restoring my Outlook.PST file resulted in a slew of strange, repeating calendar entries that went on for decades. I thought I'd zapped the errant entries, only to have them all reappear on a subsequent sync. Zapped them all again, forced a one-way sync from the Windows 7 box to completely overwrite the calendar on the iPod Touch, and. . . knock on plastic, it seems to be OK now.

I figure another day, and I'll have about 80% of the apps and 95% of the data from the old machine on the new box. The balance I'll deal with on an as-needed basis. Some of it I likely won't miss at all. HDs are so cheap these days that I've kept the main HDs from my last three or four Windows boxes on hand, just in case I missed transferring something to a newer machine along the way. I have an external USB 2 SATA HD cradle so I can easily pop drives in and out - it's cheap insurance to keep the old ones around and not overwrite them.

Posted by Paul at 08:00 PM

December 06, 2009

Birds at Blustery Boundary Bay

It was just above zero Celsius and the wind was a'blowin' as Yumi and I checked out the bird action on Boundary Bay around the south end of 72nd St. in Delta, BC, this afternoon. We saw lots of Northern Harriers, Gulls of several kinds, Northern Flickers, Robins, Herons, lots of waterfowl, etc.

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This bold Great Blue Heron was blithely hanging around the side
of the road about a hundred meters north of the end of the road.

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Mt. Baker in Washington State visible to the southeast
across Boundary Bay.

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There were lots of raptors, mostly Harriers.
Now that I'm looking at this photo, is it a Harrier?
We definitely saw Harriers, but dunno about this one. . .
Another photographer said he'd seen a short-eared owl.

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I believe this is a female Downy Woodpecker.

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A Northern Flicker of the "red-shafted race."

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There were lots of American Robins eating berries.

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Posted by Paul at 09:45 PM

December 02, 2009

Water Act Forum Stimulates, Educates

Thanks to Watershed Watch for putting on a forum yesterday "to discuss how NGOs can work together to move the Living Water Smart (LWS) agenda forward, and how groups can help to modernize the BC Water Act." I enjoyed the presentations, learned a lot, and was impressed with the knowledge represented by the people in the room.

The organizers are asking for input so here goes: I'm not sure if "getting groundwater in" came up much in discussion, and that's crucial, particularly in urban watersheds like the creek that I volunteer on as a streamkeeper. The focus seemed to be on sucking groundwater out, which of course is very important, but we shouldn't neglect the "letting it soak in naturally" part of the cycle.

I'm not sure if a water act can include things like impermeable vs permeable surfaces, swales, rain gardens, infiltration ponds, biofiltration, street-edge alternatives, etc., but rainwater infiltration > groundwater infiltration is crucial in urban watersheds. Otherwise too much water is dumped into creeks through rain drains (trying to reshape the debate by getting away from "storm drains") during moderate-to-heavy rains, and not enough gets into the ground to maintain base flows in long, hot, dry spells.

I know we don't want to get too detailed or prescriptive, so perhaps as part of the preamble, or guiding principles, there could be something about the permeability-groundwater issue in regard to promoting watershed-friendly development and redevelopment guidelines?

Posted by Paul at 09:40 PM