Tuesday, September 25, 2007

While you're waiting

Haven't posted much lately. Been busy. Sorry 'bout that. I've got a couple of posts in the making, but they are taking a bit longer than I expected. I hope to get to them soon.

I was just flipping through a math text and came across this newspaper clipping that I had been using as a bookmark. I thought that I would offer its contents to keep you entertained until I can give you something better.

"Things aren't always what they seem. the cucumber, for instance, is not a vegetable -- technically, it's a fruit

So are the tomato, eggplant, pumpkin, squash, gherkin, green beans, corn, avocados and okra.

Rhubarb is botanically a vegetable, not a fruit.

A banana tree isn't a tree; it's an herb.

A peanut is not a nut; it's a legume.

The onion is a lily, botanically speaking.

'Cooking is at once one of the simplest and most gratifying of the arts, but to cook well, one must love and respect food.'
-- Craig Claiborne."

-- Sara Perks, The Hamilton Spectator.

The contents of this newspaper clipping do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the author of this blog, nor does it necessarily reflect the facts of botany.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I finally made the fern curry last night, though obviously too late to use fresh fiddleheads. While I was making it, I realized that I had written 12tsp. of salt when it should have written 1/2 tsp. I hope that none of you tried to make it using 12tsp. I've corrected it along with a few other typos.

Motel Camping, etc.

On the third last week of the summer, I usually go away on the remnant of a family vacation [1]. The day I would normally leave happened to be the day of my defence. Fortunately for me, the older of my two sisters and her husband decided to come up for the first weekend of the vacation because of my mom's birthday. They were leaving later in the day than my mom, so I was able to leave Saturday morning, instead of the usual Friday evening, and go to my sister's house to get a ride with her from there.

My car had failed it's e-test the Saturday before. I had mentioned this to my niece, daughter of the same sister, earlier that week. She mentioned that her fiancee's boss, a mechanic, was great at getting cars to pass e-tests, legitimately of course. She does not live too far from my sister, so I could leave my car at my sister's house and someone could come pick up the car and work on it while I was away. It was perfect.

On Saturday morning, I was on the road by 10:00. Before I left Kingston, I dropped off a fish at a friends house, and then headed for the 401. I decided to stop at the Tim Horton's right before the highway. This was a great way to waste a half an hour. So much for fast food [2]. It didn't matter much in the end, mind you. I had to meet someone in Toronto at 1:00 to sign a lease, and I still arrived early, at 12:58. We were done at around 1:30. I couldn't stay too long--though I wouldn't have minded--since I was supposed to be in Brantford by 4:00 at the latest.

Unlike from Kingston to Toronto (Scarborough, actually), the traffic from Toronto to Brantford was bad. It was bumper to bumper for at least half the way, aside from the 427 and a short stretch of the QEW. I arrived at my sister's house around 3:30, about an hour later than I would have if the traffic had been good [3]. It turned out that my sister and her husband were running behind schedule too, so I had no reason to hurry. We were on the road shortly after 5:00. Normally when I make this trip, or any trip for that matter, I am the driver. This time around, however, I was able to be a passenger. Perhaps not everyone is so easily amused, but I thoroughly enjoyed being able to look out the window at the scenery.

The week was mostly just relaxing, and not really too eventful. I was able to relax more this year, having finally defended my thesis. Regular activities included watching my nieces play T-ball and sitting around the campfire. One day we drove up to Tobermory and took the ferry from there to Manitoulin Island and back. On my last full day there, I had lunch with a friend in nearby Owen Sound. When I got back from lunch, I made an attempt at windsurfing. I didn't get much actual windsurfing done, unless you count being blown around by the wind while trying to pull the sail out of the water as windsurfing. If you do, then I'm proud to say that I successfully windsurfed my way across the bay. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use that technique to get back to my starting point, and had to be rescued (my signal for "I need help" was sitting kind of hunched over on the surfboard. It's a rather slow signal. I don't recommend it.) The rest of the day was more or less like any other, with more T-ball and campfire. The next day, after cleaning out the motel unit and going out for breakfast, we headed home.

