First Major Repair for the Tiguan

It doesn’t seem like that long, but our Tiguan is now almost 7 years old, and it just had its first major repair. It’s really a twofer, because it actually started back in May, when the mechanic at Knibbe noted that there was some sort of oil leak, but he would have to do some work to track it down. Then when I went to pick up Miranda from work on Sunday, two things happened:

  1. There was a strange “scratchy” sound when I turned the steering wheel to full lock when maneuvering in the parking lot, and
  2. When I came to a stop, the airbag warning light on the dashboard was lit up and the message on the screen was “Airbag Error”.

Tammy got a hold of VW on Monday morning and I took the car in after lunch. I hung around at the dealer for about an hour to find out what the issue was. As it turned out, it was a clock spring failure, something that was covered under a warranty extension. But the mechanic also discovered the oil leak and traced it to a leaking camshaft seal. It was going to be expensive, as it was a 5 hour job and the car would need to be in overnight.

Tammy picked up the car today, and the damage was $1994. They didn’t note any other things that needed to be addressed while the engine was apart, so that’s good. The tires will need to be replaced soon, and the battery failed in the cold weather before Christmas. Those are just normal wear and tear things. It’s not like the run of problems we were having with the Golf. We’re not really interested in buying a new car at the moment and the Tiguan is still pretty well suited for our family. Maybe it would be nice to have a bit more space in the car for our road trips, but with a top box on, we fit just fine. There’s always the discussion of an electric car, but Alberta’s not like BC, Ontario and Quebec with rebates and charging stations all over the place. Hopefully we’ll get there someday, and with the solar panels on the roof we could anticipate charging from the sun.

RAW Artists Art Show

Last night, Miranda, Tammy and I went to an art show. This is not our usual type of activity to be sure. Our friend Krisztina was going to be exhibiting her photography and initially we bought two tickets and then Miranda wanted to go too. Ian couldn’t go: it was 18+ (they were serving alcohol at the event).

We didn’t know what to expect. It was at Contemporary Calgary, which used to be the science centre before it moved to Telus Spark. There were a large number of artists presenting, so I figured it would be a very large venue to wander around in. We got dressed up… somewhat. Tammy was dressed the nicest of us with her black sequined top and jacket.

We drove down, timing it to arrive about five minutes after door opening. Our first hint that our expectations were off was the parking. Contemporary Calgary has a fairly large parking lot, but we were lucky to find a space. Then there was a line to pay for parking. Then there was a line to get in. Then a line for the coat check… And then we got in about quarter past seven.

It was crowded. The artist exhibits were jammed into a roughly circular room, making a maze of brightly-lit, colorful walls. It was difficult to stand and look at any artist’s work, because stopping meant you made a traffic jam. The music was loud without being oppressive, but being jammed in with so many people seemed… not smart.

We got a chance to say hi to Krisztina, who seemed to be really enjoying it. She said that the venue was crowded as soon as the doors opened. There were a few things that caught our eye, but not a lot. It was more an experience just to be there and see all of the different artist’s works. We did pick up a blue glass paperweight from Croil Glass. Just another example of Biickert women acquiring glass baubles…

Eventually Tammy suggested we go to the foyer to get out of the crowd for a bit. That was fine, until we realized that they were only letting people in when people left. They had hit their fire code limit, I guess. So there was a very long line to re-enter. So Tammy and I let Miranda know that we were outside and we waiter there, peoplewatching, until she came out.

At this point, it wasn’t even 8:30 yet. We considered stopping for a coffee on the way home, but we ended up just going home, and our big night out was over before 9 o’clock on Saturday. Sigh.

My Neck is Feeling Better / Tintin Ranking

Today was the first day of 2023 where my neck wasn’t killing me. It “went out” on Miranda’s birthday while watching the movies, and two chiropractor visits later and much resting, massaging and heat later, I woke up today without pain. It still gave me some fits this afternoon, but most of the day was quite pleasant. Up until yesterday, I was starting to think I needed to go back to the chiropractor because it was refusing to get better.

In other news, Ian started re-reading the Tintin books and after dinner asked me if I knew the books well enough to be able to rank them. Of course I do. So, we went to TierMaker.com and made a tier ranking of the Tintin books. It was a fun exercise.

