Friday, November 30, 2007
Easy trip up to SF. On the walk to the convention center we stopped by a ceramic shop that Lou wanted to go see. Turns out there isn’t so much more there and the prices aren’t that much less that Lou wont just use her usual shops closer to home.
We stopped for brunch at Mel’s dinner next to the convention center, but outside the high convention center prices. We shared a pot roast sandwich and had tea.
When we entered the show the first car we saw was only half a car. The Tango is a well built four wheel car that is about as wide as a motorcycle. It carries two people, though a tad cramped. Lou and I fit inside with moderate use of a shoe horn. It’s performance is similar to a drag racer. It’s an all electric vehicle that has a two hundred mile range on its batteries. Oddly enough, it’s extremely stable even though it is so narrow due to the batteries being so low to the ground under the seats. Parking is no problem and lane splitting is supposed OK too. Interesting vehicle, but, it costs over $100,000. Not good for us. George Clooney can afford it, we can’t. We’ll wait for the price to drop, and drop, and drop.
We looked over a number of garage built all electric and electric hybrids with supplemental batteries. All look interesting but I’m not really interested in an odd vehicle.
We talked a lot with the Toyota people about their hybrids. They are supposedly testing a new fleet of hybrids with extra batteries for use on battery only for most use. They sound interesting. Many have been built by others but Toyota is interested in the bigger market so price/performance are more important to them. The current Prius looks good. Excellent gas mileage but is too short on two things important to us. Safety (only 4 stars of 5) and can’t be towed on all four wheels, needs a dolly. So on we went.
We looked at the Suziki SX4 SUV. Good mileage (24 city 30 highway) and low cost ($15-17k) . Excellent warranty and safety rating. Can be towed on four wheels flat. It is a smaller SUV and therefore lighter (only 28-2900 lbs).
Next stop, the Mazda Tribute SUV Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). It gets good mileage (34 city and 30 highway). It’s reasonably priced ($25K+). Has good safety ratings of 5 for everybody except the driver which is 4. It can be towed on all four wheels. The Tribute is identical to the Mercury Mariner and Ford Escape but as shown at this show was $8k cheaper. That price difference may have been just the superficial features we don’t want anyway like an electric drivers seat, a backup camera and ultrasonic bump warning system and a couple of more speakers for the stereo. This one is our favorite because it meets our criteria and is roomy enough without getting too big.
Saturn had their Vue HEV. Not much info yet and we couldn’t touch it.
I liked an older Jeep Treo concept vehicle. It’s just what we need, a three person car. I’m not sure where the third bicycle would go?
Now this isn't too practical! Raise the hood, project your Xbox game on the underside of the raised hood and drive along merrily?
It was fun looking at all these cars but most of them we wouldn't have because they are so poorly designed and non functional. There was the small handful of serviceable vehicles and a show like this is the only way to auto shop!
We walked up to Chinatown for dinner at the Silver Restaurant it wasn’t as good as in the past. Must be new owners.
The train ride home was a little long. We arrived at the station at about 6:25 pm. The first train that stopped at our station in Palo Alto would have left at 6:56pm. Two other trains that wouldn’t stop there were to leave at 6:14 and 6:27. But, some problem existed on the tracks and four trains were stacked up just down the track and three here at the station. The 5:56 train that would stop at our station was still sitting there and passengers were moving from the 6:14 train to it because the 6:14 had been cancelled. About 6:35 the train left the station, moving slowly and waiting at stations and along the route due to the delayed trains ahead. The train was packed and we didn’t have a seat, along with many others standing in the isles and sitting on the stairs. People were taking it well. Many parties were started when beers were opened. The man next to us opened his bottle of a nice wine with the corkscrew he had just bought. I assume all the booze was intended for use after their arrival home but they were going to do what they could to forget the delays. We got a seat after a couple of station stops. We arrived home after about an hour and a half ride which normally takes one hour. Our arrival time at our station was actually a couple of minutes before the train we intended to take, the 6:56pm train, would have arrived so we really weren’t delayed at all.
