Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Power in the field

Some of you may find the use of a generator while out in the bush a great convenience. Some might choose to go battery or solar, but whatever you choose, the point is, you have the ability to keep your equipment running when necessary.

I personally prefer solar and storage batteries, but sometimes they just don't cut it. Inverters draw power even when not in use and batteries are heavy, so hauling them into the bush can be quite challenging.

I came across a Walmart brand of generator, intrigued, because is was a pure sine-wave inverter generator, meaning clean, 110v power at the outlet. What fascinated me the most was the size. Can be easily carried with one hand and it's tiny, given the output - 800 watts constant, 1000 watt surge.It can actually handle 900 watts constant without any issues. Did I mention it's tiny? Indeed it is - Take a peek. I used a 3.78 litre jug of vinegar for comparison.

Now the problem that many might come across is the constant noise that one of these make. Yes, they can be loud. This one is rated at 62db which is not bad at all, in fact, after planting it in the bush, behind a tree and running an extension cord, it becomes a barely noticeable hum. But the real point is that you only run it when needed and as I mentioned, I would rather go solar with a storage battery than use a generator, but sometimes solar is not quick or powerful enough. Large arrays of panels are extremely expensive and cumbersome. So I end up bringing a small panel, a small storage battery and run my chargers off that. Battery gets a little too low, panel can't keep up, I fire up the generator and charge the battery then shut it down. If it's a real aggressive energy consumption day, such as burning the midnight oil and needing to light up the camp, yeah, the battery will run the inverter for a period of time, but even with CFL's or LED lighting, they will eventually push the battery to it's limit and shut down. Time to fire the generator up. 

I've used lanterns, candles, efficient LED lighting, laptop, recorders, etc but frankly, the convenience of just being able to plug in has it's benefits and caveats. I think the first thing is noise, followed by smell, the fact that you are not "roughing" it and you might miss something - that weak sound off in the distance, you would never hear it. I totally agree, but it's merely a camp maintenance tool for me and I would never consider going the entire duration running one of these. Just when needed. There is ample opportunity between run times to get stuff done and to absorb the reason why you came to your location to begin with. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz recently released an electric version of their Smart Fortwo car. Their website in Canada was not behaving very well so I could not find out many details about it. I am seriously thinking of a change, lighten up the pocket book in regards to commuting. That extra $$$ could go a long way.
Any thoughts or comments about EV's?

**UPDATE** Sept 9, 2014

Took in enough information to take the plunge and buy one of these. Incentives and overall cost really worked out well for me. For the few weeks I have had it, I am enjoying it more and more. No more gas, a savings of several hundred dollars a month. Has enough range to get to work and back, and I can charge at work (we have charging stations).

Wonderful little piece of engineering. Will keep you all posted, winter (sigh) is approaching and while I was assured the car will be fine, I am curious, more than anything else, about how it will do. Yeah, I bought a winter tire package from the dealership so that area is covered.......


I just married the love of my life last week, now spending time in Italy. Sometimes you have to push things aside to make the more important things in life come to fruition. When things begin to come together the way that you planned, you really set your sights on the end result. It was a perfect wedding and we're having a perfect honeymoon. Sitting on a balcony in Villa on an island in the Northern Italian Alps, I couldn't ask for anything more, nor could my wife. Such a beautiful place, we've been here before, and knew that this was one of the most picturesque and perfect destination for our honeymoon.
As I am blogging this, I am reminded of some of my past posts about my book and my radio show. I did promise to bring the show back on the air sometime ago, and I realize that has not happened. I have no excuse for it except to say that sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes there are things that are more important than hobbies and passions. When you travel to another country with different cultures, you begin to see the uniqueness in your own, something that you probably take for granted , only because of routine. It made me reflect on what I do on a daily basis, and some of the things that I have missed out on, opportunities and chances, but I do not feel like I've been cheated, rather, I'm trying to make a life and a living for myself and of course my wife. Hobbies and passions will always be there, it's making the time for them, to fit your life, so that you'll be comfortable.

The radio show will come back and the book will be written. In fact, the book is pretty much ready to be released. I've gone through it over and over again, & I keep making changes to make it perfect , well, at least in my mind. Perfection might not necessarily be something that I follow, but in this case, this will be permanent, so I want it to be as good as possible. The radio show, I'm still thinking about content, I know other people do radio shows with consistency and have been able to do so for some time, but uniqueness is something that I've always strived for in order to convey my own thoughts and opinions rather than a cookie-cutter format.

I've never felt more enthusiastic and enthralled about starting a new life with my new wife and getting back on track.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pushing the limits - Wind Mobile

Wind Mobile offers a pretty appetizing deal on "unlimited" data for devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Trouble is, they are only nested in areas that have a considerable population density. If you look at their coverage maps, coverage is available throughout most of Canada, but their "unlimited" zones (what they refer to as home zone) is limited. Their "away" zone, they charge a flat fee for each service you use, such as texting, data , voice. Think of it just like roaming on a foreign network, which is weird nowadays as roaming is considered as your communication option outside of Canada, but certainly not within. Perhaps this is how they keep their margin low and can offer such attractive prices.