A lot of thought and discussion went into this. Main criteria were:

  • Story – was it good?
  • Story – was it memorable? If I couldn’t give you chapter and verse of the story, it didn’t stick, whereas some of them I could give you a panel-by-panel replay.
  • Art – Hergé’s art got better as time went on. Some of the early art is shockingly simple compared to later work.
  • Problematic elements – some were written in a different time and didn’t hold up well. Tintin in the Congo is the most well-known issue, but there also is the evil bankers in Tintin and the Shooting Star and the blacks in The Red Sea Sharks, among others.
  • Characters and “Moments” – There are great character moments that just are part of our family’s lexicon. “CHANG!” from Tintin in Tibet and “Irma!” (roll the r!) from The Castafiore Emerald. “Blistering Barnacles!” “So I’m playing the goat, am I?”

Lego Galaxy Explorer

I don’t mind saying: I spent a very fun afternoon today building the Lego Galaxy Explorer that I got for Christmas. I was surprised that I managed to build it in one sitting. After doing the typewriter last year, I guess I was less confident in my abilities to build. The typewriter was so mechanically complex that it was hard work. The structure of this kit was strange and “modern”, but the basics were the same as the classic Space Lego.

Arrival at a strange new world
It’s a perfect time for coffee served by the robot
Mmm… coffee. Let’s radio home.
We should probably analyze the environment before relaxing too much

The build was ridiculous. There are so many cool things, like the beds that have cutouts so that the space figures can lie down without taking their tanks off, to the way-cool computer readouts in the cockpit. The landing gear is great, too.

It’s not the original Galaxy Explorer from 1979. I coveted that: a couple of my friends had it, while I had the much smaller Space Transport. When I saw that they had re-released the Galaxy Explorer, I was pretty excited. It’s not the same kit at all, but the basic configuration of the ship is the same.

Tomorrow: I will attempt to build Benny’s Spaceship. Ian got it for his birthday in 2014. It might take a bit longer, as I’ll have to find all the pieces in the big bin of Lego. The kids have not kept it sorted like I used to as a kid.

COVID Bivalent Booster Day

This morning Miranda and I went to our local Walmart Supercentre to get our Pfizer bivalent booster. This one is supposed to be the latest and will help protect against the original and the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 varieties. Next time, the Kraken. Ian had his done back on November 25th. Simon goes for his this Friday. So far, no sore arm or anything. Ian didn’t have many side effects with his either (just a sore arm for a short period of time).

Birthday Spa Visit

One of Miranda’s 19th birthday gifts was a visit to Apex Spa. I booked us afternoon appointments today to have a 60 minute hot stones massage. I had had one of these many years ago and loved it. This was Miranda’s first spa visit. I’ll let her add her two cents about the whole experience.

The masseuse I had did an excellent job. The only time it got a little too hot was between the toes. I’m not sure how it worked out that the full body massage was done a little bit earlier, but I managed to get a bonus facial and scalp massage. There were some very knotted muscles in my shoulder and legs (maybe from cycling), and she really worked those out. I felt very invigorated afterwards. I recommend her for anyone who wants to try it (again).

Happy Birthday!

Happy 19th Birthday Miranda

Welcome to 2023, and here as always is Miranda’s birthday. This is the 19th edition (unbelievable) and following in the pattern from the previous years, it was a movie marathon day.

New Year’s Eve was a quiet affair. Miranda wanted to finish reading Death on the Nile in advance of her movie showing the next day, so she was doing that along with her mushroom drawing of the day. So Tammy, Ian and I played a game of Clue and then sorta drifted into our own activities. Around 11 I watch a Star Trek: TNG episode just for kicks. We made it to midnight, but Ian was pretty tired.

Breakfast was cheese quesadilla along with sparkling wine & OJ.

Breakfast ready to go

Miranda opened her cards and gifts. There were cards from Colin & Carol, Grandpa B., Stephanie’s family and us.

The birthday girl with the card from Colin and Carol

There weren’t a lot of gifts: a fair number of electronic gift cards to La Vie en Rose and other places.

Her Japanese tea toolkit. Don’t ask me, because I don’t know
Oriental plum wines

Mr. Murphy was full of beans, but then settled in to watch the festivities from the sidelines.

Tammy and I had a virtual bike ride with the BCC from 10 to 11. There were Skype/FaceTime calls from the grandparents and later on a call from Stephanie and Brianna. (Happy Birthday to you, to Stephanie!) But after that, Tammy got the first cake together as the Murder on the Orient Express started upstairs. It was a Japanese cheesecake with some Spinosaurus coffee.

Japanese cheesecake with candied fruit

After the first movie, lunch/dinner was served mid-afternoon: pasta with homemade sauce and fresh parmesan and speck, along with garlic toast and Caesar salad.

Then the “other birthday cake” was server during the second movie (Death on the Nile).