We now are a little better prepared in the event we need to replace Lou's Volvo. It is getting a little older (21 years) and a little higher mileage (over 300K). From the show we learned we like the Mazda Tribute HEV (same as Mercury Mariner and Ford Escape). We also liked the Suzuki SX4. It gets good mileage but is a bit smaller. We have never really considered ourselves as SUV people even to the point of ridiculing them on occasion. I guess we've changed? Cars sure have.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Last week, when I stopped at Lowe’s I bought a new attic ladder. It’s a neat telescoping spring balanced ladder for small openings. After measuring and looking at what was needed to make the ladder work I decided to return it. It’s about 6 inches too short.
After Dawn returned from her appointment we all went to breakfast at Don Pedro’s restaurant downtown. We actually had lunch but the first meal of the day should be called breakfast. Lou and I had nice chili rellenos. Dawn had tacos. All very good.
Lou and Dawn stopped by the university library and I returned to Dawn’s place. The tenants kitchen sink had a leak since Lou worked on mouse proofing. The tenant has been finding droppings so we’ve been trying to seal the house better and exterminate the little critters. Some were killed when the house was fumigated a few weeks ago. Evidently the neighbors have a problem with them and now they are wandering over? They may be using the dog door? Any way, a little tightening seemed to eliminate the leak, I hope.
We all had dinner at the Bay Buffet, a Chinese buffet. We haven’t been there yet. There are three big Chinese buffets in San Jose and we’ll be checking them out. I really like the ones in Bakersfield and San Luis Obispo but haven’t found a good place near home yet. The Bay Buffet was fairly good but nothing special. The search continues.
After dinner, Lou dropped me off in downtown San Jose near the bus stop. I caught a bus home to Palo Alto. She and Dawn remained for their classes here in San Jose.
Tuesday: Nothing significant happened today.
Wednesday: Lou called early to tell me a big limb had fallen from the big cedar tree we just had thinned there at the house in San Jose. The limb was more than 12” in diameter and knocked off a six inch limb from the neighbors tree. One of the limbs fell on the neighbors car causing a small dent and broken headlight. Luckily only a small dent for such a big limb. I drove down quickly to take some pictures and the neighbor provided a couple she took of the car damage earlier. I then called the City to remove the debris. The city wouldn’t allow us to remove the tree before and required the pruning, now? They’ll be getting a letter from us.
I then returned home. Enough excitement. Lou and dawn had their classes and meetings and the thrift shop looking to do.
Thursday: Not too much exciting today. I did go out and look over the RV. I wanted to check the work that was done to it. I found that they had broken the hood latch. It’s a typical RV compartment latch, push the button to pop out a tee handle that turns to move an arm that latches the hood. You need to be alert enough to be sure the latch is open before slamming the hood shut, Most mechanics and oil changers are not that alert. I removed the arm and welded it together with a little re-enforcement as well. Good until the next service.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
As you might guess, breakfast and dinner were leftovers, a typical result of Thanksgiving.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wolfie and Ernie played on the slide. Wolfie can run up it. Walter is enjoying his holiday bone.
Ernie and the gang depart. We're always thankful for our Ernie visits!
Oddly enough, Black Friday was spent at home, away from the hoards. Dinner was more of the same but Ernie whipped up some creamed corn, not that canned stuff but ala Ernie with white sauce red peppers and green onions. H also add oven roasted cubed potatoes. All this topped off with a green salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I think he's having fun. We certainly are.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Lou wanted to get out really early, so the alarm headed out. We drove over to Hayward to meet her friend Connie. Connie was closing her mother's house and Lou was picking up her kiln ,wheel, and other ceramic stuff. The car was quite full with the three of us, and all that stuff.
There also were the three pies that Connie baked for us. Connie has become the Thanksgiving pie maker. It's a well deserved title. But Ernie is still in competition and baked a couple of excellent pies as well. The rest of us do our part and eat the pies.
After we returned, Lou and chef Ernie went to the market to get stuff for him to cook. After they returned, I took off toward San Jose to beat traffic and be at the RV repair shop when the RV is finished. Leale's had promised it today. They close at 5pm and I got the RV from them, in exchange for much money, at 5:20, That's dedication. Everything appears to be working better. No exhaust manifold noise. The transmission shifts smoothly. And the service light is off.
