I retired in 2005 and we went south for the winter. The first January we worked at an orphanage in Oaxaca, Mexico. Then we did SOWER projects each January (2007, 2008, 2009) for a couple of years. In 2010 we took January off from SOWER work and did a bus and train trip through Mexico. In January 2011 we took a month off from SOWERS and picked up a burned out motor home in Las Vegas for a ministry in Texas. Then we took a few weeks at Big Bend National Park before returning to Harlingen to repair the motor home. Starting in January 2012 we have been going to Nicaragua for at least the month of January each year.
As you may have noticed, 2021 has started differently than previous years. So here we are in the frozen north woods. No warm sun, no warm, smiling, friendly people whose idea of personal space is much smaller than ours. Just anti-socially distanced people with masks covering their countenance and with stay-away body language.
We web surf.
We watch the grosbeaks at the bird feeder.
We walk on the days it is warm enough. Each day we walk we bring two pieces of firewood from the north edge of the property.
For Christmas I received a couple of gift certificates. With one gift certificate I bought a wood burning setUSA Link and a book Pyrography Basics: Techniques and Exercises for BeginnersUSA Link. The book has patterns to trace onto the wood using carbon paper. I think to myself “where am I going to find carbon paper these days”. My Dad was an accountant. There was always a thin box of carbon paper with the boxes of letterhead and bond paper next to his typewriter, but I haven’t seen carbon paper for years. Nor a typewriter come to think about it. Fortunately, when I opened the wood burning set it had a piece of carbon paper. I used it to trace a pattern of some wheat onto a scrap 1x4 left over from a drawer making project last month. That worked.
What worked better was the Da Vinci Eye app on my smart phone. You find a picture you like and select it on your phone. Then you place the phone on a water glass to hold it in the same place over your workpiece. You adjust the transparency of the screen and you can see both the picture and your workpiece as you draw the picture in pencil on your workpiece. Then you go to work with your wood burning set. The set worked fine. It has mixed reviews, but I was pleased with the weight of the pen, the heat adjustability and the ease of changing tips. Choosing tips was a little confusing in that the names of tips varies between the set instructions, the book and on-line resources. I muddled through which is one of the traits of an experimental learner. “I wonder what happens if I press this?” Press it and then you know even if maybe you wouldn’t have wanted to. I was happy with the results of pressing forward and in the gallery above there are a couple of pictures of my first efforts. There is no place for a review here because it’s a hobby so there are no customers to satisfy and no need for a feedback loop.
Speaking of reviews. I went looking for a cassette tape to MP3 transcription unit on line. If you spend thousands of dollars you can probably get pretty good results even with music tapes. I started working in industry as a high school student. In a noisy industry with limited or no hearing protection available. So my standards are pretty low on sound quality and my budget is really low. Like maybe forty bucks. I had bought a a deviceUSA Link a few years ago and waited a while to try it. By the time I did try and failed to get reliable results it was too late to send back. This month I bought a replacementUSA Link (a different brand) and tried it right away because it had a mixture of both good and bad reviews. If it didn’t work I wanted to find that out while the return for refund window was still open. It’s quirky. If you don’t like fussing with quirky, marginal electronic gadgets don’t bother. I have a couple of hundred old cassette tapes. I dug out a Rubbermaid tub full of cassette tapes. I donated some of the dross, sent the kids’ tapes to Edmonton and started transcribing enough of the keepers to learn how to do it. It has an auto pilot mode I don’t trust to work, but the manual mode works once you understand its quirks and limitations.
It gives marginal audio results. The quality is good enough for spoken tapes to be listened to by somebody with marginal hearing. I used a FAT32 Format USB stickUSA Link I bought at the same time. For editing I had to download and learn to use the Audacity sound editor (free on-line). I have now have old sermons by Billy Strachan and others and some favorite motivational tapes I can listen to again. After the first couple of dozen tapes had established functionality I moved onto other projects. I’ll get back. I promise. After the blog is caught up. After taxes are done. Oh. Then it might be nice outside. Well. Maybe next winter. I hope we will be gone south by then, but at least I have something to do if we stay.