Regular and matcha brownies

Later on, the third movie of the day was Kung-Fu Panda. It was a good day, with plenty of food and drink and movies. A good start to the year.

December Drawing Challenge: Fungicember

I decided to do another drawing challenge for December for two reasons: 1) I made a friend who really liked mushrooms and who recommended a documentary and 2) I had a light exam schedule this semester. I made up a list of 31 mushrooms that I thought looked cool then cut out 3×2 inch pieces of paper in preparation. Now that the last mushroom is complete, here’s a post containing all of the fungi.

In the arrangement of the month of December.

Complete Mushroom List:

  1. Leaf Parachute Mushrooms (Marasmius epiphyllus)
  2. Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
  3. Orange Mycena (Mycena leaiana)
  4. Violet Coral (Clavaria zollingeri)
  5. Umber-Brown Puffball (Lycoperdon umbrinum)
  6. Werewere-kokako (Entoloma hochstetteri)
  7. Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)
  8. Caesar’s Mushroom (Amanita caesarea)
  9. Violet Crown-cup (Sarcosphaera crassa)
  10. Mauve Parachute (Marasmius haematocephalus)
  11. Veiled Lady (Phallus indusiatus)
  12. Shingled Hedgehog (Sarcodon imbricatus)
  13. Crab Brittlegill (Russula xerampelina)
  14. Mountain Polypore (Bondarzewia montana)
  15. Wrinkled Peach (Rhodotus palmatus)
  16. Porcelain Fungus (Oudemansiella mucida)
  17. Bitter Oyster (Panellus stipticus)
  18. Common Bird’s Nest Fungus (Crucibulum laeve)
  19. Blue Milk Mushroom (Lactarius indigo)
  20. Rosy Slime Spike (Gomphidius subroseus)
  21. Pixie’s Parasol (Mycena interrupta)
  22. Bleeding Tooth (Hydnellum peckii)
  23. Angel’s Wings (Pleurocybella porrigens)
  24. Octopus Stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri)
  25. Fly Amanita (Amanita muscaria)
  26. Split Gill Mushroom (Schizophyllum commune)
  27. Bioluminescent Fungus (Mycena chlorophos)
  28. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
  29. Latticed Stinkhorn (Clathrus ruber)
  30. Orange Pore Fungus (Favolaschia calocera)
  31. Death cap (Amanita phalloides)

2022 Retrospective

I hate to say it, but this is now the third retrospective in a row where the global COVID-19 pandemic has taken centre stage. Admittedly, this was the year where things started to feel normal again, not a false rushing back into it. Once we had our booster shots, it felt like perhaps getting COVID wouldn’t necessarily end in death or long COVID. Restrictions loosened up but we kept our distance and tested at every little sniffle. To date, Ian’s been tested 41 times. 😮 Tammy’s teaching shifted to a 2 days in the office and 3 at home per week, even though her students are attending remotely. With the kids back in person and me working the odd time at the office, it’s meant that we’ve broken out of our bunker. We even attended the Esri Canada Christmas Party this year.

But then that led to the inevitable. First it was Grandpa B getting COVID. That was scary. But he was triple-shot and got off lightly. And then it was my turn. Again, I had a cocktail of Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer and Moderna in me and I got off lightly. Two days of feeling bad and then three more of isolation. The biggest bummer was that it happened over our 25th wedding anniversary. The biggest and most amazing thing was that Tammy and the kids didn’t get it.

Is it over? In some ways, it seems so. I don’t really wear masks around anymore, but I still choose to stay home over going out. We’ll see what 2023 brings. No more nasty variants, hopefully.

At least the “travel” section of this years’ retrospective wasn’t just an empty echoing space. I even had one trip for work in 2022: to Vancouver. Stephanie and family came to visit, giving us a chance to be tourists in our town. We had a great visit, with lots of activities but still time to unwind and have fun. It would have been better if the weather had cooperated. The windstorms that blew up in the nights put the kibosh on the kids sleeping in the tent. The thunderstorm that Tristan wanted to see came a week late. Just a month later, we were in Victoria returning the visit. The bike riding was a big part of it, but the best bit was having our 25th anniversary dinner at the Keg with Dad, Stephanie and family. I’d wanted to do something nice to mark the date, and that fit the bill. We didn’t get to see Colin and Carol: the timing didn’t work out because they had to be in Mexico to get their permanent residence paperwork done. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see them in 2023.