Traffic was kind of heavy so I returned via the surface streets rather than the freeway. Usually faster at such times and much more relaxing. All ready for a trip next month.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
When we returned it was time for me to prepare for my dentist appointment. All went well at the dentist so I called about the RV to see if it was ready or would be ready today since I was half way to San Jose already. The RV wouldn't be ready so homeward bound I became. When I got home Dawn's potatoes and onion soup was ready.
I started to relax when I got a call from Central Computer In Santa Clara that they had an eeePC for me. Surprise! When I visited their store by chance yesterday, they had a demo eeePC. I liked it. Nobody seems to ever have one to sell though, so I left my name on their waiting list. That was a quick wait. It was rush hour and the wrong direction to get tonight so I told them I'd be there tomorrow. Well that didn't last, I dashed on down in the traffic and picked it up while they had it. I didn't want them accepting a bribe and having it disappear.
Once home it popped out of the box and was setup and online in about 5 minutes. That's because it's a Linux computer not a windows computer. Some of the reasons I got it are: 1. size, it's about 9x6x1, or tiny. 2. It has good battery life because it is very low power. It includes all the essentials and no fluff. 4. It has wireless connectivity. 5. It has a camera. 6. It's neat.
I guess I'll be busy this evening. Yes, this post was made using the new eeePC.
Oh, I guess I need to make a correction. The name of the computer is the eeePC for Easy to learn work play, Excellent mobile experience, Excellent Internet experience. That would be a mouth full so it's shortened to eeePC but it's pronounced E-PC.
Brother Ernie called and estimated his arrival at 11 pm.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The RV needed a little attention. The service light has been coming on, for quite a while. The transmission shifting has been a little more jerky and all the fluids and filters need changing. It's also getting a pre-trip inspection. Getting the RV serviced here at home is always a hassle but not as much hassle as a breakdown on a trip. If lucky, it will be returned today.
I planned on looking around the area while they worked on it. I stopped by Central Computer in San Jose and they had an eeePC on display to try out. Quit nice but the keyboard is tiny. My fingers need to go on a diet. Everything works quit well and the performance on the web is great. This post made with the eeePC.
I stopped at Lowe's and saw a nice attic ladder that might work in our small, hard to get at attic opening in Dawn's house in San Jose.
There was also a visit to the big Fry's in Sunnyvale. This store replaced the original first Fry's location that moved from a small strip mall store on Oakmead near Lawrence Expressway. They then moved to a location across the street from this current location near Lawrence and Arques and then to this current location which is a very big store. They're an offshoot of Fry's markets and their original location used to dedicate about 1/3 of the store to food and drink items (snacks) for computer geeks. The rest was electronics components and gray market computers. Things change. Business has been good for them. They are an example of what's been happening in the area though. This current store used to be a manufacturing plant, Singer electronics. Among other things, they manufactured traffic signal controllers and such. So many of that type of facility have been replaced by big box stores like Fry's and by monster homes on tiny lots and by condominiums. Things change.
I got a call from the service manager at Leale's describing the damage to be. The RV will have to spend the night or two in the hospital. One of the exhaust manifolds needs to be replaced. That will quite down the typical Chevy clap-clap sound of all of their engines. Seems like all older Chevy's sound that way. I knew this problem existed but had gotten used to it. The service light and shifting problem were probably from the same source, the throttle position sensor error. They are also replacing a bad oil line. Now they can proceed with the fluids and stuff but it won't be back today. They are also fixing the electric stairs that got bent years ago when they went down when the RV was going down the road. Hopefully it will return ready for an extended trip and a period of being ignored again.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Hobee's is a nice restaurant about a half mile from home. They started out in Mountain View in the mid '70's at Central Expressway and Rengstroff Ave. That location is still open. It was originally a Dairy Queen like drive in built in the corner of a strip mall. They served the usual drive-in fare. Then they started making the greatest fresh fruit milkshakes, then smoothies, then energy drinks. They expanded into the next store with more indoor space and started serving breakfast. They became famous for their coffee cake. Their house tea is mulling spice tea. Everything they make is good. They now have many locations from Belmont to San Jose.