I was looking forward to being able to go to my sister's (the other sister) house to pick up an e-tested, problem free car. I had been talking with my niece's fiancee throughout the week, though, and suspected that my car would not be ready. On my way home, about a half an hour to forty-five minutes from my sister's house, I got a phone called confirming my suspicions. It sounded like it would be ready to go on Monday morning, and they were confident that whatever repairs they were going to do would get my car to pass. I had dentist appointment in the afternoon, and I was also planning on heading back to Kingston later that day, so I headed up to Simcoe, where my niece lives, to pick the car up without bothering to wait for a phone call. Just as I got there, the mechanic left with my car to go get it e-tested. Unfortunately, it was a busy day for e-tests at a nearby Canadian Tire (I wouldn't recommend going there for any other automotive work, based on my own past experiences, as well as the experiences of others, but apparently Canadian Tire is a good place to go to get your car e-tested). They ended up waiting longer than they expected, and were not back in time for me to drive back to Hamilton for my dentist appointment. Thinking that the car would pass the e-test once they had a chance to test it, I simply headed back to Simcoe once the dentist appointment was done. The car didn't pass however. When I got there, the mechanic was trying to get a conditional pass. My car was the first ever that he had not been able to get to pass, and he wasn't sure what the procedure was, so it took him longer than expected. He didn't quite make it in time, so my car sat in Simcoe one more night, and I made one more trip back to Hamilton. I could have taken a chance on driving back to Hamilton without a sticker. The chances of getting caught were pretty slim, but I wasn't in a risk taking mood at that point.

Here's why. Of course, I had expected that the car would pass its e-test, and it's a bummer that it didn't. You know that I had to get a conditional pass, so you can figure out how much I was already going to pay the mechanic. On top of that, there were a number of other things that were wrong with the car too. They were all mostly small, but the cost added up. Still, the total was less than the upper limit that I was hoping to pay, though not by much. When I bought the car, the mechanic told me that the engine was not the original, but I didn't know just how unoriginal the engine was. The mechanics noticed that the wires were cut. No big deal. Except that the wiring in my car did not match the wiring diagram they they had on file for my make and model. The number of wires at certain spots didn't even match their diagram, which made it hard to fix certain components. They were "mindfreaked" by this. Not only that, but the car didn't have an EGR valve. It's not like someone took it off. It was never there. The EGR valve is a key component in controlling the type of gas that my car was failing on, and every car sold in North America (or Japan, or Europe, or anywhere with emissions standards) in the last, say, 20 years at least, would have one. Basically this means that the car will never pass an e-test. It turns out, not surprisingly, that the engine doesn't even belong here. It comes from some country without the same emissions standards as North America. I'm now wondering if the mechanic (different mechanic) that I bought the car from got a hot e-test from someone. Certainly he must have known that the engine he was putting in the car wasn't a normal engine. But wait. That's not all. One of the other things that I took the car in for was an oil leak. It had been there for a while, but the oil spot underneath my car had been getting larger and larger. I thought it was just the gasket for the oil pan deteriorating more and more. Part of the oil leak was due to the a leaky gasket, but once they got that fixed, they noticed it was still leaking oil. Just after the e-test was finally done, they diagnosed the problem. There is a crack in the engine block, right at the point where the oil filter screws onto the block. Apparently, it's the first time that the mechanic's ever seen a crack in the part of the block. In case you are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of automobiles, a cracked block means NOT GOOD NOT GOOD NOT GOOD REALLY REALLY NOT GOOD. It also means that my car will leak oil forever, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. To sum up, since the car has no EGR valve, it will never pass an e-test, so I can never sell it, and since it has a cracked block, nobody would want to buy it, even if I could. So you can see why I wasn't in a mood to drive around without a licence sticker. The next day, when I arrived the car was ready to be picked up. I paid my bill, and then headed to my niece's house (which is virtually next door to the mechanic), had some lunch, and finally drove home in my own car.

I'm glad that I was able to take it to the mechanic that I did. He and his crew spent a great deal more time on my car than they charged me for, and on top of that, he charged me family rate instead of the full hourly rate. For that I am extremely grateful. I can't imagine how much I would have had to pay somewhere else for a car that's driving on the green mile.

[1] Since I was 13, and possibly since I was even younger than that, the family vacation has only included me, one of my two brothers, and my parents. If you go back far enough, it included one my two sisters when the location of the vacation was somewhere else. I don't remember when she stopped coming. Since my brother started working, it has mostly been just me with my parents, and now that my father has passed away, it's just me and my mom. It feels strange to call it a family vacation when only 2 out of seven members of my immediate family participate. My one sister has family vacation with her husband and two kids that same week, but I'm pretty sure that this is more a happy coincidence than anything else, since she never actually stayed with us while we were there.

[2] This was my first time visiting this particular Tim Horton's, but slow service seems to be my usual experience with any Tim's in Kingston, other than the two on Queen's campus. If the brand name weren't so popular around here, I doubt that any of these restaurants would still be in business.

[3] The traffic is never good on that stretch of the highway. Even late at night (well late to me), I usually have to drive in the passing lane just to drive the speed limit.