Miranda turned 18 this year (she’s allowed in the bars, at least in Alberta!). It was the end of her career in the public school system and on to University for her. There were lots of grad activities, from her photo session and the resulting photos, to the pre-grad photo day at Baker Park and the main event itself. It was a great day, and I will admit to having the heebee-jeebees being in the throng at the graduation ceremony. It was the first time being in a crowd in a long time. Miranda even attended the graduation banquet in her awesome green suit. She also got some accolades this year. She was a finalist for the Youth of Distinction Awards and got a nice bundle of prizes, even if she didn’t win. And she also won a provincial scholarship for her exam marks, which helped with the University costs this year. But even will all that going on, she still took time to do lots of reading and drawing (see more on that below) and even trying her hand from time to time in the kitchen. She has kept in touch with her high school friends, and had plans to have a night out with one who had to bail, leaving Tammy to join her going to a drag show. But not everything was roses: Miranda had to have her wisdom teeth out. Never fun.

Ian’s in a time of major changes. His growth spurt that started in 2021 is ongoing. We’ll measure him tomorrow, but he’s only a couple inches shorter than me now. He turned 15 in the summer, and it was great that Zachary and the rest of the gang could be here to help celebrate. His time in middle school came to an end, but not without one more strange day: the kids were locked down because there was an active police incident at the Sobeys. He started school at Bowness High in September. It’s an 8 km bike ride, but he enjoyed it until the weather turned. After a month or so of taking the bus, we got him some studded tires for his bike so he can keep riding even in the snow and ice. He got really sick in November, but it might have been influenza or RSV. COVID tests were negative. It still knocked him out of school for a week. It has seemed that Ian has spent a lot of time cooking. He’s definitely got a desire to create interesting and delicious things. He even got a chef’s jacket as a Christmas gift this year. His braces are off now, so we can see his smile again.

Tammy turned the big five-zero in 2022. If getting the flamingoes in the yard was the only thing that happened to her this year, I think she would have been happy with that. 😁 She really liked that I remembered. But she also got an espresso machine and a waffle iron for stroopwafels, so things just kept getting better. Her 19th Mother’s Day saw breakfast burritos from Ian along with some other tokens of our affection. She has been at Columbia College for five years now, and things keep going well. Perhaps she’ll be happier when she knows the long term situation for remote teaching. It has seemed that every four months, they’re going to go back full time, but then it gets pulled back to mostly online. The social events have started up again at the College, including a Christmas party that we would have gone to except for Tammy knocking herself silly on the ice. She almost didn’t get her massage evening in December when the car battery died, but it happened the following week.

Most of my 2022 highlights are over in the Cycling Roundup, but there were other non-cycling things happening for me like bottling up a second batch of cider and building the Lego typewriter that I got for Christmas 2021. There’s a crap-ton of apples in the freezer from this year’s harvest, so 2023 will see a lot more cider, I guess. I turned 49 (my five-zero is next year!) and Father’s Day was going well until the water line to the refrigerator sprung a leak. I got interviewed at work for the “Esri Canada On-Air”. The company has been creating opportunities for people to connect during the pandemic, as part of our “Connection Hub”. In the new year, I’m going to have a new position at work, but we’ll have to wait until then to see how that works out.

Murphy turned six, and he got a tent for his birthday. He loved it in the summertime. I’m sure he would prefer just being allowed to run free, but this will do.

Early May brought some sad, but not totally unexpected news about Great-Grandma. After a few weeks of being in hospital after a fall, she passed away.

Around our home, the biggest story was the ongoing process of getting solar panels. It’s seemed painfully slow at times. The EnerGuide energy evaluation happened in June, but then it took until September for the solar contractors to get their hands on the panels. It was a good thing that the weather stayed so nice into October, because the installation happened on the last couple of days before the snow flew. It took a bit before I could be certain that it was all working, but it ended up fine in the end. Now just waiting for the federal government to come through with the Greener Homes Grant money. Other things that happened around the house included finally putting Homebridge in place, meaning that the Apple and Amazon devices could talk to each other. As part of the solar installation, I got to improve the network and get better WiFi coverage upstairs. Not everything was fun and games with the house, though. There were potentially dangerous spiders in the storage room, the garage door spring broke and the dryer needed repairs. Who knows, maybe 2023 will see a new washer and dryer.

The reason I was able to get Homebridge running was the addition of a Synology NAS. That was a key part of the new computing devices around here. I got a nice Studio Display for my home office, Miranda got her iPad Pro as a graduation present, and Tammy, Miranda and Ian all got refreshed iPhones 13. The other major anniversary in 2022 was the 20th for the ii News. What started as a pet project has grown to be the definitive documentation of a couple decades of our family.