Back in those mid '70's I used to occasionally be working next to Hobee's and go by there for a milkshake or lunch, or both. Always a treat. The location where we had breakfast is across Highway 82, El Camino Real, from what was the Ricky's Hyatt House Motel. It was quite a nice Motel and it was where President Clinton stayed when he was in town to visit with Chelsea at Stanford. He had the occasional breakfast at Hobee's, as well. The motel is no more having been demolished and now becoming condominiums and houses.
After breakfast Lou and Dawn walked toward home with a visit to the Goodwill store and Walgreen's. I felt like more of a walk and headed for a tour of Sears, Walmarts, Target, Costco, and Best Buy making a round of about 5 miles before getting back home. What was I thinking?
Tomorrow the RV goes in for service in San Jose. I need to be there at 8am so I prepared to leave by removing what needs to be removed and hooking up the toad. Should get out quick in the morning before the rush.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Thursday: I finished a year old project today. Last year I installed a drain pipe in the front yard and had to cut through the sidewalk. Because we had to get on the road, I quickly installed some bricks in sand as a temporary patch. Day before yesterday, I removed some more of the walkway and prepared for the sidewalk replacement. Today I poured the walkway. Since it's colder, it takes a while to set and finish.
While I waited, I watched the City gas crew replace a gas service line to a neighbors house. Interesting to see them work with the plastic piping and use the guided bore to replace the line with little disturbance of the yards landscaping. It was also interesting to see how the City manages their workforce and projects. Quite well, actually. While there were probably about 15 workers during the day. They were always coming and going, each performing their specialty at the right time with only about four at any given time. I was also envious of their equipment. Back in the days when I worked, we were always fighting to get a budget for equipment therefore most of it was older. I guess their management realizes that the right tool makes the job easier.
Friday: Actually, you're not really finished until the cleanup is done. Today was cleanup day.
Lou got her car back form the shop. They say they found an intermittent wire and fixed it for free. I like that. They say they'll make it work. The car is 21 years old next month but when it runs, it runs well, possibly even better than the newer Volvo so we like the fact its back in operational order. There was temptation to abandon it and get a hybrid but that has to wait now that it's better. We don't abandon our friends.
Anyway, her car is the one I normally use to haul stuff to the dump. Nothing personal it's just that it's older and doesn't get towed by the RV. The last couple of times I used it for the dump trip it almost remained there. When the car was ill. it barely started once and didn't start another time and the bulldozer was ready to bury it with the rest of the garbage at the dump. I loaded up all the debris from the last three concrete projects, bags of broken concrete, dirt and debris. Whenever I do a project like this the dirt just doesn't fit back in the hole? There was also the odd broken yard chair and such. The car was full. It is amazing what it can carry, as much as the neighbors pickup and half the cost since it's a passenger car. Sometimes I do miss our old Toyota PU but then it was unsafe and it did tend to be related to work and I try to avoid such things now.
I had to move the RV out on the street to get at the debris by the fence next to it. When I returned, I remembered that the tree next to and over the RV needed to be trimmed. I got a little carried away with the trimming doing a reshaping of the tree. Now some light may make its way to the solar panels. Of course cutting limbs off the tree is less than half the job. It had to be dissected to fit in the compost barrels. That occupied me for the rest of the the afternoon. After dinner I collapsed. Enough!
Saturday: A day of rest, really. I read and watched TV all day. Not too interesting but I enjoyed it. Lou and Dawn hit the rummage sales and garage sales and found some treasures.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Interesting day. Lou's car is on the fritz again. Seems like it won't start in the afternoons. That makes return trips hard. I got up early so I could clean up and catch a bus early toward San Jose. I bought a day pass but didn't ride the bus too far, just to down town Mountain View where I picked up a pork bun at the Hong Kong Bakery then caught the Light Rail. After a bit more than an hour in transit, I got off and walked the mile or so to my former work site. The Traffic Signal Association, an organization I belong to, was having a meeting there. It was nice to see some of the former co-workers and get together with others from TSA.