As happens every year at this time my birthday rolls around, or the celebration of it does. No churrasco at the Garden Café in Granada, Nicaragua this year. But we did have our second restaurant meal in the year of Covid. In September for our anniversary we did the patio at the Eatery on Main. Not something we’d want to repeat in a Saskatchewan January, but we did pick-up a takeout order of the same items and brought them home to dine. One daughter bought a trial subscription of Amazon Prime so she could get fast free shipping of my birthday gift. According to her you can start a free 30 day trial and cancel it right away so it doesn’t become a permanent subscription fee and they still let you complete the balance of the free trial period. I think she said 30 days, but do your own research, memories are what they are plus things can change.
Check it out here (Canada) or here (USA). In addition to the shipping benefits they enjoyed a number of streamed movies with their kids.
Red Seal ICT Editing
The Red Seal program is the mechanism used to ensure that trades qualifications are somewhat consistent across Canada. ICT is the acronym for what used to be called Instrument Mechanic. It stands for Instrumentation Control Technician or something like that. I feel classier already.
I had volunteered to participate in a workshop to review inter-provincial exam questions in December in Calgary. That got cancelled because Covid.
Instead, this month, four of us met virtually using Web-Ex, a secure equivalent of Zoom. There was another journeyman in the trade from Alberta, an apprenticeship branch person from Alberta and a federal person from Hull. We were all working from home. For an enjoyable four hours we went through exam questions that form part of the database that generates exams for ICT. We did our calculations and argued our viewpoints over which was the best, correct answer. A few caught me. I saw right away where I had made my mistake after picking one of the plausible but wrong answers. That’s the value of experience. You see where you made mistakes more quickly. Also explains why my marks were usually in the low nineties and not 100 percent.
For security, no member of the public sees more than a small proportion of the question database (maybe 15%?) which makes the session one and done. Pity. I really enjoyed that. Almost social interaction and no boring small talk. The four hours went quickly.
Tried Keto Two Minute English Muffin recipe a friend sent me. I learned what a ramekin was. I learned that as much as I am not a fan of genuine English muffins I like keto ones even less. Also learned that limp, fake English muffins only purpose in a toaster is to lean into the heating element and start burning. Unplug the toaster before poking around in it. I already knew that. It will be a couple of months before I learn in The Design of Everyday Things how many people a year die from that practice. I also already knew that English muffins didn’t come from England originally. They came from Mr. English’s bakery in NYC. By the way, they don't play well with toasters but you can "toast" them in a frying pan.
Speaking of eating things you may not want to there are snacks made from insect larva available at Amazon. Larvets Sampler Gift Pack- BBQ, Cheddar Cheese, & Mexican Spice2.1g eachUSA Link Let me know how they taste. Probably not going to willingly gain firsthand knowledge myself. Although I did eat roasted grasshoppers in Mexico. They have heaps of them for sale in the market in Oaxaca. They are presented as appetizers in restaurants with peanuts and slices of lime on the side. They’re not bad unless they are soggy from being too close to the lime slices. Then they are kinda gross.
I hesitate to mention next something at the far extreme of the spectrum from gross. It’s so tasty it’s dangerous.
I bought a book this month. Not new to buy a book. A cookbook. Also not new to do. I have made just one recipe from Ketogenic Fat Bomb Recipes: A Ketogenic Cookbook with 20 Paleo Ketogenic Recipes For Fast Weight LossUSA Link. This recipe is so good I have to ration the results. These treats don’t knock me out of ketosis. They are low carb. But they are so full of fats at their 9 kilocalories per gram that if you don’t limit your intake, your weight loss can stall and maybe even reverse. “Chocolate Almond Fat Bombs” is recipe number five in Ketogenic Fat Bomb Recipes. Using almond butter, coconut oil and cocoa powder as the main ingredients it says it makes 10 to 15 treats. It calls for letting the mixture cool and forming into balls and then “refrigerate to set”.