I love the idea of having unlimited data no matter where I am in Canada. In particular, two things come to mind. No overage charges and being able to remain connected no matter where I am. I would love to post in real time when I am in the bush, which I have in the past, but sometimes it's hard to do. Coverage is sometimes spotty. Data might drop, the iPhone that I currently use, on occasion in poor signal areas, comes back and says "cannot send message". Not often, but it happens.

Now imagine if your paying for the roaming data access, at $1/mb. These sort of inconsistencies might cause a bit of stress. I know, it's not a lot but it does add up if you were planning on being out for a while, wanted to download or upload large emails or stream something like video. It all adds up.

Very recently I became aware of the fact that the material on some websites that the vendors produce, might not necessarily reflect the actual usability of devices in certain areas.

I have a friend who messages me every so often, I told him that I was getting a new tablet with 4G / LTE service capabilities. He asked which carrier I was going to go with. I told him that I was still trying to work it out but mentioned Wind, with hesitation, knowing that they have limited coverage for their "unlimited" services.

He was quick to point out that they underestimate and understate their coverage to ensure that potential fringe customers are reduced at their checkouts. He gave a great example, having been with Wind for a short period of time, he noticed that once he left Barrie, northbound on Hwy 400, his Wind network switched to the "away" provider (roaming) about 2km north of Horseshoe Valley Road. Ok, so now he was paying per use for all services. He was heading to Coldwater and the phone only clicked back once to Wind, albeit for a few moments, then flicked back to roaming on the other network.

Coldwater had no Wind coverage. None. Zilch. Or at least he thought. He remembered me telling him about the repeater option for fringe areas, something that was a modest investment, but frankly he needs to be connected, like me, for work related purposes. He got himself a AWS (LTE) booster from Ebay at a reasonable price, considerably lower than retail. He played around with the external directional antenna, finding a sweet spot and within a few seconds the system made contact with the Wind service and there you have it! Wind service was online.

The blue dot at the top of the map below represents my friends relative location. The blue outline towards the bottom represents the typical extent of the signal.

So, if network coverage is a concern and you need it, don't give up right away and hand your money over to the major carriers. Do a bit of research. You might be able to stretch that dollar and stretch that signal!!


For obvious reasons we don't setup trail cameras that face directly toward the sun. Falsing and a memory card filled with useless images in addition to quickly depleted batteries are not considered a good outcome. But for those who have played around with trail cameras, such as yours truly, no doubt have come across a time when the setup was not perfect and you had tons of pictures of "nothing".

Well, in some situations, your camera may be exposed to the sun, but not necessarily looking right at it. That's half the battle. Unfortunately, there is now another component to consider. Weathering.
The camera shown below has been quite faithful. Albeit, it does get some sun exposure, the results of weather are obvious. The latch above the lock loop has broken right off. The plastic is pretty brittle.
The latch just below the lock loop is ready to go. Once it does, I will have to use the lock loop with a nylon tie wrap or twist tie.

Mind you, this camera has been out since January 2011. If you notice the cord at the bottom, this thing is being fed by a solar panel and gel cell battery, which have not required maintenance since it was first turned on. (Yes, it's still running).
I figure the camo tape job I did on it is acting like a sunscreen for the rest of the camera. Had I left this camera where it was initially deployed, just outside of Parry Sound, the condition of it might be a lot better, for the location was shaded by a healthy canopy of trees. I only removed it because I was planning on a trip to a potential area of interest and I wanted all the equipment I could get my hands on. The trip never happened, but during the waiting period I decided to put camo tape on the camera to help it blend in. This is when I started to experiment with the solar panel. I am impressed.

When it comes to longevity, think about your setup. If you have the intention to leave a camera out for an extended period of time, consider its exposure to the elements. I recall a fellow who left a camera out for a very long period of time, to find that tree sap had made it's way down the front of the camera, obscuring it's view. A shame, really, but you might not think about things like that. The "birdhouse" roof is a neat idea, covering the top of the camera, with a slight overhang of the roof to shield the front. Small leaves, branches glued to the roof. Anything to make it blend in as best as possible, while offering protection.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hybrid human?

Curtis is a friend of mine who I don't get to see very often.  A short time with him, walking through his lot near the Gibson River, he told me about a noise he heard some time ago. Not just any noise, but a "snap", then a "crack". This did not last a day, it went on for weeks. Or so he remembers.

Curiosity got the better of him, having heard this for long enough, he decided to venture into the bush to find out what it was making the noise.

We stopped, shortly after he told me about his mid day stroll into the woods. He looked up, covered his brow with his hand and peered into the distance.

"There" he said. I gazed and saw a cedar tree, uprooted, lying against another tree.

"I reckon it was the winter. Ice in the roots. Lot of trees coming down."

I didn't completely buy that excuse, there were still several trees upright looking healthy.
"Maybe just wind", I said, followed with "Yeah, it's been a hard winter"

"Did you hear it come down?" I asked.
Curtis paused, turned and looked at me.
He chuckled.