The presentation at the meeting was about new vehicle detector technology from Sensys Networks. Actually, it's not really new but improved to the point where it now works. They are 3 axis magnetometer sensors buried in the roadway. They use wireless communications to communicate to the traffic control or other systems. They are used extensively in California to provide the traffic map data for the state DOT. Quite interesting.
After the meeting I went to lunch with the speaker and an associate. After that I continued my "walk and ride about." I walked East and caught the light rail again. It was about a mile away in the opposite direction I arrived from. I rode over to the Great Mall for a look around. Lou called and we arranged to meet for dinner in Mountain View. I rode the rails some more. I stopped by the Hong Kong bakery and picked up some things for breakfast then caught a bus back to the San Antonio Mall to meet Lou and Dawn for dinner at the New Tung Kee Noodle restaurant. After dinner we picked up some things at the market then went home. Wow. Off for a little meeting and it takes all day.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The simplest would be a tether where the vehicle is plugged in to an energy source, not very useful for obvious reasons. On a similar vein, the overhead fed vehicle requires a connection but uses a stationary cable system, the overhead wires, to provide power. This works well for fixed route service such as buses and rail vehicles but not too well for the average automobile user.
What is needed is a reliable long lasting movable electric energy source. Batteries can provide that source, in fact some of, if not the first automobiles used batteries. The problem there has been the length of use obtainable from the batteries. Battery technology has made great strides in recent years and now can provide adequate service for the average city driver. If they want to stray far though, the battery will be depleted and finding a place to plug in may be difficult.
A fuel cell can provide electric power but they are a bit costly and even if the cost is minimized it still requires a source of fuel. hydrogen. The primary development seems to be toward a gasoline driven fuel cell which may still help with cleaner air but not with oil consumption.
Hybrid electric vehicles are popping up from many manufacturers. they generally provide much improved city mileage with slightly lower highway mileage. Either mileage is usually higher than an equivalent gas only car. The manufacturers seem to have made a significant compromise by using minimum sized batteries than basically only provide the boost of power needed to start moving while the engine is restarted. With a little more battery storage, most trips could actually be by battery only and the engine would only be needed for extended trips away from a place to plug in. There are a number of such vehicles but most are home made using a standard hybrid as a start, a manufacturers experimental vehicle, or built from scratch. The auto manufacturers supposedly compromised for weight and space optimization for general consumer use. New battery technologies being developed and the rising cost of oil may change the designs and bring forth a real useful hybrid that uses battery power for most or all normal use. Some new energy storage devices can store four times the power in half the space. A hybrid electric vehicle that has high capacity batteries seems better than the same vehicle without a gas engine because it assures the return trip can be made.
This brings me to the real reason for this post. Last week I saw a solar powered car cruising down the main street near my house. It wasn't much but it was moving with the rest of the traffic. It basically was a large four wheeled bicycle with an array of solar panels on a flat roof. The rest was a skeleton of tubing. The array of solar panels was about 6'x10' and it didn't seem to have a lot of battery storage. It was fascinating to see it zip by and I would have liked to have chased it down and learned more about it. Obviously it might have a little trouble moving around when the sun goes down limited by whatever battery capacity it had. It seems that it is or would be possible to have a truly fossil fuel independent automobile. Of course, I wouldn't want to be in that vehicle I saw when it gets in a collision but I think that problem could be solved more easily than the power train development.
Perhaps now all those engineering students at San Jose State that develop packaging for eggs so they can be dropped from the second floor of the engineering building without breaking can now put themselves to work to develop similar safety for the occupants of the vehicle.
In any case, it's reassuring to see such a vehicle. Now if only, we can keep the oil companies from trying to bury it.
Now, this may seem a little odd for an RV user to be interested in reducing oil consumption. After all, RV's aren't noted for high mileage. Actually RV's generally only use fuel when they move. Once they are at their destination, they don't use much. The support vehicles for a hotel or brick home, on average, consume more fuel. However, development of a good hybrid automobile that uses mostly battery power from a source other than fossil fuel will help out RV'ers in at least two ways. It will reduce oil consumption thereby reducing or minimizing fuel costs. and it will lead to similar power plants for use in RV's. Hey, I'm not greedy, just pragmatic.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
After Dawn got off work, we left about 3:30 and enjoyed some heavy traffic especially through Sacramento. We intended to stop at Luis's Mexican restaurant but it is out of business. Too bad, it was great when we were last there a few years ago. We stopped at Safeway at their deli for dinner. It was probably better since we didn't over eat as would have occurred at Luis's. We stopped for a short visit at Boom Town then on to Reno arriving about 9:30. We checked in to our room at the Silver Legacy and Lou and Dawn called it a night. They hadn't had the Red Bull drink that I had so I took a walk around all the casino's down town before retiring.