It didn’t seem like the ball thing would work very well so I went with cupcake papers. The latest batch I have made is a double batch with 51 snacks. If you went with 20 from a double batch you would end up with pucks rather than snacks, but, hey! Go for it! You were warned.
The recipe calls for stevia. I have used allulose and erithytol for sweetener in this. Both worked. Once the mixture is in the cupcake liners and starting to set up I dust with a little allulose powder and drop an almond into the middle. Great with coffee.
Store in the fridge or freezer.
Caution: a friend stores his in the freezer and nearly broke a tooth on an almond. I use the fridge but still approach the almonds with caution. I add peppermint extract to some batches. The friend adds shredded coconut to the mix. I don’t particularly like shredded coconut and didn’t add it to Nanaimo bars when I made those back in the day so haven’t tried that variant.
Books of This Month
We discovered Kindle book loans this month. You can share certain of the titles in your Kindle library with friends. Your libraries have to be in the same country and there are some titles that are not available to be loaned. If the option is shown when you browse your library then loaning is an option. You can waste a lot of time trying to loan a book that is not allowed to be loaned. Well, no you can’t. You’ve just been taught that if the option isn’t shown in the data for that item then it’s a waste of time to go trying to sneak up on it from different directions.
Below are most or all of the books I've read this month.
The Warsaw Protocol Canada LinkUSA Link written by Steve Berry is a Cotton Malone thriller set (mostly) in Poland. Some neat local attractions are highlighted.
The Fall of FortressesCanada LinkUSA Link by Elmer Bendiner is a WW2 history on Flying Fortress bombers and the aerial battle over Germany.
Philip Mercer Book 7, Havoc, by Jack DuBrul Canada LinkUSA Link was a fast moving thriller with some time in Africa. Enjoyable if you are not terribly concerned with your fiction having to be realistic.
Winter of the World by Ken Follett continues his epic triology with 1930’s Communism, and the rise of the Nazis. Follett makes history interesting without much if any damage to accuracy. Canada LinkUSA Link
The Shadow FileCanada LinkUSA Link by A.C. Fuller (An Alex Vane Media Thriller) The deep state can be beaten. In fiction, at least.
Spencer Sheinin, CPA, CA wrote Entreprenumbers about getting the financial information you need to run your business from your accountants. Readable if you are interested in business. Canada LinkUSA Link
Drug of ChoiceCanada LinkUSA Link Michael Crichton as John Lange. Written when Chrichton was a medical student. Disturbing lurid cover on a readable mystery book about a mysterious drug that turns people’s urine blue.
Primary Target by Jack Mars (Luke Stone book 1) A thriller in Iraq and elsewhere with a lethal Delta force soldier as the central character. Canada LinkUSA Link
523 Hard to Believe FactsCanada LinkUSA Link Nayden Kostov and Andrea Leitenburger compiled a collection of surprising and entertaining facts such as the first country to grant citizenship to a robot.
Ketogenic Fat Bomb Recipe Book see above
One Little MistakeCanada LinkUSA Link by Casey Hill (Kelly Steel book one) A page turner psychological thriller
Rysa Walker'sNow Then & Everywhen is Book one of the Chronos Files, Time travel with some interesting insights into the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Canada LinkUSA Link
Lies my Doctor Told Me by Ken D. Berry MD, FAAFP Lots of truths in this book. You may have noticed I read a bit but there were two chapters that I learned stuff. Most of the others were reinforcements or added details of tuff I’ve seen elsewhere over the years. Remember iatrogenic causes (death by medical system) are the third leading cause of death and the people who keep the stats are responsible for it. Canada LinkUSA Link
Paper Money - Ken Follett – One of Ken Follett’s early works. Short read compared to his thousand page tomes I have mentioned elsewhere on this list. Canada LinkUSA Link
Walk the Wire – David Baldacci The usual Baldacci, book 6 of Memory Man, keeps you interested. Canada LinkUSA Link
The Mystery Hideout – Ken Follett (juvenile mystery book) – Written for the juvenile reader, bit I enjoyed it. Almost like an English Hardy Boys equivalent style.Canada LinkUSA Link