It seemed like 2022 was the year of wildlife around our house:

2022 wasn’t quite as rich in art submissions as previous years. Easter eggs from both sides of the Rocky Mountains gave us some colour. Tammy and I participated in Nanowrimo for the umpteenth time in November, which really doesn’t add much colour. Miranda did the heavy lifting adding art with her Inktober challenge. Today is the last day of her December mushroom-drawing challenge, so watch for a super-post about that soon. I only pulled out the pastels once this year, to draw a portrait of Mr. Doos. I still can’t quite believe how well that one turned out. I really should do more.

That’s the story of 2022 around here. Every time I do one of these I’m amazed at everything that happens in 12 months. It was a good year. I hope everyone else’s was as good.

25th Anniversary Dinner

2022 Cycling Roundup

Every year, cycling is a great adventure. Even as I finished my 10th year with the Bow Cyclists and I’ve ridden tens of thousands of kilometres on the roads around here, there is always something new. Sometimes it’s new roads, and sometimes it’s new people to share it with. There are always new members in the club and I love it when we get back from a ride I’ve led, and someone says “I’d never ridden that bit of road before.”

2022 was new and exciting largely because of Ian. He’s been game to ride for years, but when his big growth spurt came in the second half of 2021, I knew that he’d crossed over from being “too small” to ride with the BCC to being ready. He didn’t feel ready, but that’s the same for everyone who is trying something for the first time. We got him a new bike, with the stipulation that he join the club this year to try it out. His old bike went to a good home. There was no time to hum and haw about it: the registration for the club opened and closed in a few days. We also signed him up for the Gran Fondo Badlands and the Tour de Victoria, but the distance was to be determined.

Even with plans made, it takes a while for winter to end around here. The tradition of new vinyl for the Roubaix reached its ultimate form this year, with the vinyl matching the handlebars. The first BCC rides of the year are now gravel rides, as the roads stay unswept for a while (dangerous on road bikes) and the mountain bike trails are a mess from melting snow. So Ian’s first BCC ride was actually a gravel ride on his mountain bike. The real kickoff for the season for the second year was the Ronde van Cowtown. I didn’t push Ian to try this one out: it’s a test of endurance, and this year the weather was marginal at times.

But finally the nicer weather arrived. Ian had his first of many club road rides, including a lesson in being careful of sand on the roads in the early season. He started roping Joey and Josh into riding their bikes on longer expeditions. It was going pretty well until Ian got another lesson, this time to remember to lock your bike. They were getting bubble tea when someone walked off with Joey’s bike. It was just luck of the draw that it wasn’t Ian’s.

It was pretty clear from the start that I was right about Ian’s sudden jump in abilities. Club rides over 50 km didn’t faze him, and then the “event” rides started. He was registered for the 75 km distance for the Badlands, but ended up doing the 100 km distance with our group from the BCC.

The next week, he got a lesson that you can’t just look at the distance when judging a ride. The 85 km ride to Water Valley with all its ups and downs made him bonk for the first time. The new high water marks kept coming: the ride to Lake Louise was his longest of the year at around 120 km, and the Tour de Victoria 100 km route was probably the most challenging. But it must not have scarred him too much, because we hopped back on the bikes for an adventure riding to the ferries and riding on Pender Island too.

There were new things for me this year, too. I got my Norco gravel bike sort of late in the season in 2021, and 2022 was my first full year of having it in the stable. I rode it on the Ronde van Cowtown, and somewhat regularly on gravel rides throughout the year. I rode deep into the fall with the gravel rides, necessitating having adequate lighting. The Sheep River ride was one I’d never done before, and it was pretty epic. It helped to fill out my See Every Street heat map for the year. For the first time since the Cycle of Life Tour in 2017, I used cycling as a tool for fundraising by signing up for and then riding in the Cancervive ride.

The stats. Totals for 2022 are provisional: I have a virtual ride scheduled for tomorrow.

The summery weather stretched all the way to Halloween this year, giving us the joy of the BCC Ambassador wrap up party on Mark’s deck and the option to ride to the year-end social. But then winter hit with a vengeance. Ian had been riding his bike to Bowness High for a couple of months, and was suddenly on the bus every day. It only took a couple of weeks before he was asking me about ways that he could ride to school. A bit of research and money later, and now we’ve got some studded tires. He even went out for a 21 km ride this morning at -9 degrees just so he could get some pics of the sunrise. When we were having a serious conversation the other night, he told me that joining the club was the best thing that happened to him in 2022.

Tomorrow, when I post the full Retrospective, you can judge for yourself if that’s true. 😁