Friday: Breakfast at the Silvery Legacy buffet. We then drove down to Carson City to the state museum. Dawn wanted to check out their book store. Lou visited a couple of clay shops and then there were the thrift shops. We then returned to Reno for Dinner at the Black Bear Diner. Then a tour of the casinos until we were worn out.
Saturday: We started the day with breakfast at the El Dorado Buffet. Nice breakfast and we all managed to control ourselves so we could still move when we left. We checked out of the hotel and Lou and Dawn took off for a tour of all the local thrift shops. Dawn found books. Lou found a single child bike trailer. We have a double wide in the attic but Lou intends to turn the single wide into a shopping cart for Dawn.
I went across the street to the Civic Center transit station and bought a day pass and headed South on Virginia Street. Key visits were the PC Club store to see a EEE-PC. They didn't have one but I did talk to the manager who bought the only one they have received and I got my questions answered. For info, the EEE-PC is a brand new computer that only costs $400, is tiny, uses Linux, and has a flash drive rather than a hard drive. It is also extremely low power so would be good for use in the RV. I'm about ready to buy one.
I stopped at Sierra RV to see a Newmar. They had a couple of Canyon Stars but not the 29' model I wanted to see. I did get a look ant the construction and a quick look says it's good.
Home Depot to see what thay have in Reno thats different than ours. One thing was all the snow blowers. I also talked to a factory rep for the Ryobi tools. They had a neat air compressor that works with the same batteries as my drill. The batteries on my current compressor are shot and I need to replace them or replace the compressor. I also need new batteries. Some of my current batteries are over four years old and don't hold a charge long. Ryobi now has Lithium batteries to replace the NiMh batteries. They cost twice as much but once charged will hold the charge on the shelf effectively indefinitely so the drill, flashlight or saw will be ready to use when needed rather than after being charged.
We stopped at The Black Bear Diner for desert and tea, then got gas and headed toward home about 4pm. It rained heavily all the way home. 260 miles of heavy rain driving was no fun, but at least, there was no snow going over the mountains. We made it home just before 9pm.
On the road, Dawn became a year older. She was born at 6:01 pm on November 10th. This was her trip.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I started the day with a little disaster. I removed the forms for the new sidewalk and broke off a chunk off one corner. While I kicked myself, I continued the cleanup. While having lunch with Lou and Dawn about 2pm, Lou reminded me that I was supposed to be in San Francisco today. Fortunately, the meeting I needed to attend was from 4-8pm but I had totally forgotten. I'm just not time conscious any more. I was still dressed like a laborer so after a little cleanup, Lou dropped me off at the train station.
I arrived about 3:55 at the Adobe Software offices for the 4pm Rich Internet Application seminar. These events are very informative and inspirational. It's interesting to see what the big guys are doing with Adobe's Flex and AIR software and hear from the developers about how they did it. In addition, the Adobe engineers are there to answer questions. Good food, good beer, and good information.
While I was away playing, Lou had to go to the hospital due to an ear ache. They fixed her up, eventually.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007
Friday: I still am not in a mood for work so didn't do much in the morning but did get outside and tinkered with the preparation to pour some more sidewalk.
Lou picked up the part for the dryer when she ws out and about with Dawn. It was fairly easily installed and amasingly, the dryer went back together without any problems and it even worked. Now, if I designed the dryer, there would be an access hole or cover from which that fuse could be replaced making this 3 hour job a 10 minute job. If this had been repaired by the technician from Sears, it likely would have been a three week job with three visits as it was for our tenant in San Jose for the dryer and another three visits for the dishwasher a couple of months ago.
Since we're now home again, the blog will now return to the mundane happenings of home. Sorry for that.