"If a tree falls in the woods......."
I stopped him before he could finish.

"Ok, I get it. So how do you know this is what it was?"

"I saw it. Right in front of me. Like it was waiting for me to see it."
"That would be rare", I said.
"It was", he replied.

Like I said, it was a short time with him. I had an appointment to deal with, knowing that I was tight on time, left his lot with a promise to return.

Got a phone call later that night. It was Curtis. We chatted for a bit, a computer program I told him about was giving him some trouble. We fixed the issue pretty quickly and I chatted with him for a while afterwards
"What do you think about me putting a camera on your property, you have a good amount of wildlife up there"
His answer was not what I expected.

"You can put out whatever you like but if your still looking for the monster monkey your not going to find it in these woods".

"But you told me you believe it exists? Didn't you? I could swear you said that you share the woods with something"

"I do", he said. "But its far greater than a monkey or ape. Its a wise man of sorts. This thing is on a different level of intelligence. A different plane altogether. We are none the wiser."

Now, Curtis realizes that I post stuff every so often about experiences, asking if I could quote him, knowing that he would let me use the recorder on the phone to make sure I got exactly what he was saying. I think he was a bit humbled by this. "You can't tell me that its just man and beast. There has to be something else. Too much difference between us".
I knew what he was saying, in fact, mildly concurred.

"You mean something in evolution or another form of human?"
"Humans are not meant to be outside. Whether its evolution that caused this, having a roof over your head and trying to avoid getting wet, I doubt it. We are born in water. Why can't we survive outside?"
"Something between us and some sort of ape. Hybrid. That seems to be a good term. I'm kidding about your monster monkey. Bigfoot isn't right though. It more human. Smart human."

A refreshing perspective.

I told Curtis I would post this after his approval. He consented, but reiterated, its a hybrid smart human, if  anything.

I asked, would it matter if it looked more like a ape? Would you call it a human?

He said "when I say the word cat, do you immediately think of a housecat?"
"Yes", I said, "I do".

"So what happens when you see a 200 pound Puma in your backyard?"

Yeah, I got his point. It is perspective.

Thanks for the chat Curtis. And thanks for letting me post.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Every so often....

"Narcissistic Personality Disorder".  (Click to view link)

Isn't that a way to open up a blog post? I felt it fitting to post this because of two very contrasting emails received over the past few days.

An acquaintance of mine, Len, messaged me while he was stationed in the Dunchurch area. 4th year of owning a small chunk of land where he is slowly building a cabin to retire to, staying in a small RV while onsite. He quipped about the cold weather, citing that if it keeps up, the timber will be rotted before he even gets a chance to drive nails through it.

I concurred, telling him that it was pretty cold down my way, the hydro and heating bills will not be appreciated. Realizing how quickly I responded to his message, he caught me online and we chatted back and forth in Messenger, of note, he mentioned that he had been going through propane very quickly and he might consider a small heat box (as he put it), if he could figure out how to vent it properly. Basically a small wood burning stove, very small, in fact. Similar to that below.

With wood being plentiful on his lot, this seemed like a very good idea. He would still need propane but would certainly reduce his consumption while remaining warm.

During our chat about the stove, he mentioned something that I could picture, very vividly, almost made me feel right at home. To quote "leaving the window cracked just slightly to circulate the air as the stew simmered on the stove." Citing a childhood recollection, he was mentioning how his mother would do so and as he came home from school he could smell the stew before he even entered the property.

I could smell that stew. I knew that stove would make an excellent addition to his RV, but also a great slow cooker. On that note, we ended our chat and made an effort meet up, possibly in spring, for some R&R.

Skimming through more of my emails, I came across another one that made me chuckle. The opposite of what I had just experienced, hence the post title "Every so often". 

Yes, Narcissistic Personality Disorder. 

Several years of being humored by early morning or late night rants finally tired me out. Before I even finished reading the message, it was sitting in my trash folder. I chuckled, thought to myself that I wasted a few moments of my life again with this diatribe garbage, then looked back at the meaningful message and ensuing chat that I just had a few moments ago. What a difference. 
Email is like a newspaper, if you don't like what you read you turn the page.
So I did. And while doing so, I went through other messages, finally cleaning up my inbox, realizing how much time was wasted on frivolous communications. Block users, unsubscribe to mailers. Spring cleanup had come early. 

Len called me back on messenger about an hour later. I told him about the "spring cleaning", funny, he said he was tired of junk as well, but deals with it, Google Gmail is pretty good filtering out crap but some stuff comes through. He's subscribed to Sanebox, I tried it, I like it. Working on the trial right now. But that wasn't the reason for the call. 

He asked "Do you have a fireplace?". 
I hesitated...."No, why do you ask?"
"If you ever need wood, if you get one, help yourself. I should have mentioned that earlier. Guess it's not a big deal though if you can't use it."

"No", I said, I can't, at least not right now, but we have a firepit in the backyard. I'll take you up on that in spring."

"Not a problem", he said. "Have a good one".

Hurry up spring! Enough of this winter!